"I want to see Egan reach for the revolver in the worn leather case, and Conroy take the handcuffs from the glass dish.""Hunting Human Game" is an odd little piece by Frank Norris, the author best known for the muckracking novels The Octopus, McTeague and The Pit. It tells the true story of a fugitive killer from Australia and the authorities who await his arrival by ship in San Francisco. It starts as straight third-person reportage, then introduces the writer into the story as he waits with the lawmen in rented rooms along the wharf.
I remember that the room was warm. That there were pictures of barks and brigs about the walls, that a pair of handcuffs were in a glass dish on the top of a dresser, and that, lying in a cubby hole of a desk, was Detective Egan’s revolver in a very worn case. The detectives impressed one as positively jolly.That setting description is just marvelous - I can totally picture it in my mind - and yet, despite all that narrative buildup, the conclusion of the story is totally ambiguous. The writer isn't present at the killer's arrest and, in fact, at the end the arrest hasn't even happened yet. Instead of a first-person account of the climatic drama, Norris imagines it happening. Not quite journalism, not quite fiction. Unique.
As a side note, I've been going back and forth over what to read for my Summer of Classics. I've thought about reading modernists like Hemingway and Faulkner (both of whom I've sorely under-read), then instead I've considered going all the way back to the likes of The Odyssey and Dante's Inferno. But now, after reading this, I'm thinking about realist American fiction of the early 20th Century, specifically The Octopus (which has been on my to-read shelf for many years) and Booth Tarkington's The Magnificent Ambersons. I probably won't decide for sure which direction to take until, oh, May 29th. No hurry or anything.
Alice Adams, by Tarkington. Great banishment from the garden metaphor.
Posted by: Paul at Mar 4, 2013 10:48:38 AM