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.
"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)
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.
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.
money corrupts all
McTeague's wife. Kept hoping she would do the right thing.
When wife would not give McTeague any money, leaving him to walk the streets.
There were a lot of twists and turns I did not expect. I liked that.
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.
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