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"I never truckled. I never took off the hat to Fashion and held it out for pennies. I told them the truth. They liked it or they didn't like it. What had that to do with me? I told them the truth," declared Frank Norris, shortly before his death at the age of thirty-two. Of his novels, none have shocked the reading public more than McTeague, and few works since have captured the seamy side of American urban life with such graphic immediacy as does this portrayal of human degradation in turn-of-the-century San Francisco. Its protagonists, men and women alike, are shown as both products and victims of a debasing social order. Heredity and environment play the role of fate in a tale that moves toward its harrowing conclusion with the grim power and inevitablity of classic tragedy.

368 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1899

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About the author

Frank Norris

221 books99 followers
Naturalistic novels of noted American writer Benjamin Franklin Norris, Junior, brother of Charles Gilman Norris and sister-in-law of Kathleen Thompson Norris, about American life include McTeague in 1899.

This novelist during the Progressive era predominantly authored works that include The Octopus: A California Story (1901) and The Pit (1903). Although he not openly supported socialism as a political system, his work nevertheless evinces a socialist mentality and influenced socialist-progressive writers, such as Upton Beall Sinclair. Philosophical defense of Thomas Henry Huxley of the advent of Darwinism profoundly influenced him like many of his contemporaries. Norris studied under Joseph LeConte, who at the University of California, Berkeley, taught an optimistic strand of Darwinist philosophy that particularly influenced him. Through many of his novels, notably McTeague, runs a preoccupation with the notion of the civilized man overcoming the inner "brute," his animalistic tendencies. His peculiar and often confused brand of social Darwinism also bears the influence of the early criminologist Cesare Lombroso and the French naturalist Émile Zola.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 626 reviews
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
451 reviews3,229 followers
August 26, 2020
In the 1890's in San Francisco, (now finally at peace ) on busy Polk Street, with cable cars continuously moving up and down the thoroughfare , not the most fashionable lane though, McTeague an unlicensed dentist, too dumb to know he needs this practices his profession learned from a quack in a filthy mining camp pulling teeth with his bare hands, big and strong as an ox and as smart as one too, his clients are clerks, shop girls and vendors the working poor of the area the rich people who live a couple of blocks away, go to another more able and with a certificate...McTeague, no other name is given has just one friend Marcus Schouler, an ambitious young man like the dentist, employed by a veterinarian with a little clinic, nearby ( he does have a license) shy old Grannis, who loves the retired dressmaker Miss Baker (these people all live in the same apartment building) the aged sweethearts, have adjoining rooms in fact but will not speak to each other, only like to listen to the sounds coming through the walls and opened doors, she's even more bashful than he. When Marcus brings his cousin, small charming almost beautiful but with pretty hair, Trina Sieppe from an immigrant German family, to fix her teeth, the quack falls in love, complications though, so does his only friend. McTeague proposes to Trina 20, in his tiny room also used as an dental office and the frightened girl runs away, yet does come back. Later telling his friend the amazed Mr. Shouler, who magnanimously lets him take the woman he wanted to marry a real pal, still will regret always his hasty decision...Trina wins $5,000 in an illegal lottery that she reluctantly bought a ticket , from the pushy seller for a dollar to the chagrin of Marcus. After the odd couple's marriage her family moves to Los Angeles, alone she invest her money with a rich uncle, becomes a miser taking out the gold coins to adore and feel, that she has left or saved, every day just to look at. This causes great irritation you can imagine to her husband, they live so cheaply almost like beggars. Domestic violence ensues, McTeague leaves and steals the hidden money...This not quite respectful novel, and was condemned by contemporary reviewers for its coarseness, vulgarity and killings in 1899, very unsettling even by modern standards if there are any, it is not a pleasant read, a minor American classic which shows the evils ways some people act in the face of dire, crushing, horrendous poverty...However a gripping story, with a terrific finale of a man who will not be stopped, his feeble mind tells him what to pursue, anything he wants is his ...all he has to do is grasp in his powerful hands.
Profile Image for Jeff .
912 reviews682 followers
September 29, 2016
This is one of those chunky “classics” that not a lot of people have heard of. Frank Norris only wrote a few novels, with the most famous being, The Octopus: A Story of California, one of those books that rails against social injustice, with its target – evil, railroad barons. MUWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (I can do this all day) MUWAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Norris was one of those turn-of-the-century writers, like Jack London, who liked to get down and dirty and live among the people he was writing about – miners, stevedores, shopkeepers, hookers – so, it’s not a surprise that he lived fast and hard and died young - leaving a pox ridden corpse.

One of the reasons this book endures is probably because Eric von Stroheim made an excessively long (around eight hours) silent movie called Greed, based on the book. The making of the film seems to be a terrific story unto itself, but suffice it say that von Stroheim was a tad bit over-the-top in his love of the book (gifs from the film pepper this review).

Greed is the name of the game and with apologies to Gordon Gekko, it’s anything but a positive trait. Norris followed the Emile Zola School of Naturalism, which was all for getting reality on paper, but it favored less than fun stuff – misery, poverty, vice, violence, racism.

Norris also studied at the School of Determinism, which said that whatever traits you were born with, there’s pretty much no escape. So if you have Swiss-German blood (the female protagonist), you’ll be predisposed to be miserly with your accumulated riches or if daddy was a drunken, idiotic ne’er-do-well (McTeague), you’re screwed.

A sort-of non-spoilerish summary: McTeague is a big, slow-witted (Norris likes to often use the words like "stupid" and “idiot” to describe the big lug) dentist, who falls in love with Trina, who’s kind of cute and has a big, head of raven-colored hair.

They get engaged. She hits the lottery for $5000. Marcus, McTeague’s bestest pal, who originally had a thing for her and set them up, gets jealous because he could have had the money (Hi there, Mr. Greed). McTeague and his pal wrestle at a picnic, it goes too far, Marcus pulls a Mike Tyson and bites McTeague’s ear and McTeague does a “brainbuster” on him in retaliation and now they’re not pals anymore, but bitter enemies.

McTeague and Trina get married, but she doesn’t want to spend any of her lottery money because she’s a Swiss-German miser (Hey, Greed), which works out okay until the San Fransiscan Dental board say that McTeague can’t be a dentist anymore because the Three Stooges School of Dentistry does not in fact exist.

From there, things devolve in a rather quick, bloody and ham-fisted way.

More stuff:

You can’t talk about greed without rolling out the obligatory Jewish character and the formulaic anti-Semitic garbage.

It seems that drinking steam beer (Mmmm beer) and putting billiard balls in your mouth was the height of jackassary back in the day.

