Collectors Edition! Highly Recommended! This book is realism thrice over. The first 'realism' is conventional. Norris in the vain of the French realists writes a novel exploring people with complete human imperfections. From the feeble-witted McTeague (Norris never gives us his first name) to his avaricious wife Trina, we are introduced to a cast of characters who fuction the way people do. And unlike today's 'realist' literature that tries to be shocking for shock value, Norris is nothing but sincere. The second 'realism' is Norris's refreshing 'fly on the wall' approach. Unlike fellow realists like Dreiser and Lewis, Norris does not judge his characters- never commenting or moralizing, just reporting. Through two murders, one rape fantasy and spousal abuse among other things, Norris simply tells it as it 'happens.' The third 'realism' is in the language, both that of the characters and the novelist. It is always said that Hemingway was the one who taught us that descriptively, less is more. Now I see that there would have been no Hemingway without Norris. He is sparse and terse, giving the novel a life-like tone. The characters tend to stammer ("Yeah- uh- uh- yeah, that's the word") reflecting the way we really talk.
The novelist Frank Norris is almost forgotten today, but in books like "McTeague," published in 1899, he paved the way for a whole generation of American writers--a generation that included Theodore Dreiser and Sinclair Lewis and, less directly, Hemingway and Fitzgerald. McTeague is a dentist saddled with a grasping wife, and the book chronicles his rise and fall in awkward but powerful prose. This type of social realism, so contrary to the uplifting entertainment of the day (and to Mark Twain's more fanciful, comic novels), provided turn-of-the-century America a disturbing mirror in which to view itself.