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Vandover and the Brute
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Fiction The setting of the story is San Francisco in the 1890s. Vandover, fresh out of college and the son of a wealthy owner of slum properties, has dreams of being an artist but lacks the discipline to fulfill them. His seduction of a young woman results in her suicide and the death of his own father. Cheated by false friends of part of his patrimony, Vandover gambles away the rest. Finally, “he becomes a bum reduced to cleaning the offal from the slum houses he once owned. His degeneration has also been marked by attacks of lycanthropy, during which he pads around on all fours, naked, howling like a wolf.” Although present-day critics would agree that it is a first novel of which any writer might be proud, Vandover and the Brute has yet to be established in its proper place in American fiction. Posthumously published in 1914, it is probably Frank Norris’s first complete novel.