Rolling around in bed, naked, with your gold pieces is pretty smexy. Unless you’re a dude…

This is a grim book with little humor and no one comes out unscathed and I was wavering between 3 and 4 stars but the last fifth of the book solidified the rating. With some stunning literary imagery and a perfect ending, it proved that no matter where you go – from the big city to the desert – you’re always alone with your conscience – your greedy, pre-determined conscience.

Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,670 followers
December 27, 2015
“I never truckled. I never took off the hat to Fashion and held it out for pennies. I told them the truth. They liked it or they didn't like it. What had that to do with me? I told them the truth.”
― Frank Norris, McTeague


The first part of this novel was slow. I was frustrated enough (almost) to just pull the bookmark out and walk away. But soon Norris had me by the crown. Look people, if you are going to only read one literary work on Mammon's folly, on the parsimonious middle-child of the Seven Deadly Sins, THIS should to be the one. It focuses on McTeague and his wife Trina, but several other characters play almost equally important roles in examining avarice's many, obsessive faces. There are scavengers, hoarders, manipulators, thieves, etc.


Inserted into the novel, however, is one of the most beautiful and sad love stories in literature. Miss Baker and Mister Grannis, two older boarders and neighbors of the McTeagues, live in adjoining rooms in a boarding house. Each room has the same wallpaper, suggesting that the rooms used to be just one room. Mister Grannis spends his nights binding periodicals while Miss Baker makes tea and rocks near their shared wall. Each, silently, spends the evening sharing their divided space. Barely separated, each is comforted by the others presence. It is beautiful, a modern Pyramus and Thisbē, and a nice counterweight to all the gold lust and penny pinching. I don't know if I would have been able to survive the hardcore, step-by-step, drop of the McTeagues and their ilk into Dante's fourth circle without the uplifting, kind, and selfless older couple that shoots one warm ray into this novel's cold, dead roots.
Profile Image for Evripidis Gousiaris.
229 reviews94 followers
February 7, 2017
Ο Frank Noris στα πρώτα 3/5 του βιβλίου θα προσπαθήσει να σε κάνει να χαμογελάσεις μόνο και μόνο για να σου παγώσει το χαμόγελο στα 2 τελευταία.

Αποφεύγω να διαβάζω οπισθόφυλλα και εισαγωγές από τα βιβλία της σειράς Orbis Literae(και γενικά από κλασσικά βιβλία) γιατί πολλές φορές σου μαρτυρούν την πλοκή. Για τον ΜακΤιγκ λοιπόν είχα ακούσει μόνο ότι ταυτίζεται με την λέξη ΑΠΛΗΣΤΊΑ. Για αυτό και το ξεκίνησα περιμένοντας μια σειρά χαρακτήρων όπου θα λατρεύει το χρήμα.

Αντιθέτως συστήθηκα με έναν μεγαλόσωμο κομπογιαννίτη οδοντίατρο, εντελώς ντροπαλό, άκακο και αμήχανο, όπου για "κακή" του τύχη ερωτεύεται την γοητευτική πανέξυπνη και μικροσκοπική Τρίνα.
Αναπτύσσεται λοιπόν ανάμεσα τους μια ιστορία αστεία και ρομαντική καθώς ο μπουνταλάς ΜακΤιγκ προσπαθεί να διεκδικήσει αυτήν την όμορφη κοπέλα.
Με τρυφερό χιούμορ ο Noris παρουσιάζει τις προσπάθειες του οδοντογιατρού να καταφέρει αυτό το τόσο δύσκολο εγχείρημα καθώς έρχεται αντιμέτωπος συνεχώς με την αμηχανία του και την ντροπαλή του φύση.
Φιλικοί περίπατοι, όμορφα πικνίκ και εκδρομές, αμήχανοι και αστείοι διάλογοι αλλά και ευχάριστες εκπλήξεις είναι σκηνές όπου επικρατούν στο "πρώτο" μέρος του βιβλίου.

…Και ξαφνικά όλα αλλάζουν. Με αφετηρία ένα συμβάν το οποίο θα έπρεπε να φέρει παραπάνω ευτυχία και χαμόγελα όλα παίρνουν την κατιούσα. Η ΑΠΛΗΣΤΊΑ ξαφνικά είναι παντού!
Υπήρχαν σκηνές όπου με άφησαν άναυδο και εντελώς σαστισμένο. Προσωπικά δύσκολα μπορούσα να πιστέψω την σκληρή εξέλιξη/κατάληξη του βιβλίου.

Και όλα αυτά σε ένα βιβλίο όπου διαδραματίζεται παράλληλα μια μικρή ιστορία αγάπης μεταξύ δύο ηλικιωμένων όπου δύσκολα δεν θα σε αγγίξει. (Έπρεπε οπωσδήποτε να αναφέρω αυτό το περίεργο ζευγάρι καθώς έδωσε άλλη χροιά σε όλο το έργο.)

Ένα βιβλίο όπου μεταφέρει όλες τις σκληρές επιπτώσεις της Απληστίας χωρίς κανέναν ενδοιασμό. Οι ήρωες του κυριεύονται από αυτή χωρίς να το καταλάβουν. Το χρήμα παύει να έχει μόνο έναν διαμεσολαβητικό ρόλο και πλέον είναι αυτό ο πρωταγωνιστής όπου θέτει σε κίνηση τα γεγονότα.

Διαβάστε το!
Profile Image for TK421.
554 reviews257 followers
February 18, 2013
Frank Norris was a master at painting emotions with words. The titular character is a man few would care to dine with, but Norris gets the reader to sympathize for him. You see, much like most writers circa late 19th to early 20th century, human nature was best explored through the environment of the characters (naturalism). In McTeague's case, he was an affluent dentist from San Franciso that falls in love with the wrong girl; some would argue that the wrong girl falls in love with McTeague. Any way you slice the cake, you still have two people trapped in a marriage that is slowly burning toward becoming a firey inferno. Filled with political and social commentary, greed, sex, folly, hate, jealousy, and corruption, these all meld together to bring the novel toward an ending that is not only harrowing, but, to this reader, one that still has not been surpassed since my reading of this almost seven years ago.

Challenge: Read this book. If the ending doesn't knock your socks off I'll...I'll...well, I'll be wrong I guess. But you won't be able to say I didn't tell you about a great ending that is the perfect metaphor for what we call the rat-race of human life.

Profile Image for Classic reverie.
1,365 reviews
May 12, 2019
More than 15 years ago, I saw a silent movie, that had such a chilling effect on me that while looking up movies made from books, I was happy to find Frank Norris' McTeague was based on Erich von Stroheim's 1924 silent gem, "Greed". My memory is fairly good and while reading this story, I saw Gibson Gowland and Zasu Pitts as The McTeagues, though while reading the actors were no longer the faces I saw because of the author's descriptions; the acting was superb but my mind saw them differently. In my spoiler section, I will tell in my spoiler section, my thoughts on the book and movie. I love silent movies more for looking at people of the past and the ability to communicate with the audience without a voice. I saw the TCM 4 hour version and would recommend to anyone who might be interested, it is worth it.

