The classic novel by Frank Norris is revisited in this 1989 recording by an immensely talented and well-directed group of actors. Set in 1899 San Francisco, Norris's story relates the life and times of a dentist, played wonderfully by Stacy Keach, and his wife, Trina (Carol Kane). With a celebrity cast of nearly 40 players that features superior performances from, among others, Helen Hunt, Ed Asner, Marsha Mason, Teri Garr and Hector Elizondo, the production is flawless and captivating. With music and realistic sound effects, director Gordon Hunt takes full advantage of the performing weapons at his disposal. Notable standouts include Joe Spano, who plays Trina's jealous cousin, Katherine Helmond as Miss Baker and Bud Cort portraying an array of secondary characters. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
McTeague: A Story of San Franciscoby Frank Norris, Jonathan Evison
First published in 1899, this graphic depiction of urban American life centers around McTeague, a dentist practicing in San Francisco at the turn of the century. While at first content with his life and friendship with an ambitious man named Marcus, McTeague eventually courts and marries Trina, a parsimonious young woman who wins a large sum of money in a lottery.
First published in 1899, this graphic depiction of urban American life centers around McTeague, a dentist practicing in San Francisco at the turn of the century. While at first content with his life and friendship with an ambitious man named Marcus, McTeague eventually courts and marries Trina, a parsimonious young woman who wins a large sum of money in a lottery. The greed of the majority of the characters in the novel creates a chain of events that lead to many painful, gruesome deaths. Norris' work, so strikingly different from that of his contemporaries, is an admirable example of social realism, which provided America with a shocking reflection of its sordid sense of survival. From the opening description of San Francisco to McTeague's final desperate flight far from his 'Dental Parlors,' this novel examines human greed in a way that still causes readers to pause and reflect over one hundred years later.
Selected and Introduced by Jonathan Evison.
- Pharos Editions
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- 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)
Read an Excerpt
Introduction by Jonathan Evison
You hold in your hot little hands what is arguably the last great American novel of the nineteenth century. Published in 1899, just three years before his untimely death at the age of thirty-two, McTeague stands as Frank Norris's masterwork. It is both a tighter and more focused novel than his progressive muckraker, The Octopus, and a more visceral and evocative indictment of greed than The Pit. In Norris’s settings, themes, and political skew, readers can see the foreshadowing of Steinbeck, the lingering social conscience of Dickens, and the profound influence of the French naturalist, Zola. But I'm not here to talk about shadows. And I’m not going to reduce Norris to the isms which inevitably seem to attach themselves to discussions of his work. I just wanna talk about Frank Norris the writer, and McTeague the novel.
There is a gorgeous brutality to Norris’s prose, which is harmonious with the brutality of this tale. Norris was never noted for his elegance. The man dresses down language as he does humanity: unsentimentally. At his best, his sentences can pulverize language like bones into dust. Even when they’re riddled with passive forms his sentences are never static; they’re alive, because Norris knows how to move them. Why? Because Norris is not a sentence writer, he is a natural storyteller. He’s decisive and knows where he’s going. He knows when to linger and when to pass. He knows how to make exposition serve him and how to choose details that stick. Above all, he knows how to build an indestructible sceneand lordy, some scenes in McTeague, from the cue-ball incident to the epic finale in Death Valley, are seriously unforgettable.
It strikes me just how modern this novel reads. The tone and temperament of the prose, the naked, unromantic characterizations, the grim thematic reckoning, the battle cry of corporate tyranny, all of it could have been conceived yesterday. There's somethingat least in the early portion of the noveldistinctly Dude-esque about Norris's sad sack portrayal of Mac, a slovenly dentist wallowing in his dumpy flat, swilling steam beer and lazing about, as the modern world passes him by. There is a modern sensibility to the gross-out factor that Norris evinces so effectively. That Mac falls in love with Trina while working on her teeth is a fact that I find both divinely perverse and totally disgustingsomething that could be found today in a Farrelly Brothers film.
I realize I have an opportunity here to talk about the influence of evolutionary philosophy and progressivism upon late nineteenth century literature, or the corrosive forces of industrialization and freewheeling capitalism on the later Victorian era. I could touch upon the emergence of professionalism in middle class America, or employ a feminist lens and pick Norris to pieces. Through a humanist lens he could be called out as a rotten, hard-hearted bastard. But I am no critic and certainly no scholar, just an admirer. And it's not Norris's hard-heartedness that inspires me, anyway, rather his hard-headedness. McTeague is a gritty vitriolic rant, a novel with hair on it. Funny, brutal, clear-eyed, and above all, gloriously unapologetic in it’s skewering of humanity's baser instincts. This is a goddamn magnificent bastard of a novel.
Meet the Author
Frank Norris (1870-1902) is the author of McTeague, The Octopus: A Story of California, and The Pit: A Story of Chicago. In addition to being a novelist, he also served as a journalist and was leader of the Naturalism movement during the Progressive era. Norris believed that a novel should serve a moral purpose. "The novel with a purpose," he explained, "brings the tragedies and griefs of others to notice" and "prove(s) that injustice, crime, and inequality do exist."
Jonathan Evison is the author of Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, West of Here, and All About Lulu. He is a recipent of the Washington State Book Award and the Richard Buckley Fellowship from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation. Editor Chuck Adams (Water for Elephants, A Reliable Wife, An Arsonist's Guide to Writers Homes in New England) called West of Here the best novel he's worked on in over four decades of publishing. In his teens, Evison was the founding member and frontman of the Seattle punk band March of Crimes, which included future members of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. Born in San Jose, California, he now lives on an island in Washington.
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Riveting is right! One would never know that this book was originally published in 1899. It reads like a modern novel, and I found it extremely hard to put down. You have a sensation of being carried from page to page by the author, without being aware of the words which transport you. The psychological tension was built very artfully. And it was so delightful to read about everyday life in San Francisco in the 1890's -- I went out and bought some genuine San Francisco Anchor steam beer afterwards! The story was so popular that one director created a 10-hour B&W silent version of the book in the 1920's! This was the first book I read by Frank Norris, and I was oh so pleasantly surprised. What a tragedy that Norris died at the age of 32 what a wealth of fine literature he could have provided us. This is a great book on many levels, and the B&N Library of Essential Reading edition is especially handsome and readable.
Its a great read; felt sort of like a precursor to The Great Gatsby.
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