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There are many books out there. Nathanael West wrote four of them in the 1930’s. He’s part of, and worked through, what was once considered a new and strange prose (now, to some, old-fashioned and boring).

Let’s discuss just one of West’s stories/novels: A Cool Million.

Without researching the history of this piece of art or the artist (reading two introductions of West’s novels, aware that he died young, and deciding to ignore a brief bio on regarding his Hollywood work), we are left with his word combos and endings.

Personally, I don’t want to mix his facts with his fictions. I want to wonder about the sexualized pages, political affiliations, biases, and religious burps throughout his stories on my own.

A Cool Million is a farce, or a satire, or a parody of Horatio Alger’s rags-to-riches stories, or an exaggeration of a person’s experience in the world. (The Alger thing was in one of the introductions. I’m currently reading Ragged Dick to understand the connection.)

I know these articles are weird when I don’t give details about the book/movie I’m recommending. And then, in addition to this goofy method, I hardly give any history about the creators.

This image had a caption asking if he was inspiration for the Coen Brothers’ film “Barton Fink”

The point is to share.

To validate both the experiences of the author and readers.

To connect A Cool Million to the prose of other 1920-1930 writers like Fitzgerald and Falkner and Hemingway.

To personally claim that the genre (that is a series of unfortunate, edge-of-absurd events) of A Cool Million is the main draw-in.

A fellow-filmmaker friend says there is a type of bad movie out there where “stuff is just happening.” I agree. This explosion, this shock, this nudity, followed by this gore, this filler line, and this plot twist.

A Cool Million, however, is a story where “stuff” continues to make an impact, where there is a chain of events that, if undone, would leave the story with missing links, events without messages.

A Cool Million delivers meaning because of the orderly chaos. The non-relatable relatable tales.

We sometimes need to escape to process our current passion for life or reason for reading a book in the first place (especially when the reading takes place almost 90 years after its original publication).

If you read, or have read, A Cool Million, here are other novels similar to its genre:

Forrest Gump (the novel is terrible and very different from the movie)

Johnny got his Gun

Nothing (by Janne Teller)

Flowers for Algernon (1960’s movie adaptation – Charly)


A Clockwork Orange

The Coldest Winter Ever (author writing herself in the story is odd, but doesn’t ruin the story)

A Confederacy of Dunces

[There appears to be something about this genre and the letter C. A Cool Million and Charly movie included.]
Dan Jones

Author Dan Jones

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