When Frank Norris wrote this book he was making a comment on capitalism which he wanted to convey how he felt. I will not comment on his thoughts not knowing all he felt; but I will say that GREED is not limited to the so called "fat cats", rich people or capitalistic societies. It is a human condition that as humans we all have a bit of GREED in ourselves that we must check and keep at bay. It can occur in ANY political environment in ALL countries and peoples. In McTeague, characters are almost all poor or near poverty so Frank Norris shows us that GREED knows no social economic parameters but that it happens when we let it devour our lives.

"McTeague" is the most depressing book I have read, more so than Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, it is not depressing due to the poverty of some but it is because of the poverty of kindness and the soul. There is some kindness in the story but it is more scant and seen more so from Old Grannis and Miss Baker. The obsession for hoarding money/gold, the abuse by the husbands, the abuse of a wife to her husband though not in physical abuse but by being a miser, the want of dogs fighting and ability to see parents suffer from poverty. Vengeance is also shown and how it eventually can destroy us. Though this is a gloomy story, it is a favorite because Norris superb ability to show us readers, how not to live our lives. That money and things are nothing to making people happy and giving when we can, not just money but of ourselves.

The story in short- A dimmed witted dentist falls for the cousin of his friend, who had eyes for her too. A lottery is won and that starts the avalanche of destruction in the lives of many but the basic personalities were present in the individual but exasperated by downfall.

From Wikipedia

"During editing on Greed, the production company merged into Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, putting Irving Thalberg in charge of the film's post-production. Thalberg had fired Stroheim a few years earlier at Universal Pictures. Originally almost eight hours long,Greed was edited against Stroheim's wishes to about two-and-a-half hours. Only twelve people saw the full-length 42-reel version, now lost; some of them called it the greatest film ever made. Stroheim later called Greed his most fully realized work and was hurt both professionally and personally by the studio's re-editing of it.[1]
The uncut version has been called the "holy grail" for film archivists, amid repeated false claims of the discovery of the missing footage. In 1999 Turner Entertainment created a four-hour version of Greed that used existing stills of cut scenes to reconstruct the film. Greed was a critical and financial failure upon its initial release, but by the 1950s it began to be regarded as one of the greatest films ever made; filmmakers and scholars have noted its influence on subsequent films."

There are many quotes worth looking at so if interested look at my highlights section for this book.

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In the movie, McTeague's stupidity is not shown too much, but mostly being a brute. He is extremely dimwitted and it shows his inability to comprehend so many things. In the movie his strength is known but not to the extent in the story. He is not all bad but that changes to nothing left that is good. He seemed like nice but stupid but that changes. He turns into evil being. The gilt covered birdcage with the bird shows how the Greed keeps us prisoner to it.

Trina as soon a the lottery money came turned into a creature that only wants more savings of money and brings destruction to her husband and herself. In the movie, Trina is seen buying a spoiled marked down piece of meat, this miserly little woman who would sooner see her parents starve then spend money, herself included.

Marcus was just as Greedy as Trina which soured his relationship with others and looks destroy McTeague by helping close his dental practice and bring him down. Did he ever realize that if he married Trina, he would not have any access to money?

The ending is as it should be that shows Greed in our hearts brings no happiness but moral destruction and happiness in our souls.
Profile Image for Jordan.
25 reviews
March 4, 2010
Holy Crap! Look I'm writing a review, that rarely happens. I'll never catch up with my friend Manny, Lord knows I wouldn't want to. Ok, enough ranting and it's only the start of the review!

I read this book for an American Lit class that focused on the Realism and Naturalism movements, and McTeague was one of the first TRUE Naturalism novels that I have read. While I worked at an independent bookstore for three years I had always heard people talking about McTeague so I confess I was interested and excited to see why people loved this novel so much. So I went into the reading with an open mind, which doesn't happen that often, and let me tell you it would have been better not to have read it at all! Wait . . .that's being a little harsh. It wasn't as bad a that, but it was pretty painful, and I have had to read some extremely painful book in my life, and let me tell you this is right at the top of my list.

Either all the people that liked this book were smoking something I wasn't aware of or perhaps this book just really was not for me. I found that while I am a fan of Realism with Wharton and the rest of the gang, I just couldn't do the Naturalism thing. I am not a fan of reading about characters that on every other page are referred to by their animal tendencies and how in the end we are just all animals and we will always revert back to our originally form, the form as the BEAST! I swear to God in McTeague Norris usually the insane word over and over again, when referring to ALL of the main characters. Oh . . . I am sorry I shouldn’t say Norris, I should say the narrator, (my Professor and I had an hour long conversation about that small detail). Also speaking of narrators, I can’t remember reading a novel where the narrator speaks in such negative terms about the main character from the VERY first line of the novel. The characters in McTeague are extremely dark, ugly, and unattractive as characters to read about. When I realized I had to read more pages for class the night before I would cringe, which is NEVER GOOD! It has been a very long time since a book has made me cringe, however I can loudly state that this is one of those rare book that achieved my internal and physical cringe status.

I just have a had time when as a reader you don't like any of the characters, the narrator is extremely manipulative from the very start of the book, and there is no one that you can connect with or want to cheer on throughout the novel. Also the whole thing about the "elements" being indifferent to humans and their plight to live in this world is beyond annoying and downright tiresome to read.

Ok enough ranting and raving. As you can see I only can it one star, but I know many people who love Norris, and are slightly obsessed with both McTeague and The Octopus. One of my fellow students is doing his senior thesis entirely on Norris, I shuddered when he told me that. I am sure though he would shudder at some of the classics that I have enjoyed. Everyone’s boat rocks to a different tune, and I love that! Let’s just say that McTeague did not rock my boat, in fact my boat never even left the dock.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,694 reviews1,478 followers
April 24, 2017
This book did not fit ME! My rating is not a judgment of the book; it shows only how I personally reacted to the author’s lines. The majority of the book I did not like, thus I can only give it one star.

I did appreciate the author’s description of places - sites on the fringe of San Francisco and the dessert environs of Death Valley, California. The setting is predominantly Polk Street, San Francisco, at the turn of the 20th century.

Am I glad I read the book? Actually, I would say yes. Why? To have experienced those descriptive lines. To test another author of the naturalist school of writing. One clearly sees similarities with Theodore Dreiser, another author of this school.

