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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Commenting on Life

“The function of the novelist... is to comment upon life as he sees it.” – Frank Norris

Born in Chicago on this date in 1870, Norris was a Progressive Era journalist and novelist whose fiction was predominantly in the naturalist genre.  His notable works include McTeague, The Octopus: A Story of California, and The Pit, all famous (or infamous as the case may be) for their depictions of suffering caused by corrupt and greedy turn-of-the-century corporate monopolies.

While his writing was lauded for its detail, vigor and intensity as well as favorable comparison to other Progressive writers like Stephen Crane and Theodore Dreiser, he also was held in contempt by many for his blatant racism and anti-Semitism.  
                                  Norris said he was misunderstood and would make amends, but before he could do so he suffered a ruptured appendix, developed peritonitis and died suddenly at age 32.   In a note shortly before his death, he wrote, “No art that is not in the end understood by the People can live or ever did live a single generation.”

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