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McTeague: A Story of San Francisco Mass Market Paperback – September 12, 1980

4.0 out of 5 stars 74 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Something of a cult classic, McTeague was one of the founding works of unflinching realism and naturalism in American writing. McTeague was first published in 1899; this new Modern Library edition brackets the book's 100-year journey through literary consciousness, from its first splash as a rather lurid literary sensation in its retelling of a true-life crime in turn-of-the-century San Francisco, to its renewed popularity among modern readers. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Fawcett (September 12, 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449308103
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449308103
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,181,705 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Along with Stephen Crane, Frank Norris was one of the earliest writers in American naturalism--a tradition that eventually gave us Sinclair Lewis, Theodore Dreiser, and John Steinbeck. Influenced by social Darwinism and the French realists (especially Zola), their style tends to bluntness and away from romanticism and their view of civilization is marked by grimness. "McTeague" is considered Norris's classic work, and for good reason: its effect on later writers is obvious, and the book represents a shocking, bleak expose of greed and of the bestial nature of human beings.
McTeague is an unschooled, middle-class dentist who marries Trina, a daughter of German immigrants who is also the sweetheart of her distant cousin Marcus. Their lives are irrevocably changed when Trina wins $5,000 from a lottery, and their story is an examination of the resulting greed, miserliness, jealousies, intrigues, abuse, and homicide. Norris's worldview is not entirely gloomy, however: he introduces two endearing and unforgettable characters, Old Grannis and Miss Baker, an elderly couple whose only pleasure in the world is the knowledge of each other's existence on the other side of the shared wall of their two apartments. They are the antithesis of greed, and the simplicity of their desires provide much-needed comic (and, yes, romantic) relief.
The 21st-century reader, however, should be warned that Norris's ethnic stereotypes are not pretty. Zerkow, a Polish Jew, is a parsimonious junk peddler who has "bloodless lips" and "claw-like, prehensile fingers--the fingers of a man who accumulates, but never disburses.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
McTeague, the man, is the embodiment of the majority of human civilization. The simplicity and directness of the themes are so free-flowing they are hardly noticible: success, wealth, power, the fear of losing that which elevates citizens to one of the three social classes: 1) Wealth 2) Middle-class 3) Poverty. The characters in the novel: McTeague, Trina, Marcus, Zerkow, etc., are all simple-minded individuals longing for something that is universal in life: success and comfort. But what happens when that goal, that climax, is never achieved, almost achieved but never fully there or worse yet, achieved but then brutally snatched away? That is what happenes to McTeague, a dentist, who can no longer practice his craft because he holds no dental degree. What happens when that comfort zone, that stability, is yanked away and gnawed into pieces so miniscule it can't be reconstructed to its original form? Can he rise from his adversity or will he, like many before him and many after him, fall into the pits of criminal behavior and social depravity? As is always unfortunately the case, the latter is almost always what comes into fruition. There is a force in the novel that brings the characters quietly together. The dark happenings that they incur as a result of their narrow-minded longings almost makes what happens to them inevitable. The writing itself is lucid and relaxed, which is a real accomplishment considering the horror he puts his characters through. The scenes of San Francisco, the desert and the village-oriented type feel of Polk Street where the beginning action takes place are wonderfully described, not laborious as compared to the old and tragic English novels of the 19th Century and onward. For any literate individual interested in how greed can destroy a life, McTeague is the book for you.
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