||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (November 2012)|
|Benjamin Franklin Norris, Jr.|
March 5, 1870|
Chicago, Illinois, United States
|Died||October 25, 1902
San Francisco, California
|Pen name||Frank Norris|
|Notable work(s)||The Epic of the Wheat (unfinished), "McTeague", "The Octopus: A Story of California"|
Benjamin Franklin Norris, Jr. (March 5, 1870 – October 25, 1902) was an American novelist, during the Progressive Era, writing predominantly in the naturalist genre. His notable works include McTeague (1899), The Octopus: A Story of California (1901), and The Pit (1903).
Frank Norris was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1870. His father, Benjamin, was a self-made Chicago businessman and his mother, Gertrude Glorvina Doggett, had a stage career. In 1884 the family moved to San Francisco where Benjamin went into real estate. In 1887, after the death of his brother and a brief stay in London, young Norris went to Académie Julian in Paris where he studied painting for two years and was exposed to the naturalist novels of Emile Zola. Between 1890 and 1894 he attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he picked up the ideas of human evolution of Darwin and Spencer that are reflected in his later writings. His stories appeared in the undergraduate magazine at Berkeley and in the San Francisco Wave. After his parents' divorce he went east and spent a year in the English Department of Harvard University. There he came under the influence of Lewis E. Gates, who encouraged his writing. He worked as a news correspondent in South Africa in 1895–96, and then an editorial assistant on the San Francisco Wave (1896–97). He worked for McClure's Magazine as a war correspondent in Cuba during the Spanish-American war in 1898. He joined the New York City publishing firm of Doubleday & Page in 1899.
During his time at the University of California, Berkeley Norris was a brother in the Fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta and was an originator of the Skull & Keys society. Because of his involvement with a prank during the Class Day Exercises in 1893 the annual alumni dinner held by each Phi Gamma Delta chapter still bears his name. In 1900 Frank Norris married Jeanette Black. They had a child in 1901. Norris died on October 25, 1902 of peritonitis from a ruptured appendix in San Francisco. This left The Epic of the Wheat trilogy unfinished. He was only 32. He is buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California.
Charles Gilman Norris, the author's younger brother, became a well regarded novelist and editor. C.G. Norris was also the husband of the prolific novelist Kathleen Norris. The Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley houses the archives of all three writers.
Frank Norris's work often includes depictions of suffering caused by corrupt and greedy turn-of-the-century corporate monopolies. In The Octopus: A California Story, the Pacific and Southwest Railroad is implicated in the suffering and deaths of a number of ranchers in Southern California. At the end of the novel, after a bloody shootout between farmers and railroad agents at one of the ranches (named Los Muertos), readers are encouraged to take a "larger view" that sees that "through the welter of blood at the irrigating ditch, [...] the great harvest of Los Muertos rolled like a flood from the Sierras to the Himalayas to feed thousands of starving scarecrows on the barren plains of India." Though free-wheeling market capitalism causes the deaths of many of the characters in the novel, this "larger view always [...] discovers the Truth that will, in the end, prevail, and all things, surely, inevitably, resistlessly work together for good." Vandover and the Brute, written in the 1890s, but not published until after his death, is about three college friends, on their way to success, and the ruin of one through a degenerate lifestyle.
Norris has been characterized as an antisemitic writer. In the words of Richard Levi:
...literary scholars have overlooked the strenuous antisemitism in his most successful novels. Norris's derogation of Jews presented a more invasive and menacing image than Henry Adams's elite and snobbish eastern intellectual antisemitism or Ignatius Donnelley's derisive populist sketch of a Jewish money lender in Caeser's Column: A Story of the Twentieth Century (1890). As villains in Norris's mug book, Zerko in McTeague (1899) and Behrman in The Octopus (1901) were toxic agents in nature itself, a death force brutalizing California's urban and agrarian scene.These brute devils, lurking in the nature of everyman and prepared to corrupt Anglo-Saxon Christian civilization, transcended the conventional Jewish stereotypes of Shylock and Christ killers.
Norris's short story "A Deal in Wheat" (1903) and the novel The Pit were the basis for the 1909 D.W. Griffith film A Corner in Wheat. Norris' McTeague has been filmed twice, most famously as a 1924 film called Greed by director Erich von Stroheim. An opera by William Bolcom, based loosely on his 1899 novel, was premiered by Chicago's Lyric Opera in 1992. The work is in two acts, with libretto by Arnold Weinstein and Robert Altman. The Lyric Opera's presentation featured Ben Heppner in the title role and Catherine Malfitano as Trina, the dentist's wife.
In 2008, The Library of America selected Norris's newspaper article "Hunting Human Game" for inclusion in its two-century retrospective of American True Crime.
An alley-way in San Francisco bears his name (Frank Norris St.). It runs from Polk St. to Larkin St. and is located parallel to and in-between Pine St. and Bush St. in the city's Lower Nob Hill district.
- Moran of the "Lady Letty": A Story of Adventure Off the California Coast (1898)
- McTeague: A Story of San Francisco (1899)
- A Man's Woman (1900)
- A Deal in Wheat and Other Stories of the New and Old West
- The Octopus: A Story of California (1901)
- The Pit: A Story of Chicago (1903)
- Vandover and the Brute (1914)
- [dead link]
- "Death of Frank Norris". New York Times. October 26, 1902. Retrieved 2008-06-27. "Frank Norris, the novelist, died to-day as the result of an operation for appendicitis performed three days ago."
- Richard S, Levy, Antisemitism: A Historical Encylopedia of Prejudice and Persecution, vol 1, pp 511-512. ISBN 978-1-85109-439-4
- Greed (1924) at the Internet Movie Database
Further reading 
- Hochman, Barbara. The Art of Frank Norris, Storyteller University of Missouri Press (1988) ISBN 0-8262-0663-8
- McElrath, Joseph R., Jr. and Crisler, Jesse S. Frank Norris: A Life, University of Illinois Press (2006) ISBN 0-252-03016-8 (the definitive biography of Norris)
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:
- Works by Frank Norris at Internet Archive (scanned books original editions)
- Works by Frank Norris at Project Gutenberg (plain text and HTML)
- Works by or about Frank Norris in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Frank Norris Page at the William Dean Howells Society; includes links to works on the web, bibliography, index to Frank Norris Studies
- Guide to the Frank Norris Collection at The Bancroft Library
- Frank Norris' Gravesite
- 5 short radio episodes Bestial Welter, Nourisher of Nations and The Octopus from The Octopus; Polk Street from McTeague and Two Voices from The Santa Cruz Venetian Carnival by Frank Norris. California Legacy Project.