Nathanael West's "The Day of the Locust" is now considered a classic Hollywood novel, one of the most lasting and incisive stories about the temptations and pitfalls of pursuing stardom. But when it was published in 1939, it sold fewer than 1,500 copies and was considered a commercial failure. West didn't live to see its later success: He died a year later.
When he died -- one of the strangest yet most Los Angeles of literary tragedies, he perished in a car wreck on his way to F. Scott Fitzgerald's funeral -- he'd been living in a bungalow in the Hollywood Hills. And now the house is for sale.
The house, located at 6614 Cahuenga Terrace, is situated behind gates in the hills east of the Hollywood Bowl. It's a two-bedroom, two-bath with a one-bed, one-bath guesthouse, listed at $1.099 million.
In "The Day of the Locust," a young painter from Yale moves to California to work on a painting he will call "The Burning of Los Angeles" and takes a job at a Hollywood studio. "When the Hollywood job had come along," West writes, "he had grabbed it despite the arguments of his friends who were certain that he was selling out and would never paint again."
This is, of course, something of a parallel to West's own life. He moved to Hollywood and was a contract screenwriter, working for Columbia and RKO. But he did keep writing -- that's how we got "The Day of the Locust."
Not surprisingly, the house has been renovated since West resided there. It now has rooms for relaxing, for eating, for cooking, and for sleeping -- but none for writing.
The updated kitchen has a Viking range and lots of prep space.
Above, the master suite; below, the house's second bedroom.
There are built-in bookshelves, representing a bit of West's legacy.
A main character in "The Day of the Locust" is Homer Simpson -- yes, the original -- who lives in a quiet bungalow. "When not keeping house he sat in the back yard, called the patio by the real estate agent, in an old broken deck chair," West writes. "He went out to it immediately after breakfast to bake himself in the sun. In one of the closets he had found a tattered book and he held it in his lap without looking at it."
The house does have a lovely patio.