The Octopus: A Story of California (Twentieth Century Classics) (v. 1)

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9780140187700: The Octopus: A Story of California (Twentieth Century Classics) (v. 1)

Like the tentacles of an octopus, the tracks of the railroad reached out across California, as if to grasp everything of value in the state Based on an actual, bloody dispute between wheat farmers and the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1880, The Octopus is a stunning novel of the waning days of the frontier West. To the tough-minded and self-reliant farmers, the monopolistic, land-grabbing railroad represented everything they despised: consolidation, organization, conformity. But Norris idealizes no one in this epic depiction of the volatile situation, for the farmers themselves ruthlessly exploited the land, and in their hunger for larger holdings they resorted to the same tactics used by the railroad: subversion, coercion and outright violence. In his introduction, Kevin Starr discusses Norris's debt to Zola for the novel's extraordinary sweep, scale and abundance of characters and details.

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Review:

This is a turn-of-the-century epic of California wheat farmers struggling against the rapacity of the Pacific and Southwestern Railroad, which will stop at nothing to extend its domination. The company controls the local paper, the land, the legislature and, when the farmers organize to protect themselves, even manages to control their representative on the state rate-fixing commission. An unremitting tale of greed and betrayal, originally intended as one-third of Norris' never-completed "Epic of the Wheat" trilogy.

About the Author:

Frank Norris was an American author who wrote primarily in the naturalist genre, focusing on the impact of corruption and turn-of-the-century capitalism on common people. Best known for his novel McTeague and for the first two parts of his unfinished The Epic of the Wheat trilogyThe Octopus: A Story of California and The Pit, Norris wrote prolifically during his lifetime. Following his education at the Acad?mie Julian in Paris, University of California, Berkeley, and at Harvard University, Norris worked as a news correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle, and covered the Spanish-American War in Cuba for McClure s Magazine. Norris died suddenly in 1902 of peritonitis, leaving The Wolf: A Story of Empire, the final part of his Wheat trilogy, incomplete.

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