RARA-AVIS: Frank Norris [was Re: Before 1920]

From: Mark R. Harris ( brokerharris@gmail.com)
Date: 18 Oct 2007

Norris is a particular favorite of mine, and his early death at 32 in 1902 was as much a loss to American literature as the early death of Stephen Crane two years earlier. Once you have read *McTeague* (which is stupendous), you can continue with another noir antecedent, Norris's much more neglected *Vandover and the Brute*. Here is a good description from Amazon.com:

<Posthumously published in 1914, *Vandover and the Brute* is probably Frank Norris's first complete novel, much of it written when he was a student at Harvard in 1894-1895. The subject matter made it unacceptable to turn-of-the-century taste, and when the book finally did appear one reviewer declared that "it ought to have been issued for private circulation only" (* Bookman*). The setting of the story is San Francisco in the 1890s. Vandover, fresh out of college and the son of a wealthy owner of slum properties, has dreams of being an artist but lacks the discipline to fulfill them. His seduction of a young woman results in her suicide and the death of his own father. Cheated by false friends of part of his patrimony, Vandover gambles away the rest. Finally, as Warren French writes in *Frank Norris*, "he becomes a bum reduced to cleaning the offal from the slum houses he once owned. His degeneration has also been marked by attacks of lycanthropy, during which he pads around on all fours, naked, howling like a wolf.">

In addition to their other compelling qualities, the evocation of* fin de siecle *San Francisco in these two Norris novels is matchless.

Best, Mark Harris

On 10/18/07, bobav1 < rav7@columbia.edu> wrote:
> Miker:
> Did you ever get around to reading McTeague by Frank Norris? Great
> characters, whopper ending. And since this list is creeping closer and
> closer to films, Von Stroheim's creepy, fragmentary Greed (McTeague)
> is worthwhile too.
> Best,
> Bob V in NJ
> --- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com <rara-avis-l%40yahoogroups.com>,
> Michael Robison
> <miker_zspider@...> wrote:
> >
> > Over the past couple years I've been delving back into
> > older literature looking for the origins and
> > variations on the themes I see in the hardboiled and
> > noir genre.

Mark R. Harris
2122 W. Russet Court #8
Appleton WI 54914
(920) 470-9855

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