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Summary

Few works have captured the seamy side of American urban life with such graphic immediacy as Frank Norris's McTeague. Heredity and environment play the role of fate in this portrayal of human degradation in turn-of-the-century San Francisco.

McTeague, a strong but stupid dentist, marries Trina, introduced to him by her cousin Marcus Schouler. When Trina wins $5,000 in a lottery and increases the sum by shrewd investment, Schouler, who had wanted to marry Trina himself, feels cheated. In revenge, he exposes McTeague's lack of diploma or license.

Forbidden to practice, McTeague becomes mean and surly, but the miserly Trina refuses to let him use her money, and they sink into poverty. What follows is a descent into the ultimate crime - murder - and life as a fugitive, in a tale that moves toward its harrowing conclusion with the grim power and inevitability of classic tragedy.

(P)1993 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic reviews

"Wolfram Kandinsky's razor-sharp narration leaves one eager to hear more of Norris's few but outstanding productions as a novelist." (Library Journal)
"The first great tragic portrait in America of an acquisitive society." (Alfred Kazin)
"The writing is easy and natural, the moral earnestness refreshing and the construction masterful." (Kenneth Rexroth)

What members say

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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Pretty horrible

The narration sucks and yeah this story hasn't aged well. It's an incredibly unconfortable listen

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Steven Lambert
  • 22-09-09

A Long-Awaited Audio Book

I first bought McTeague as a used book around 1980 because I had read that a great silent film that I had yet to see, Greed, was based on it. It took me a while to get around to reading it, but when I did it grabbed me from the first page to the last. The movie based on it is also great, by the way, which is especially surprising considering how severely cut it was by the studio. I had checked off and on all these years for an audio version of the book, so needless to say I was pleased to see that one had finally been recorded.

As expected, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story is very dark but frequently very funny. It added to the experience that I listened to most of it in San Francisco, which is where the novel takes place about ten years before the big earthquake of 1906. I was already somewhat familiar with the narrator, Wolfram Kandinsky, and always thought he was pretty good. At the beginning, I found myself wishing that a reader with a more spellbinding voice had been chosen for this book. However, that thought soon went away because Mr Kandinsky is an excellent actor. He's great with all the various characters and the variety of accents. He is also impressive at depicting emotion. Don't miss the wonderful scenery-chewing moment he gives Trina in the latter part of the book. You'll see what I mean when you get to it.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Patricia
  • 03-06-15

Ruined in narration

I enjoyed this book years ago; was fortunate enough to have seen the silent movie; and had been looking forward to having it read to me. I have listened for less than 20 minutes so far and find that it has been absolutely ruined by the narrator to the point where I'm just going to go find a print edition. I can take a so-so narrator if a book is good, and even an over-the-top one. I could probably even put up with this reader's grating voice and missed emphasis on words and punctuation, but I just can't deal with his weirdly sarcastic tone. Frank Norris wrote this as social satire; his characters let you know that as they emerge; it doesn't need someone's heavy-handed interpretation. Be warned.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • beatrice
  • 05-03-12

brutal realism

I don't know when I've spent 14 hours with such unpleasant characters (probably not since I listened to Zola's _Nana_, q.v.). It took me halfway through the first part to get used to Kandinsky's style. Though I appreciated that he has the vocal range to do women's voices expressively, his rendition of McTeague reminded me of Ed Brown of Flumdiddle fame. The book picks up with a change of scene halfway through the second (last) part, and I hadn't expected the gut-wrenching ending, so Norris gets points there both for structure and emotion. (I was walking the dog as I listened to the end, and I do believe it made me "vociferate" aloud.) I live in the San Francisco bay area, so I enjoyed the description of the dogs sleeping on the sanded floor of the Cliff House while McTeague and Marcus enjoy their beers, and I could picture Trina taking a break from housework, leaning out the bay window of her flat to talk to a neighbor on Polk Street below. BTW, this is NOT a bedtime book, and as I listened, I thought "*this* will never be a screenplay," but I've since learned that Erich von Stroheim adapted the book for his 1924 "Greed," starring Gibson Gowland and Zasu Pitts, one of the most famous "lost films" of cinematic history.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Janee
  • 26-06-12

Coaster Ride of One Man's Life

If you could sum up McTeague in three words, what would they be?

money corrupts all

Who was your favorite character and why?

McTeague's wife. Kept hoping she would do the right thing.

Which scene was your favorite?

When wife would not give McTeague any money, leaving him to walk the streets.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

There were a lot of twists and turns I did not expect. I liked that.

Any additional comments?

This is not a book you will play over and over in your mind. However, a good read none the less. Basically, a journey of one man's life....money....and choices.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Darwin8u
  • 01-11-15

A Cavity of the Soul that had me by the Crown

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 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, etc.

Inserted into the novel, however, is one of the most beautiful and sad love stories in literature. Miss Baker and Mister Grannis, two older boarders and neighbors of the McTeagues, live in adjoining rooms in a boarding house. Each room has the same wallpaper, suggesting that the rooms used to be just one room. Mister Grannis spends his nights binding periodicals while Miss Baker makes tea and rocks near their shared wall. Each, silently, spends the evening sharing their divided space. Barely separated, each is comforted by the others presence. It is beautiful, a modern Pyramus and Thisbē, and a nice counterweight to all the gold lust and penny pinching. I don't know if I would have been able to survive the hardcore, step-by-step, drop of the McTeagues and their ilk into Dante's fourth circle without the uplifting, kind, and selfless older couple that shoots one warm ray into this novel's cold, dead roots.

13 of 20 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Stewart Gooderman
  • 23-05-18

Surprisingly alluring

There have been many people who have been critical of the reader of this work of fiction. I am not one of them. In fact, I found his reading to be nothing short of perfect. He kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire book. I had known the basic plot via reading up on the silent film Greed which was based on it (it was recently on TCM but I couldn't stay up to see it). Nonetheless, I had a hard time breaking up my listen due to the sheer allure of the reader's performance.

It is an interesting work of fiction. Yes, there are racist undertones, but so has Dickens' Oliver Twist. And attitudes in the 1890s were very different than today. I think the ending is a bit brusk, and the flow of events reminds me of Oscar Hammerstein's treatment of Edna Ferber's Show Boat (half the show just dramatizes Ravanel and Magnolia's love affair, and then swiftly goes into Ravanel's desertion, Magnolia on her own, and the reunion). But it was a very enjoyable listen.

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  • Pablo Bilson
  • 26-12-17

Great narrator!

Kandinsky did a great job narrating this book with multiple voices for each character. Highly recommend!

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  • markweintraub
  • 22-07-17

Top shelf story and narration<br />

Excellent narration brought this pre 1906 quake SF story on Polk St to vivid life.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • IrishInNJ
  • 23-11-16

Terrific narration to a riveting story.

Norris's skill at making dialogue engaging coupled with a skillful narration by Kandinsky - which is more of a performance than a read - makes for a wonderful experience. Simple story kept moving at a nice pace.

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Stephen Thomas Yenchko
  • 17-11-16

Old timey narration

Good novel, but the narration, tinny and perhaps intentionally dated, obfuscated the flow of the original text.