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Customer Review

82 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Realism; not once, not twice, but thrice over!!, April 21, 2002
This review is from: McTeague (Mass Market Paperback)
I, like at least one other reviewer below, first heard of Frank Norris while rummanging the bookstore. After finishing McTeague, it puzzles me how I made it to age 25, through high school and college American Lit courses without reading him! Maybe I'm bold but I enjoyed this book more than any Hawthorne, Steinbeck or Twain.
This book is realism thrice over. The first 'realism' is coventional. Norris in the vain of the French realists writes a novel exploring people with complete human imperfections. From the feeble-witted McTeague (Norris never gives us his first name) to his avaricious wife Trina, we are introduced to a cast of characters who fuction the way people do. And unlike today's 'realist' literature that tries to be shocking for shock value, Norris is nothing but sincere.
The second 'realism' is Norris's refreshing 'fly on the wall' approach. Unlike fellow realists like Dreiser and Lewis, Norris does not judge his characters- never commenting or moralizing, just reporting. Through two murders, one rape fantasy and spousal abuse among other things, Norris simply tells it as it 'happens.'
The third 'realism' is in the language, both that of the characters and the novelist. It is always said that Hemingway was the one who taught us that descriptively, less is more. Now I see that there would have been no Hemingway without Norris. He is sparse and terse, giving the novel a life-like tone. The characters tend to stammer ("Yeah- uh- uh- yeah, that's the word") reflecting the way we really talk.
This is not Henry James, Edith Wharton or Harriet Stowe. It is a gritty tale set in 1890's San Francisco with an ending that will leave you in nothing less than shock. Before Raymond Carver, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck, there was Frank Norris and McTeague.
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Location: Richmond, VA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 23,623,238