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McTeague: A Story of San Francisco

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  4,647 Ratings  ·  426 Reviews
First published in 1899, McTeague was a literary sensation. Its ultra-realistic portrayal of the rise and fall of a simple-minded dentist and his grasping, greedy wife was controversial for its candid depiction of sordid behavior right at the edge of insanity. It remains a searing indictment of human weakness and selfishness in a rapidly evolving America.
Paperback, 352 pages
Published March 1st 1964 by Signet Classics (first published 1899)
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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
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 – mine
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


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 Seve
Evripidis Gousiaris
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
Apr 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. 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
Apr 15, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chrissie by: Sandy (CA)
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
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
Mar 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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!
Nov 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Sandy (CA)
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!
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
Mar 13, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own
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.
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 19th-century
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, μπ ...more
May 24, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jun 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Jul 24, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic-fiction
This book was, quite simply, awful. I've never been so excited to see a protagonist die.
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
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 rema ...more
Apr 20, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
(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.
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).
Oct 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ενδιαφέρον αλλά κουραστικό...
3.5, σε σημεία εξαιρετικό, οι περιγραφές ήταν αναπόφευκτα βαρετές αλλα για τις τελευταίες 100 σελίδες κ μόνο αξίζει τον κόπο
Aug 14, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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...
“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.” 9 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...” 8 likes
More quotes…