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McTeague (Signet Classics)

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  3,611 ratings  ·  338 reviews
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-t ...more
Kindle Edition
Published (first published 1899)
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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. An ...more
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

The first part of this novel was slow, I almost was frustrated enough to just put it down. But soon Norris had me 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,
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 ...more
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' nov
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 swolle
Apr 12, 2011 Donna rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Donna by: cats and babies
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 s
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: anyway, the main plotline is that trina, mcteague's wife, wins the lottery, and marcus, his best friend, becomes insanely ...more
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
Ken Smith
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 r
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 ...more
(3.5) Norris redeems himself (after The Octopus)

Was forced to read The Octopus: A Story of California in high school and couldn't stand it. This was far more enjoyable, though I was kind of hoping to get even more of what San Francisco life was like a hundred or so years ago. A little of that, but because it was more or less contemporary fiction (rather than historical) that was probably of less importance to Norris. ;)

So enjoyed it, especially the odd romance between Miss Baker and Old Grannis.
Seth Reeves
I fell in love with this book as a high schooler studying Naturalism in English class. At the time its tone and worldview matched my own cynicism to a T. Every character in the book is driven by base, selfish desires without exception. It takes place in San Francisco at the turn from the 19th to the 20th century. Civilization is beginning to solidify and what was once a tumultuous town full of would be pioneers is becoming a full-fledged city with distinct social classes and formal professions w ...more

A seemingly “kitchen-sink” naturalistic drama that, in its time of publication, had shocked and reviled.

If a reader is used to Dreiser’s naturalism overflowing with character motivation, background, and emotional composition, s/he will be disappointed here with the seemingly direct and “clipped” style of Norris. Yet, the reader still receives the conventional emphasis on exact times, minute events, and mundane actions and reactions.

A third of the way through the novel, given the “down in the muc
Mcteague is my favorite all time novel. It is a book that was so ahead of its time . It was written in 1899 and was probably the first American novel that was written in the style of what would be known as naturalism a form that was more or less made famous by emile Zola.
It's no surprise that frank Norris spent time in France where he read Zola novels at the time.
I have read mcteague four times to date and every time I read it I discover something new. The novel is beautifully constructed . The
Beth Cato
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 s ...more
Christian Engler
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 happen ...more
☽ Moon Rose ☯
Sep 16, 2013 ☽ Moon Rose ☯ rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to ☽ Moon Rose ☯ by: One of Stephen King's Favorite Books
"No one to love, none to caress, left all alone in this world′s wilderness."
They say that one lifetime is not enough to get to know a person. This rings so true in the sense of our reality, which in some special cases, a person can even remain a stranger to himself in the entirety of his own lifetime as he initially appears to be born in this world alone and seems bound by destiny in the end to die in this world alone, somewhat separated from the rest of creation from the first moment of life
Travis Fortney
Imagine Pierre Bezukhov from War and Peace, then take away his charm, intelligence, and general likeability, and you've got McTeague, the hero of Frank Noris's 1899 novel MCTEAGUE. Maybe McTeague only reminded me of Pierre because he's big, but he's also a bit directionless, and at least at the beginning of the he's had a string of good luck going. When we meet him he's an unlicensed dentist and though he couldn't be called a success exactly, he seems to be building a nice practice. He meets a g ...more
McTeague was first published in 1899 and is a great example of 19th century cultural values. In a nutshell, McTeague is the tragic story of a man who practices dentistry without a license and marries a girl who wins $5,000 in a lottery but hoards all the money for herself. This doesn't sound exciting but to give an in-depth synopsis would spoil the shock value of reading this hidden masterpiece. The author pulls the reader in with vivid descriptions of San Francisco and the people who live there ...more
Nov 29, 2008 Pedro rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Pedro by: Jean
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 a
Erik Graff
Jun 29, 2008 Erik Graff rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: Ms. Naden
Shelves: literature
Doing a notice of Sinclair's The Jungle brought to mind Norris' McTeague, another good novel we were introduced to in high school English class. The teacher of American Literature was a "Miss Naden"--a rather unprepossessing woman. At the time, I thought of her as old. She was probably around thirty. At the time, I thought her nondescript. Retrospectively, she appears rather attractive. At the time, I would have rated her as an average teacher. I suppose she was in that her lectures weren't rema ...more
Sep 08, 2007 John added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: yes
Decent .. although quite depressing.

A novel of sadism and greed, full of anger, resentment, treachery. Norris is such a gifted writer who died so young. The descriptions of old California are engaging although this work falls short of his epic The Octopus. My key takeaways ... when McTeague's drinking graduates from beer to whiskey and he describes how much more potent distilled liquor is, well it's enough to put a lock on the hard booze cabinet and stick with sipping wine. And the final pages a
One of those reading experiences where I've gone in knowing the end - and, knowing the end, being intrigued by the end, just had to shuffle through 300+ pages so that I could find out a mediocre dentist ends up in the desert (of the American West), handcuffed to a corpse and companionated only by a bird in a cage.

This is kinda a proto Gone Girl, what with the equally-guilty domestic violence the central theme, the plot engine, the thrust, the Google Map that leads to the desert, the d
Stephanie Hartley
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jenny Haidle
Norris' writing style is clean, open, and stark. His characters (except for 2--more later) in this story are grotesque, contemptible, and unlikeable. After reading McTeague, I decided to revisit Flannery O'Connor, whose characters are similar in some ways.

McTeague is a dentist with an ogre-like, thick-headed appearance, and simple and cruel and selfish. Alas, all the other characters, even the ones I thought perhaps were more innocent or pure, turned out to be not only equally depraved, but mani
A Story of San Francisco? Or a Story of San Franciscans? Either way you put it this novel delves deep into the human psyche on a few levels. But it all comes back to greed, which devolves the characters toward animal nature. Frank Norris's late-nineteenth-century masterpiece is a good novel, a little wordy at times, and yet also repetitive as well. The titular character, the unschooled dentist McTeague, is a dense and humiliated human being. From page one he is ridiculed and mocked by both the n ...more
This probably would have been successful as a short story or novella, but as a full-length novel it was tedious and uneventful. But for the stunning ending that left me wanting more, I just couldn't make myself care about anyone or anything going on here.

None of the characters seemed real. They were uniformly one-dimensional, defined by one particular quirk of character. Thematically it was interesting, with the discussion of greed, base instincts, and the idea of McTeague's downfall being caus
This minor classic of American literature, said to be one of Stephen King's favorites, is a gripping tale about an oafish dentist who gets caught up in forces even bigger than himself. It has greed, lust, violence and tenderness. It's domestic drama and crime fiction and western all rolled into one. Frank Norris was the Tom Wolfe of his day, with exhaustively researched and vividly rendered descriptions of San Francisco at the turn of the century. Like his hero Emile Zola, Norris portrays the li ...more
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not a great era for novelists 1 15 Jan 09, 2013 10:41PM  
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Benjamin Franklin Norris, Jr. was an American novelist, during the Progressive Era, writing predominantly in the naturalist genre. His notable works include McTeague (1899), The Octopus: A California Story (1901), and The Pit (1903). Although he did not openly support socialism as a political system, his work nevertheless evinces a socialist mentality and influenced socialist/progressive writers s ...more
More about Frank Norris...
The Octopus: A Story of California The Pit: A Story of Chicago Vandover and the Brute Blix Norris: Novels and Essays

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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.” 5 likes
“It belonged to the changeless order of things---the man desiring the woman only for what she withholds; the woman worshipping the man for that which she yields up to him. With each concession gained the man′s desire cools; with every surrender made the woman′s adoration increases...” 4 likes
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