RARA-AVIS: Miss Lonelyhearts (spoiler)

From: Michael Robison ( zspider@gte.net)
Date: 05 Oct 2002

> Mario wrote:
> Miker, I place West within a specifically Jewish tradition.
> To the classic "I'm getting screwed", this tradition adds
> "And I'm a schmuck". In Goodis, you just have the getting
> screwed thing. There is no irony. It's an important
> difference. Another difference is that West was a much more
> sophisticated writer than Goodis, more cerebral. With
> Goodis, you get the raw picture of the loser thrashing
> about; with West (as with Willeford, an important
> parallel), you get a smart and articulate observer telling
> you about the schmuck.

********** Been thinking about what you wrote. I guess Holden Caulfield in Salinger's CATCHER IN THE RYE would fall into the Jewish schmuck category. PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT, maybe? And Shrike seems to be West's voice, and the book is worth reading for his amusing monologue's alone.

But I'm interested in the value you place on irony. I assume the irony you are talking about is that Miss Lonelyhearts feels so deeply the hurt of those that write him, and yet he abuses them himself. Is that the irony? Or is it something deeper that I missed? I understand the irony too of writing the column to help these people, when really all it's doing is exploiting them.

Went to a thrift shop a few weeks ago and the paperbacks were all a waste, and I halfheartedly was going thur the hardbacks and WAHOO! I found a collection of critical essays on West. I am constantly amazed when I read this sort of thing. James Light sees Miss Lonelyhearts as a sort of "saint" and talks about how he runs to the cripple at the end, expecting and wishing to perform a miracle, and is instead shot down. Seems like he is glossing over the fact that he's had sex with the guy's wife and later beat her up. The book of essays even has some notes of West's on Miss Lonelyhearts.


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