By Jonathan Veitch
Nathanael West has been hailed as “an apocalyptic writer,” “a author on the left,” and “a precursor to postmodernism.” yet earlier no critic has succeeded in totally attractive West’s specific approach to negation. In American Superrealism, Jonathan Veitch examines West’s letters, brief tales, screenplays and novels—some of that are mentioned right here for the 1st time—as good as West’s collaboration with William Carlos Williams in the course of their tenure because the editors of touch. finding West in a full of life, American avant-garde culture that stretches from Marcel Duchamp to Andy Warhol, Veitch explores the probabilities and barriers of dada and surrealism—the use of readymades, scatalogical humor, human machines, “exquisite corpses”—as modes of social feedback. American Superrealism bargains what's without doubt the definitive research of West, in addition to a provocative research that unearths the problem of illustration because the relevant hindrance of Depression-era America.
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Extra info for American Superrealism: Nathanael West and the Politics of Representation in the 1930s
EUCLID'S ASSHOLE The Dream Life of Balso Snell begins in a series of puns that function to structure the thematic concerns of the novel. The puns start early and start in earnest, prompted by the fortuitous homeomorphism that exists between two seemingly disparate entities: the perfect circle of Euclid's geometry and its less than perfect counterpart found in nature, the anus. Circles and assholes: once conceived the author pursues this unlikely pairing with a philosophical and literary elan such as one might expect to find in the graffiti on the bathroom wall of a university library.
And so it goes, Miss McGeeney explains, "rattling down the halls of time, each one in his or her turn a tin can on the tail of Doctor Johnson" (33). West's novella is itself a tin can tied to the tail of Western culture, or if you prefer, a Duchampian mustachio affixed to the Mana Lisa's kisser. Indeed, one might say the dynamic of Balsa Snell consists of a dadaist attempt to besmirch a variety of Western culture's most 29 Euclid's Asshole cherished ideals-Christianity, progress, sentimental culture-which purport to transfigure what West sees as the essentially intractable nature of material existence.
22 As far as Ernst et aI. were concerned, the rest is digestion. Magritte, for example, disliked being called a painter at all, preferring instead to be received as a thinker whose medium of communication happened to be paint. Duchamp concurred. "24 Greenberg's critique of "academic" surrealism helps us to understand-even if Greenberg does not-its latent critical potential. For as we shall see, the very qualities that contributed to academic surrealism's American Superrealism 21 weakness as "art" made for its strength as a mode of social criticism.