Norris: Novels and Essays (Library of America)

by Frank Norris

Other authorsDonald Pizer (Editor)
Hardcover, 1985




Library of America (1986), Edition: 1st, 1232 pages


In his brief career -- he died at 32 -- Frank Norris introduced fresh and sometimes shocking elements into American fiction. Inspired by the naturalistic "new novel" developed in France by Zola and Flaubert, he adapted it to American settings, adding his own taste for exciting action and a fascination with the emerging sciences of economics and psychology. Vandover and the brute, set in a vividly described San Francisco, captures with harsh realism the dissipation and decline of a fashionable playboy into virtual bestiality. McTeague (source for Erich von Stroheim's classic film Greed) was a radical departure for its time in its frank treatment of sex, domestic violence and pathological obsession, revealing the dark underside of San Francisco's new middle class. The octopus depicts the epic struggle of strong, ruthless California ranchers with the railroad monopoly and its political machine. Twenty-two essays address theories of literature, the state of American fiction, and the social responsibilities of the artist. The New York Times said, "An opportunity to read, or re-read, in an authentic new edition, the work of one of the trailblazers in American literature.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member jwhenderson
The Octopus: While more than a great read, I cannot pretend to agree with the dire determinism of the author, Frank Norris. This novel of California wheat farmers versus the Railroad (the 'Octopus' of the title) is in the naturalistic tradition of Zola. In fact I was reminded of my reading of
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Germinal at times while rereading this classic, yet flawed, novel. Norris tends toward hyperbole at times and the prose can be somewhat melodramatic, yet it is a lucidly written novel with fascinating characters. The poet, Presley, is one character who particularly fascinated me. Presumably a stand-in for Norris himself, Presley is able to comment on the action and almost persuade the people to rise up against the Railroad; however, he is ultimately unsuccessful in changing their fate determined by Nature. Norris planned a trilogy based on his story of 'Wheat' but only finished one more volume, The Pit, before his untimely death
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LibraryThing member JVioland
Contains one of my favorite books: The Octopus. Norris has become one of my favorite authors. His clear realism makes it easy to lose yourself in his wonderful writing. A truly gifted writer cut short. If he had lived he may have become one of the greatest American writers. What a pity.


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