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Sunday, March 5, 2017

A 'progressive' commentary on life


“The function of the novelist... is to comment upon life as he sees it.” – Frank Norris
 
Born on this date in 1870, American journalist and novelist Norris wrote during the so-called Progressive Era.  A “naturalist,” he shocked many readers with his words but was credited with having an impact on such influential people as Theodore Roosevelt, who cited Norris in his efforts to reform the big corporations.  He is best known for his unfinished trilogy The Octopus, The Pit, and The Wolf (the latter only partially completed when he suddenly and unexpectedly died in 1902 from complications while in surgery). 
His idea for the trilogy was to follow the journey                       
 of a crop of wheat from its planting in California to its ultimate consumption as bread in Western Europe.  Along the way, much suffering and death follows the storyline and its key characters as greed and harsh conditions often stand in their way.

Sometimes criticized for his depictions of suffering caused by corrupt and greedy turn-of-the-century corporate monopolies, he stood solidly behind his writing for both its in-depth research and for being morally correct and truthful.

“Truth,” he wrote,  “ is a thing immortal and perpetual, and it gives to us a beauty that fades not away in time.”



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