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McTeague

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3.68  ·  Rating details ·  5,336 ratings  ·  500 reviews
"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 ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published August 5th 2003 by Signet Classics (first published 1899)
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Rachel Bellenoit I just started it and I don't even think of San Francisco while I'm reading. The character development is more important.

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Henry Avila
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 it, 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 ...more
Jeff
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 –
...more
Darwin8u
Mar 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
“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

Tooth

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
...more
TK421
Apr 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary
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. ...more
classic reverie
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. ...more
Jordan
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
...more
Chrissie
Apr 15, 2017 rated it did not like it
Recommended to Chrissie by: Sandy
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
...more
Toby
Dec 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit
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
Tammy
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
...more
Alexis
Mar 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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'
...more
Mary Durrant
Sep 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Olivia
Nov 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
SheAintGotNoShoes
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
...more
Matthew
May 24, 2014 rated it did not like it
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
...more
Donna
Apr 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Zhara
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
Sarah Booth
Feb 17, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Sandy
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!
Pedro
Nov 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Phillip
Feb 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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." (view spoiler)

Not only is it a great story that gives a picture of
...more
Michelle
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
I'm done. May I never have to read it again.

*there's a movie adaptation of this novel called Greed. It's aptly named.
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 ...more
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
...more
Frank
Mar 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
I read this one back in the 80's and thought it was a superb realistic novel.

McTeague is a novel by Frank Norris, first published in 1899. It tells the story of a couple's courtship and marriage, and their subsequent descent into poverty, violence and finally murder as the result of jealousy and greed. The book was the basis for the films McTeague (1916), Erich von Stroheim's Greed (1924), and Slow Burn (2000).
Erin
Jun 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: field-exam
Hey, do you want to read a book that will feel like punch in the stomach and fill you with despair when you contemplate your fellow humans? Yeah? BOY DO I HAVE THE BOOK FOR YOU.

This book will serve you some straight up naturalism. Succinctly summed up, naturalism is “life sucks, and you die”(thanks, Betsy!). If you want something fluffier for your beach read, I do not recommend this book. If you want to reveal in the depths of humanity’s worst traits, have fun!
Colleen
Oct 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, favorites
One of my favorite books--grim, depressing, beautifully written. I know many dislike the Ol' Grannis / dressmaker romance, and while it is somewhat Dickensian, I appreciate it as the one semi-happy contrast for everything ELSE that is going on.
Jessica
Jul 24, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: classic-fiction
This book was, quite simply, awful. I've never been so excited to see a protagonist die.
Samantha Glasser
The famous silent film Greed was based on this novel.

McTeague is a Neanderthal-type man, large and primitive. Although he grew up working in the mines, his mother insisted he apprentice under a dentist so he could have a better life. As an adult working in that capacity, he has a comfortable life and familiar routines. His friend Marcus has a cousin named Trina, a delicate artistic girl, and although Marcus expects to marry her, McTeague develops an interest. Marcus bows out in a kind gesture
...more
Jefferson Fortner
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I’ve been aware of McTeague for decades. When I was working on my BA, it was referred to frequently. I am also aware of the movie, Greed, which Erich von Stroheim made from it. A couple of years ago, friend of mine gave me a copy of the reconstructed version of Greed (four hours remaining out of the orginal nine hours!) and I really enjoyed it. The antisemitism in the book was, of course, a drawback, something that Stroheim had eliminated from the film.

I just read this book. Wow. What a good
...more
Erik Graff
Jun 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  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 ...more
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not a great era for novelists 1 20 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 ...more
“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.” 12 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...” 9 likes
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