Naturalism is a literary movement that emphasizes observation and the scientific method in the fictional portrayal of reality. Novelists writing in the naturalist mode include Émile Zola (its founder), ThomasHardy, Theodore Dreiser, Stephen Crane, and Frank Norris. (Source: Wiki)

So what gave me trouble? The dialogs. While they may accurately depict how people speak to each other, reading such can be extremely tedious and boring. Phrases are repeated over and over again, first as a question, then an answer followed by a person’s confirmation, another’s reconfirmation and then maybe the question gets posed all over again! On and on and on with the exact same words! A lengthy paragraph may be devoted to two people saying goodbye! This may be accurate, but it is pushed too far in the dialogs of this book. Not once and not by just one character, but by all of the characters over and over again. This drove me bonkers. Writing in this manner makes the characters sound stupid, but are all of them stupid?! That is what went through my head. Well, perhaps; the author is clearly critical of how people behave…. which leads to the next problem I had with the book.

The central theme of this novel is avarice, but don’t all of us see avarice with distaste? And don’t we all know this even before picking up the book? Norris’ message is loud and clear. Too loud and too pushed to the extreme. Money is hoarded. Money is gloated over, killed for and what people do to collect it, pile upon pile, is drawn to an extreme. The story loses touch with reality. What the author wants to say with the book becomes a rant, a lesson pounded into our heads. What unrolls is absurd. In reading the book we obligingly let ourselves be bashed over the head with the author’s message concerning the evils of greed. The climax at the end is metaphorically a clash of cymbals.*

The characters did NOT pull me in. They become too absurd to be taken seriously. There is a love affair that sours. The characters are merely the means by which the author delivers his message, his resounding warning against avarice and greed.

There is an anti-Semitic sentiment to be found in the author’s lines.

I downloaded this free of cost at at Librivox. It is accessible here:
It is fantastic that the site does exist! I recommend using the Librivox app. Without the app maneuvering within the audiobook becomes difficult.

This Librivox recording is read by Jeff Robinson. The speed varies. The reading is uneven. Parts are fantastic, other portions less so. The end was very well read, but I cannot disregard some of the earlier sections. I disliked the cinematically rendered intonations for the immigrants of Swiss / German origin that speak in this book. These immigrants do have a dialect and they do use incorrect words. I am fine with added dialect touches as long as I can decipher the author’s words. In parts I couldn’t. I will rate the narration with three stars and I will in the future choose other Librivox recordings performed by him. Overall he does a good job.

*So you wonder why I call the ending a clash of cymbals? Here is why, but it is a BIG spoiler: My God what an ending. See what I mean about a clash of cymbals?
Profile Image for MJ Nicholls.
2,009 reviews4,007 followers
December 12, 2022
It’s not merely that the protagonist of this novel is a lumbering halfwit who even the author seems to loathe (“stupid” is the preferred descriptor), or that the teenage wife he marries turns into a caricatured penny-pinching scrimper-on-speed who refuses to touch a cent of her five thousand fortune, nor is it the nasty little incidental characters like the crazed Jewish pawnbroker whose lust for money turns him into throat-slashing madman, or the Dutch mother-in-law with her uncharming babble phonetically rendered for your displeasure, nor is it the sluggish drudgery of the story, failing to make us warm us to these uptight, greedy, stupefyingly thick characters, nor is it the directionless grind of the plot that makes the blurb’s characterisation of the author as “the American Zola” a laughable epithet, nor is it . . . no wait, it is all those things in particular that make this novel complete bollocks. Bailed on p.264(!)
Profile Image for Tammy.
493 reviews
March 10, 2016
This book is filled with passion, hate, greed, love, violence, and horror. The words flow across the page and you feel all the passionate emotions of all the characters. Although Trina, McTeague, and Marcus are deeply flawed, you still care for them and are horrified by the decay of their relationships and their very souls.

I never quote passages in my reviews but I cannot resist:

"The people about the house and the clerks at the provision stores often remarked that Trina's fingertips were swollen and the nails purple as though they had been shut in a door. Indeed, this was the explanation she gave. The fact of the matter was that McTeague, when he had been drinking, used to bite them, crunching and grinding them with his immense teeth, always ingenious enough to remember which were the sorest. Sometimes he extorted money from her by this means, but as often as not he did it for his own satisfaction."

Yeah....like a punch in the face, isn't it?

The irony? All of this misery started with the good fortune of winning a $5,000 lottery.

I cannot recommend this book enough -- one of the best books I've read this year. And the ending is to die for.
Profile Image for Elizabeth (Alaska).
1,268 reviews412 followers
December 29, 2021
Even before the Introduction, there is a brief bio of Frank Norris and, for me, very enlightening. It begins:
The son of a well-to-do businessman, Frank Norris (1870-1902) studied painting in San Francisco, then went to Paris, where his taste shifted to literature. However, not until he had returned to become a student at the University of California did he discover the works of Zola, whose naturalism was to form the foundation of Norris’s artistic credo.
As one who has read quite a lot of Zola, I could easily see his influence in Norris' first novel. Though he works as a dentist and is called Doctor, McTeague is really semi-literate working class. As a boy/young man, McTeague worked as a carboy in a mine. Growing up among miners, he was more than simply rough around the edges, but his mother wanted more for him. He learned the trade of dentistry from an itinerant who likely learned dentistry on the sly. It isn't clear that he actually lives above what we would now call the poverty line, but probably only just. He lives in a building of small flats. In fact, he lives in the one room where he conducts his dental practice. He must go out for meals.

I loved the writing style though there is some dialog that in many places isn't good at all and only helps to move the plot along. While maybe not helping to define the quite good characterizations, this dialog does help to understand the relationships between the characters. These characters are not the nicest of sorts and it's hard to truly like any of them. I think it would be helpful to embrace the literary movement of Naturalism. In his Afterword, Vince Passaro writes:
The premier naturalist, if not its inventor, was the French novelist Émile Zola, who influenced Crane, Norris and many others. He wrote novels oriented toward social justice, but his characters were forever doomed by their powerlessness in the face of circumstances.
It is easy to see this powerlessness in the three main characters of McTeague, Marcus, and Trina. Each, in his/her own way, also represents Norris' theme of greed.

At about the halfway point, I thought this novel probably only 4-stars at best. Sometime past the halfway, the novel builds in such a way that I revised my thinking upward.
Profile Image for Toby.
829 reviews328 followers
December 11, 2014
19th Century American realism shouldn't feel this fresh and contemporary. Erich von Stroheim, the fabled silent film maker, once made a 10 hour epic costing half a million dollars from this novel such was his passion for it and his determination to do Norris's authentic portrait of the evils of avarice in San Francisco's working classes justice. It's said he filmed it page by page, hand tinting every hint of gold in every frame of film before screening all ten hours of it to a handful of guests and studio executives, the latter of which prompty cut it to a more reasonable two and a half hours. Von Stroheim's Greed is now sadly lost but happily generations of readers have been allowed to marvel at this complete and untainted publication of what has become known as Frank Norris's finest hour. Although once upon a time a scene featuring the familial abuse of a young boy in a theatre causing the poor kid to micturate freely in his seat was required to be excised due to its shocking nature on 19th century audiences.

