American Superrealism: Nathanael West and the Politics of by Jonathan Veitch

By Jonathan Veitch

Nathanael West has been hailed as "an apocalyptic author, " "a author at the left, " and "a precursor to postmodernism." yet in the past no critic has succeeded in totally enticing West's specific approach to negation. In American Superrealism, Jonathan Veitch examines West's letters, brief tales, screenplays and novels - a few of that are mentioned right here for the 1st time - in addition to 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 sketches from Marcel Duchamp to Andy Warhol, Veitch explores the probabilities and obstacles of dada and surrealism - using readymades, scatalogical humor, human machines, "exquisite corpses" - as modes of social feedback.

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Additional resources for American Superrealism: Nathanael West and the Politics of Representation in the 1930s (Wisconsin Project on American Writers)

Sample text

If the world is one (everything part of the same thing-called by Picasso nature) then nothing either begins or ends. Only when things take the shapes of eaches, everys, anys, eithers (have ends) do they have feet. Feet are attached to ends, by definition. Moreover, if everything is one, and has neither ends nor beginnings, then everything is a circle. A circle has neither a beginning nor an end. p~ circle has no feet. (9) Circles with feet? This is the debate that, to a large extent, shapes the various encounters of Balso Snell throughout the rest of the novella.

Perhaps not. Not even his friends know for sure. "The Fake," or "L'Affair Beano" as it was later called, is a marvelous comic send-up of expatriate life, which had already become something of a cliche by the time West himself got to Paris in 1926. 3 Although Beano's antics seem harmless enough, their fatuousness belies the earnestness of this critique as well as West's own investment in the outcome. While this story hints at West's anxiety about his abilities as a beginning writerdespite his bluff and bravado, Beano Walsh lacks talent-it also indicates West's preoccupation with his own belatedness.

What are we to make of all this? Perhaps the best way to explore the implications of West's absurd metaphysics is by comparing his approach with that of French surrealist Georges Bataille with whom he has a great deal in common (as well as some important differences). Beyond a general conviction regarding the "essential contradiction of the high and the low," Bataille shares with West a particular interest in the "burlesque value" of the foot-especially with regard to its social and ontological status.

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