10 September 2009

The Dream Life of Balso Snell, and A Cool Million, by Nathanael West

I picked this one up randomly at a bookstore (it has a very eye-catching cover) and I'm so glad I did. The novels are a sort of bizarre, satiric, quasi-surreal romp that's an absolute delight to read. Lewd, funny, clever, and generally entertaining. I liked Balso Snell more than A Cool Million, but both were amusing.

Balso Snell features a protagonist who enters a Trojan Horse, wanders around inside and meets a host of strange characters. That's pretty much it in the way of plot - a surreal picaresque, if you will. Cool Million is the story of a country boy trying to make it in the big city, except with all the violence, gore and plaintive misery included. His sweetheart fares especially poorly, and I suppose some might be offended by how often she gets raped, and how humorous those moments generally are, but, you know, the moments where the hero loses various limbs are also quite funny, so hey. Style-wise, it's the sort of dry absurdist humor that I adore - very reminiscent of Flann O'Brien, except with Americana instead of Irish folklore.

What fun!

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