McTeague is a larger than life man, painted so vividly that he verges on the grotesque, his ill-educated and oafish ways leave him open to mockery from the author and revulsion from the reader, he feels very much the forerunner to such classic characters from American fiction as Ignatius J. Reilley and to a lesser extent Nathanael West's Homer Simpson. To put it another way, there's no romance to be found in this protagonist. But it's not just the character that deserves to be mentioned in the same breathe as those two novels, this is 450 pages that the majority of the time holds its own against those other much lauded works.

Chronicling the declining fortunes of a self-taught dentist and his avaricious wife (although everyone is touched by greed in some way,) McTeague involves three murders, a torture scene, two fights - one of them to the death - and in the last third of the book an ambience of brutality, including sexual dominance and psychological terror. It's pretty powerful stuff, told with an eye for detail that had apparently passed American fiction by up until this point, McTeague's boarding house and fellow boarders a microcosm for the working classes of San Francisco, the mileau represented with accuracy of day to day living and dialects, and most importantly the brutality of the human animal.

In many ways this is a novel about addiction and obsession, following the same formula we still see in books and movies today; normal happy people led down a path of destruction by a sickness that you were there to witness the birth of - the first taste of alcohol, the playful line of cocaine, a pile of beautiful books the lure of gold, it's all the same and all leads to the same way if left unchecked - death, possibly one that will go unmourned or unnoted too. And yes, once a local bibliophile did die under a stack of books that got out of hand.

A little too on the nose with its observations of humanity, and fittingly for the subject matter a little too preoccupied with the one main idea - Greed - his characters lack any real internal drive beyond their avarice for example, to be a truly exceptional work, I'd still recommend this to anyone interested in a damned good read, and that is all Norris wanted when all was said and done.
Profile Image for SheAintGotNoShoes.
1,557 reviews2 followers
May 19, 2019
This book much like many others have a huge group of fans who gave it 5 stars and to a lesser degree a large group of people who hated it, saw nothing good about it and rated it 1 star. At the start of books I often wonder which camp I will fall into and after about 50 pages I already knew that I would be one of those who loved it.
suppose I must be a great fan of naturalistic books, as I am a huge fan of Child of the Jago, Liza of Lambeth and The Nether World. I am now able to add this to that list of favorites.

I have to admit much like others have written, I did not find any of the characters appealing and while I would not necessarily say anyone ' got what they deserved ', their actions and choices did determine their ultimate fates.

Highly recommended for fans of Victorian literature especially if you love ' slum dramas ' or an older version of 'kitchen sink drama '.
Profile Image for George K..
2,338 reviews287 followers
August 26, 2017
Το βιβλίο κυκλοφόρησε στα ελληνικά τον Οκτώβριο του 2014 και από την πρώτη στιγμή μου είχε κινήσει το ενδιαφέρον. Όμως η τιμή του μου φάνηκε κάπως τσιμπημένη για το μέγεθος του και έτσι το άφησα στην άκρη, μέχρι να το βρω φθηνότερα. Πριν λίγες μέρες το τσίμπησα επιτέλους -σε κάπως πιο λογική τιμή- και ουσιαστικά δεν άργησα ούτε στιγμή να το πιάσω στα χέρια μου. Από τις κριτικές που διάβαζα έβγαλα το συμπέρασμα ότι θα ήταν μια ιστορία πολύ κοντά στα γούστα μου και, τώρα που τελείωσα το βιβλίο, μπορώ να πω ότι η ιστορία ήταν ακριβώς του γούστου μου. Και, συν τοις άλλοις, πραγματικά καλογραμμένη.

Στο οπισθόφυλλο του βιβλίου διαβάζει κανείς: "Το ζευγάρι του κομπογιαννίτη οδοντογιατρού ΜακΤίγκ και της συζύγου του Τρίνας διέρχεται όλα τα στάδια της προσέγγισης και της ρήξης, στο επίκεντρο ενός κόσμου δηλητηριασμένου από ταπεινές "αξίες", με πρώτη την αδυναμία για το χρήμα. Η μεσαία τάξη χωρίς ψευδαισθήσεις στην "καρδιά" του σήμερα". Πολύ λιτή η περίληψη, ε; Κατά την γνώμη μου δεν χρειάζεται να ξέρεις κάτι παραπάνω για την ιστορία. Όσα λιγότερα ξέρει κανείς, τόσο μεγαλύτερη θα είναι η έκπληξη στο τέλος. Η όλη ιστορία αρχίζει απλά και κλασικά και για αρκετές σελίδες "κοιμίζει" τον αναγνώστη με την μάλλον βαρετή και συνηθισμένη καθημερινότητα των απλοϊκών ηρώων, με την γραφή να είναι γενικά ευχάριστη, με τρυφερό χιούμορ και ίσως λεπτή ειρωνεία. Όμως, με αφετηρία ένα γεγονός, τα πράγματα αλλάζουν. Γίνονται πιο σκοτεινά, πιο τρομακτικά. Αρχίζει η κατάπτωση αρκετών χαρακτήρων, βγαίνουν στην επιφάνεια η κακία, η φιλαργυρία, η απληστία, πάθη που κάνουν τον άνθρωπο ένα σωστό αγρίμι.

Μπορεί να πει κανείς ότι το βιβλίο χωρίζεται σε δυο μέρη, με το πρώτο μέρος να μην προμηνύει με τίποτα το σκοτάδι που επικρατεί στο δεύτερο. Θα πει κανείς: "Είναι ανάγκη να υποστώ την βαρετή καθημερινότητα απλοϊκών ανθρώπων που επικρατεί σε μεγάλο μέρος του βιβλίου, για να αρχίσουν τα πράγματα να αποκτούν περισσότερο ενδιαφέρον, να είναι τέλος πάντων πιο σκοτεινά και επικίνδυνα;". Κατά την γνώμη μου όλο το βιβλίο είναι φοβερό και ενδιαφέρον, όχι μόνο από ένα σημείο και μετά μέχρι το τρομερό φινάλε, όπου πολλά άσχημα γεγονότα διαδραματίζονται. Πρώτα-πρώτα οι περιγραφές του ΜακΤίγκ είναι εξαιρετικές, καταφέρνουν να μεταφέρουν τον αναγνώστη σε μια άλλη εποχή, αρκετά διαφορετική από την σημερινή. Και, φυσικά, τι πιο ενδιαφέρον από το να δούμε όλη την πορεία του ανθρώπου από την κορυφή (λέμε τώρα!) μέχρι την τελική του πτώση στον πάτο της ανθρώπινης κοινωνίας; Τι πιο ενδιαφέρον από τον τρόπο που ένας άνθρωπος μπορεί να αλλάξει τελείως; Και, βέβαια, ο συγγραφέας δεν χάνει την ευκαιρία μέσω της πλοκής και των χαρακτήρων να θίξει τα κακώς κείμενα της κοινωνίας της εποχής του.

