Frank Norris

A Life
Author: Joseph R. McElrath Jr. and Jesse S. Crisler
The first complete biography of this centrally important American novelist to appear in over seventy years
Paper – $27
Publication Date
Paperback: 05/03/2010
Cloth: 01/01/2006
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About the Book

Born in Chicago in 1870, Frank Norris led a life of adventure and art. He moved to San Francisco at fifteen, spent two years in Paris painting, returned to San Francisco to become an internationally famous author, and died at age thirty-two from a ruptured appendix. During his short life, he wrote an inspired series of novels about the United States coming of age, including The Octopus, The Pit, and McTeague. Until recently, various obstacles prevented a comprehensive biography of Norris: the writer burned most of his correspondence, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire devoured more, and his brother and widow dispersed his surviving papers as gifts. Joseph R. McElrath Jr. and Jesse S. Crisler spent over thirty years amassing the material necessary for this truly full-scale portrait of Norris.

About the Author

Joseph R. McElrath Jr. is the William Hudson Rogers Professor of English at Florida State University and the author of Frank Norris Revisited and Frank Norris: A Descriptive Bibliography. Jesse S. Crisler is Humanities Professor of English at Brigham Young University, the editor of Frank Norris: Collected Letters, and the coeditor of Frank Norris: A Reference Guide.


"An important book. Norris is a compelling figure in American letters--youthful, ambitious, prolific, Californian--and he merits just this kind of learned assessment."--Los Angeles Times

"Not only is the narrative readable and captivating, but McElrath and Crisler correct a number of common misconceptions about Norris and his work, persuasively demonstrating that he was much more than simply the 'American Zola' that many of his contemporaries made him out to be. This book demonstrates that Norris and his writings deserve much more careful attention from students and scholars. Essential."--Choice

"Frank Norris: A Life, which took thirty years to write, surely will be the definitive biography for decades. . . . Norris dreamed and achieved on a grand scale, from the medieval battle scene he started to paint in Paris to the trilogy two-thirds complete . . . when he died. This volume echoes that record: very ambitious, definitely imperfect, but often a pleasure, and - the most important job of a literary biography - an argument to read Frank Norris."--Western American Literature"The meticulous McElrath and Crisler have written the definitive biography of Norris. In it, they emphasize how appreciation of Norris's literary genius is inseparable from an untimely death that forever raised the unfulfilled promise of even greater work to come."--New York Times Book Review


"The fluid prose and exhaustive research of Frank Norris, A Life dramatically revises and updates our view of Norris as an aesthetician and theorist of fiction, and neatly distinguishes between verifiable facts and reasonable inferences. Written by the world's leading scholars in the field, this is the definitive Norris biography."--Gary Scharnhorst, editor of the journal American Literary Realism

"McElrath and Crisler have produced a major, much-needed work of scholarship which will become the standard on Norris immediately."--Joel Myerson, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of South Carolina