cover image The Best Short Stories of Frank Norris

The Best Short Stories of Frank Norris

Frank Norris. Ironweed Press, $11.95 (180pp) ISBN 978-0-9655309-1-0

Those who know Norris (1870-1902) through his muckraking novels, The Pit and The Octopus, will be interested in these 14 stories culled by the editors from among more than 60 tales that he published in his brief life. They include strong evidence of Norris's naturalism and his sense of the primal, the healthy, the rural, as opposed to the corrupt, the urban, the effete. In ""His Sister,"" Norris describes a magazine writer ""knowing he'd be more apt to find undisguised human nature along the poorer unconventional thoroughfares."" In the autobiographical ""Dying Fires,"" he writes of an author: ""he lived in the midst of... a life of passions that were often elemental in their simplicity and directness."" The gold in ""Judy's Service of Gold Plate"" foreshadows the use of that element as a symbol for greed in McTeague. In such stories, one anticipates Norris's influence on John Steinbeck. Even in the more journalistic tales, precursors of Jim Thompson-esque noir, Norris's favored themes, particularly of injustice and class consciousness, persist. Three of the stories have never been collected in book form before, including the experimental ""Man Proposes,"" written in five parts for a literary weekly. These somewhat mannered short pieces describe five couples who decide to get married: the ways they come to and act on their decisions reflect their varying social strata and cultural sensibilities. (Oct.) FYI: This volume is the first in a series by Ironweed that will include works by Stephen Crane, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Sarah Orne Jewett.