Όπως μπορεί να καταλάβει κανείς από το μίνι σεντόνι που έγραψα, το βιβλίο με ικανοποίησε στον μέγιστο βαθμό. Μπορεί και να μην είναι άριστο ή αψεγάδιαστο, για όλα τα γούστα και όλες τις... ορέξεις, όμως δύσκολα δεν θα βρει κάποιος κάτι που να τον κρατήσει, που να μην του μείνει στο τέλος. Προσωπικά μου άρεσε όλη αυτή η πορεία από το φως στο σκοτάδι, από την χαρά στην στεναχώρια και την μοχθηρία. Και η γραφή του Νόρις φοβερή, με ολοζώντανες περιγραφές και λεπτή ειρωνεία. Είναι σίγουρα από τα καλύτερα βιβλία που έχω διαβάσει - όχι μόνο φέτος, αλλά γενικά!

Υ.Γ. 1. Έμαθα ότι υπάρχει ταινία βασισμένη στο βιβλίο αυτό: Greed (1924), σε σκηνοθεσία Έριχ Φον Στροχάιμ. Σίγουρα θα ψάξω να την βρω!
Υ.Γ. 2. Άψογη η ελληνική έκδοση, αξίζει τα λεφτά της.
Profile Image for Alexis.
41 reviews
March 18, 2008
This book has always amazed me because its content is dark but its descriptions are clear, rather than over-dramatized or gothic, like so much of late nineteenth century American and Victorian writing can be. It reminds me of the pared-down thrillers of today - like _American Psycho_. Norris normalizes anger and fear so that the reader sympathizes with McTeague, even as he/she is horrified by him. Pretty awesome for a text from 1899.

Interestingly, the film _Greed_(1924) was based on Norris' novel and he was one of the writers on the script. Originally Erich von Stroheim, the director, wanted to do the film scene by scene, much like today's _No Country For Old Men._ The original cut of this is rumored to be over 14 or more hours long, but there definitely is a cut out there that is at least 10 hours. I saw part of it in the class I took that required this novel. It was 19th Cent American Lit, with William Morsberger, at Cal Poly Pomona.

Below I have cut and pasted an explanation and review of the text _McTeague_. The review is from Janice Albert, http://www.cateweb.org/CA_Authors/Nor..., found on March 17, 2008.

"Besides being a ripping good story with well-drawn characters and plenty of atmosphere, the novel McTeague was a well-received expression of the school of Naturalism, a literary development exemplified in the work of writers such as de Maupassant and Zola. Naturalists, along with Realists, share a belief that the lives of ordinary people are worthy of serious literary treatment. Naturalism goes a step further, according to Margaret Drabble, in calling for scrupulous attention to authenticity and accuracy of detail, "thus investing the novel with the value of social history." Naturalist writers counted physical and hereditary factors in the formation of character and temperament, and they considered both wealth and poverty to have a great influence on character. Thus, as McTeague is denied the further practice of his profession, dentistry, (he had the strength for extraction), he becomes more and more brutal, while, in a parallel development, poverty brings his wife Trina to pathological depths of secrecy and hoarding.

"Norris was writing a trilogy of San Francisco, of which McTeague was the middle piece, Blix the starting point, and Vandover the Brute, published posthumously in 1914, the conclusion.

"He is believed to have chosen San Francisco for these tales of moral ruin because of the violent and depraved reputation of the city after the Gold Rush."
Profile Image for Mary Durrant .
347 reviews122 followers
September 22, 2015
This story charts the demise of a San Francisco couple at the end of the nineteenth century.
It was inspired by an actual crime that was sensationalised in the local papers.
Mc Teague is a charlatan and with his wife Trina is soon brought into a spiralling descent of corruption.
Very gripping story which turns into a dark brutal ending.
It was also made into a film Greed for the silent screen!
Profile Image for Sandy .
356 reviews10 followers
April 20, 2017
An interesting cast of characters; some surprising plot twists; superb descriptions of rural and urban landscapes; the recurring conflict between the socially-acceptable and the bestial instincts in human behaviour; and a shocking conclusion. What more can a reader want? All in all, an exciting story!
Profile Image for Jay Shelat.
242 reviews18 followers
May 3, 2022
Absolutely incredible and quite possibly the craziest book I’ve ever read. Jaw dropping
Profile Image for Matthew.
318 reviews13 followers
May 24, 2014
Damn this was bad. Excruciatingly boring and stridently racist. Sometimes racism in older novels can be explained by the common prejudices of the times, but the racist descriptions in 'McTeague' are repeated again and again and are so voluminous that its clear that Norris savored his racism and delighted in it.
Also, this was meant to be a dirty, realistic portrayal of common folk, as evidenced by Norris' statement "I never truckled. I never took off the hat to Fashion and held it out for pennies. I told them the truth." What garbage. He might have believed that, but other nineteenth century authors such as Mark Twain, Jack London, and Herman Melville all did a far better job of portraying rough hewn characters with authenticity, probably because they lived among and were friends with and sometimes even were the inspirations for their tales. Norris is just guessing here and guessing badly.
Also, I resent attempts to portray characters as stupid and mean by constantly (CONSTANTLY) calling them "beasts", as Mark Twain rightly pointed out in 'The Mysterious Stranger' the beasts of the field have never been as creatively cruel and malicious as man. But this is part of a greater problem with the novel, Norris repeatedly tells us how filthy and dumb these characters are while seldom demonstrating it with their actions. Sure, most of the characters are greedy or sadists or both, but the stuff in 'McTeague' is like a rice crispy treat compared to the writing of Dostoyevsky or Twain (or many others). Maybe I was just let down because the cover declared it to be so scandalous and dirty and real, and I don't revel in that type of thing, but I can really be thrilled by it when it is presented in an interesting, insightful, or at the VERY LEAST, authentic way (LIKE IN DOSTOYEVSKY AND OTHERS I'VE MENTIONED).
The problem is that Norris was clearly trying to make some sort of statement about the American character (just like Dreiser was always doing, but even that redundant scribbler of behemoth American morality tales is FAR MORE ENTERTAINING THAN THIS FUCKING GARBAGE) and those types of statement novels ALWAYS sacrifice authenticity for their message.
At least it inspired some of the more memorable scenes in film history: the closing desert scene in 'Greed' (which is also dreadfully long and boring, but inventive and visually captivating at moments).
Anyway, at least the novels of the era sometimes have unintentually hilarious passages such as this:

