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0657 | Miss Lonelyhearts | Nathanael West

0657 | Miss Lonelyhearts | Nathanael West post image

Context: Created a course to teach team members to code by themselves while reading this.

A tiny novella which reminded me of The Postman Always Rings Twice or pretty much anything by Raymond Chandler.

The protagonist hides behind the pseudonym Miss Lonelyhearts as he writes for an agony column. His initial cynicism starts to break down as he realises that there are real people out there with real issues in their real lives.

But although his readers lives are real, Miss Lonelyhearts never actually gets real and grows up enough morally to do anything with the insights he gets into humanity. Instead, he does all he can to avoid facing them by indulging himself in as many escapist fantasies as he can.

The novel is so short that there’s not enough space for a deeper exploration of the issues or development of characterisation. It all seemed a bit two dimensional for me. Although the novel ends in tragedy, it’s tragedy that occurs to someone you’ve barely met rather than someone you care for.

Maybe that’s why West decided to keep the character development to a minimum and end the novel very quickly. At least this way, you end up being Miss Lonelyhearts’ Miss Lonelyheart.

West died young, and Lonelyhearts is a glimpse of the potential he had and we lost.

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