Wednesday, April 12, 2023

the last book I ever read (McTeague: A Story of San Francisco by Frank Norris, excerpt eight)

from McTeague: A Story of San Francisco by Frank Norris:

The dentist had long since given up looking for a job. Between breakfast and supper time Trina saw but little of him. Once the morning meal over, McTeague bestirred himself, put on his cap—he had given up wearing even a hat since his wife had made him sell his silk hat—and went out. He had fallen into the habit of taking long and solitary walks beyond the suburbs of the city. Sometimes it was to the Cliff House, occasionally to the Park (where he would sit on the sun-warmed benches, smoking his pipe and reading ragged ends of old newspapers), but more often it was to the Presidio Reservation. McTeague would walk out to the end of the Union Street car line, entering the Reservation at the terminus, then he would work down to the shore of the bay, follow the shore line to the Old Fort at the Golden Gate, and, turning the Point here, come out suddenly upon the full sweep of the Pacific. Then he would follow the beach down to a certain point of rocks that he knew. Here he would turn inland, climbing the bluffs to a rolling grassy down sown with blue iris and a yellow flower that he did not know the name of. On the far side of this down was a broad, well-kept road. McTeague would keep to this road until he reached the city again by the way of the Sacramento Street car line. The dentist loved these walks. He liked to be alone. He liked the solitude of the tremendous, tumbling ocean; the fresh, windy downs; he liked to feel the gusty Trades flogging his face, and he would remain for hours watching the roll and plunge of the breakers with the silent, unreasoned enjoyment of a child. All at once he developed a passion for fishing. He would sit all day nearly motionless upon a point of rocks, his fish-line between his fingers, happy if he caught three perch in twelve hours. At noon he would retire to a bit of level turf around an angle of the shore and cook his fish, eating them without salt or knife or fork. He thrust a pointed stick down the mouth of the perch, and turned it slowly over the blaze. When the grease stopped dripping, he knew that it was done, and would devour it slowly and with tremendous relish, picking the bones clean, eating even the head. He remembered how often he used to do this sort of thing when he was a boy in the mountains of Placer County, before he became a car-boy at the mine. The dentist enjoyed himself hugely during these days. The instincts of the old-time miner were returning. In the stress of his misfortune McTeague was lapsing back to his early estate.

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