The younger women of Polk Street - the shopgirls, the young women of the soda fountains, the waitresses in the cheap restaurants - preferred another dentist, a young fellow just graduated from the college, a poser, a rider of bicycles, a man about town, who wore astonishing waistcoats and bet money on greyhound coursing.
9 reviews1 follower
January 2, 2008
this is book that left the strongest impression on me of ones i've recently read. i loved it. it's about mcteague, a dim-witted dentist whose ambition in life is to display a giant gold tooth in front of his dental parlours on polk street (awesome! there actually was one in front of some sf dentist around then. check out this photo: http://americahurrah.com/SanFrancisco....) anyway, the main plotline is that trina, mcteague's wife, wins the lottery, and marcus, his best friend, becomes insanely jealous of mcteague because he oh so nobly gave up trina for his pal mac. they all spiral downward into an abyss of greed and resentment.

mcteague's written and set in sf around 1900, and begins with this description of a day in the life of polk street. one of my favorite things about reading it was the desctiption of this city i live in 100 years ago. the main and minor characters live in the polk st apartment that mcteague initially occupies.

the characters are really blunt. the book deals with such subjects as rape fantasies and domestic violence. none of the characters are romanticized in any way (possibly romanticized in their crudeness?); none are particularly smart or admirable. with only a few exceptions, they all slowly destroy themselves and those surrounding them. the description of mcteague fleeing from the law through death valley is awesome.

there's a nasty undercurrent of anti-semitism, which made my hold my nose. but it was written at the turn of the century, and prone to that time's prejudices. zerkow the jew us portrayed awfully as a miserly subhuman almost. but then again, most of the characters are consumed by greed.
Profile Image for Donna.
Author 1 book41 followers
April 13, 2011
The tale is a bracing immersion in the language and material culture of turn of the 20th C. San Francisco. I would normally have trouble understanding how much of a windfall Trina Sieppe's 5,000$ would be in current dollars, but Norris' close attention to the acquisition and selling off of possessions kept me well up on the value of a dollar at the time.
The whole thing is sort of Zola in America, and maybe a touch of Hermann Broch in mood. Heck--it's a weird little book, and Jack London always seems just out of frame, only to come into full view at the end. Setting is as much foreground as the characters and story that begins in a world of melodeons, steel portraits and lace curtains, only to end in Landscape (there's Jack!), the kind that is itself and crushes people, which I guess is a relief after watching people crush people.
In America, there was a lot of landscape between a melodeon on the west coast and a melodeon on the east coast. I alway enjoy that distance in American literature and love best those books which brood as this distance moves west and gets filled up.
Profile Image for Zhara.
77 reviews
October 23, 2013
I understand why people in this day and age would hesitate to read Mcteague this given the attitudes about immigrants and Frank Norris's jewish character is a gross, obscene, cartoon and his image of people lower income is harsh which still holds today sadly. In spite of these shortcomings this book is worth reading because of does away with victorian romantic style instead, like Emile Zola, Theodore Dreiser, Richard Wright later on, wrote in the school of naturalism in which humans despite some progress are still at heart no better than animals and their true baser, natures shows up when at times of selfish self preservation,and things beyond your control that make a person choose the selfish choice in order to survive and always can't always make the right and moral choice, of course human natural stupidity and paranoid thinking. Sorry going off subject but I hope you read this book a chance.
Profile Image for Sarah Booth.
391 reviews40 followers
March 5, 2018
I read this book while I was at university I think. I didn’t even remember the name when it came time to list precious books read, but once I read the review of it on here it all came flooding back in a miasma of human miseries. It’s a dark and dreadful tale of some the worst of human behavior; greed and avarice mixed with jealousy over comes its main characters and sets in motion acts that cannot be undone. While it is well written and insightful into the human condition, it is so bleak that you want to take a handful of Prozac as you read it. Spoiler Alert: there is no happy ending, and you’ll be eyeing your dentist with suspicion next time you go.
Profile Image for Beth Cato.
Author 108 books488 followers
March 30, 2013
This classic novel by Frank Norris is a rather complex one to review. I read it for research purposes, as I'm writing a novel set in 1906 in San Francisco, and McTeague takes place there in 1900. In that regard, it was an invaluable resource on the details of the day--what people did for fun, what they drank (steam beer!), the structure of a full-day picnic outing, the racial demographics on a common street, etc. The book is also highly readable. It's smooth and very straightforward, much more so than Norris's The Octopus which I read last year.

The back cover description notes this is a work of "American realism," and the introduction by Kevin Starr goes into greater detail on that subject. This book was highly controversial when it was released. At heart, it's a story revolving around the American dream and its corruption by greed. The main characters are the dentist, McTeague, and his wife, Trina. By "realism," it means the characters are mostly unlikeable, and are designed to be so. From the start, McTeague is described as rather dense, a big man with few brains. In the course of the book, he becomes a depressed, abusive drunk. The scenes of domestic abuse are disturbing even by today's standards, as McTeague bites his wife's fingers to the point of infection and amputation, even as he steals her horde of money and abandons her.

Gold is really the theme of the book. McTeague in his younger days mined in the Sierras, and in middle age is a non-licensed dentist in San Francisco. He yearns for a massive gold tooth for his sign. His fiancee, Trina, wins $5,000 in a lottery jackpot, and is a complete miser about the winnings. Trina is really a likeable character until she becomes more twisted as the book goes on and her frugality turns to avarice. By the end, she's lost many of her fingers, is abandoned by her lout of a husband, and lives in abject poverty, but finally pulls all of her gold coins from the bank and strips down naked to sleep with her money pressed to her skin.

Many of the other residents described on Polk Street are also obsessed with money, including the stereotypical Jew obsessed with finding gold. The book is very much a product of its time period, and even includes a reference to a stove shining like a Negro's skin. Starr's introduction notes, though, that the biggest controversy when the book came out wasn't the horrid abuses committed by McTeague, but a small scene towards the beginning where a little boy wets his pants in public. This was regarded as so outrageous that it was removed in later editions, though the Penguin Classics version stays with the original text.

So on one hand, the book was very useful for my purposes, and on the other it's filled with foul characters and period racism that makes me wince. It's not a book I ever want to read again--and I'm relieved to be done with it! It will stay on my shelf for period references only.
1,062 reviews92 followers
December 5, 2017
Lust for `Lucky' Lucre Lays Lout and Lady Low

What a shame that Frank Norris died so young ! He could have been our Zola, our writer of vivid prose that captured all of American life. One of only three novels he published, McTEAGUE brings late 19th century San Francisco to life. You feel that you knew it, though it disappeared before you were born. Imbued both with humor and the innate racism of American life at the time, Norris wrote of what he knew----the city life of the lower middle class, mining and prospecting, even piano moving. The language, the food, the styles, the housing--everything shines with authenticity. The story too---a tale of jealousy, revenge, and the decline and fall of everyone--enables Norris to bring out the evils of a capitalist system (as he saw them) that emphasized money above all. Though he chose to depict Jews in a most disgusting manner, his take on human nature did not spare anyone else either. It's not only a description of the decay of a brutal man full of animal desires and understandings, of murder and flight, but also a moral tale of how money can corrupt life and destroy its possessors absolutely. The three main characters embody three different aspects of the same thing. McTeague is a stupid, untrained dentist who relies on brute force to get through life, though a thin veneer of `civilization' settles on him for a time. Marcus Schouler represents the rough and ready side of American capitalism--an optimistic opportunist without a shred of honor who always has an eye out for the `main chance', who regrets the loss of money much more than the loss of love. He is a natural born politician with no regard for the facts if they get in the way of payouts and career. Trina, daughter of Swiss immigrants, seems innocent, but turns into a twisted miser, ready to lie and deprive her husband at the drop of a hat to protect her hoarded money. The brilliant (if unlikely) conclusion in the aptly-chosen Death Valley underlines Norris' ideas about greed and money. What I especially admired in McTEAGUE is that the author never, not once, gives readers a lecture on the evils of greed and the dangers of money. You have to arrive there by yourself. A great American novel, perhaps not much talked about today, but one of the best in my opinion, up there with Faulkner, Warren, Dreiser and Lewis. Read it !
5 reviews1 follower
January 2, 2010
Written at the turn of the twentieth century, this book by Frank Norris is written completely in the form of literary naturalism. As such, Norris' novel is a well-executed demonstration of the features of literary naturalism. Any weaknesses in the novel itself are a reflection of the entire genre.
The pace of the storytelling at the beginning of the novel is very slow by design. Descriptions of the characters' personal appearances, traits, and daily routines may seem overly drawn out to modern readers. The characters possess a thin veneer of social graces which mask their underlying inability to master the forces of nature, both internal and external.
McTeague is a powerfully built, brute of a man with a very dull intellect and a terrible capacity for cruelty and violence under the right circumstances. Trina, his petite and pretty wife sets out initially to civilize her awkward and simple-minded husband. Soon it becomes apparent that she has a tendency toward severe avarice and greed, which she tries unsuccessfully to conceal from her husband through habitual deceit.
The highly deterministic worldview that reflects the nature of literary naturalism creates a claustrophobic atmosphere to the story. The author's highly negative and pessimistic tone toward his characters results in a group of caricatures rather than a believable ensemble of complex and interesting characters.
Given the part that literary naturalism plays in the development of the modern novel, McTeague is a worthwhile. The somewhat contrived climax of the novel is violent and pessimistic. Any reader who finds Norris' view of human nature believable will be left with little reason for hope when they come to the end of this novel.
Profile Image for Alexander Theofanidis.
893 reviews41 followers
December 14, 2022
Εξόχως ντουραλιστικό το έργο του Νόρις, παρουσιάζει με ζωντανά χρώματα τη γνωριμία και τον αδιέξοδο γάμο του αφελή με τάσεις προς τη βία ΜακΤιγκ και της εξαιρετικά σπαγγοραμμένης Τρίνα. Βέβαια, δε δοκιμάζεται μόνο ο θεσμός του γάμου στο μυθιστόρημα, αλλά και η φιλία, ιδίως όταν έχει σαθρές βάσεις, όπως αυτή του πρωταγωνιστή και του φαινομενικά κοινωνικά ευαίσθητου φίλου του Μάρκους, ο οποίος αποδεικνύεται τυχοδιώκτης και καθ' όλα ιδιοτελής και υστερόβουλος.
Σε αυτό το έργο η βία υπάρχει παντού, αφανής όσο τα πράγματα "πάνε καλά" και ύστερα αναδυόμενη σε όλες τις μορφές της όταν η κατάσταση αρχίζει να παίρνει τον κατήφορο. Η προφανής φυσική βία του ΜακΤιγκ, η λιγότερο προφανής αλλά πανταχού παρούσα οικονομική βία της Τρίνα (χαρακτηριστικό το παράδειγμα που του παίρνει όλα τα χρήματα και εκείνος δεν έχει καν 5 σεντς για το τραμ μια μέρα που βρέχει, ενώ τον κλέβει συστηματικότατα). Οι υπόλοιποι χαρακτήρες είναι δεύτερες φωνές σε μια συναυλία μη ενορχηστρωμένης αλλά πανταχού παρούσας βίας και διαρκούς αποδόμησης όσων η μικροαστική θεώρηση του κόσμου έχει καταχωρήσει ως σημαντικά. Τα προσωπεία πέφτουν και αργά ή γρήγορα οι άνθρωποι βγάζουν τον χειρότερο (ή μήπως τον πραγματικό) εαυτό τους.
Εξαιρετικό το μετέωρο φινάλε (δε θα πω περισσότερα) που συνοψίζει θα έλεγε κανείς το νόημα της ύπαρξης του ΜακΤιγκ.
Profile Image for Pedro.
3 reviews2 followers
November 29, 2008
My college-aged sister gave me this to read when I was in H.S. I scanned the first few pages, and noticed that the book had been written in the late 19th century, and immediately concluded that this was going to be one boring, oh-so-proper tale of early San Francisco life. What I got instead was one of the heaviest tragic novels I have ever read.

Norris shows humanity in all of its sickness, its unredeemable ugliness, its inability to escape from its primitive, animalistic roots. The characters are nothing more than machines, soul-less automatons driven by nature to chase, to own, and eventually, to kill.
And that for me is the most disturbing thing about the book- the author's view of Man as Beast.

Disturbing.Brilliant.Heavier than a load of bricks. I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Phillip.
673 reviews49 followers
April 5, 2012
I read this book upon Stephen King's recommendation in his book "Danse Macabre". He said it was an excellent book about obsession that is not for the faint of heart.

I read it and agree. It is an excellent book of obsession. A thing I thought of last night is that the story is a lot like the movie "Ben-hur."

Not only is it a great story that gives a picture of turn-of-the-20th-century San Francisco, it is an extended dramatic study of human human psychology showing how simple good-hardheartedness can turn to obsession and how love and goodwill can turn to hatred and murder.
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