"Ulsteen gave his decision yesterday," he continued, reading from his father's letter. "He holds, Ulsteen does, that 'grain rates as low as the new figure would amount to confiscation of property, and that, on such a basis, the railroad could not be operated at a legitimate profit. As he is powerless to legislate in the matter, he can only put the rates back at what they originally were before the commissioners made the cut, and it is so ordered.
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Considered one of the leading pioneers in American naturalism, Frank Norris is read and studied for his vivid and honest depiction of life at the beginning of a lusty and developing new century. Born in Chicago, he moved to San Francisco with his well-to-do family when he was 14 and went on to attend the University of California and Harvard University before becoming a war correspondent in South Africa and Cuba. His early apprentice work consisted mostly of rather unremarkable adventure stories, but, with the long-gestating McTeague: A Story of San Francisco (1899), he struck a new note. That powerful study of avarice in a seedy section of the Bay Area may well be Norris's masterpiece. The Octopus (1901), the first of Norris's projected Epic of the Wheat series, deals with the raising of wheat in California and the struggle of ranchers against the railroads, while The Pit (1903) is a novel about speculation on the Chicago wheat exchange. Unfortunately, Norris died suddenly after an operation for appendicitis and did not write The Wolf, in which the wheat as a symbol of life-force was to feed a famine-stricken village in Europe. Vandover and the Brute (1914), the manuscript of which was lost during the San Francisco earthquake and rediscovered for publication in 1914, is an early work admired as representative of American naturalism. Like Stephen Crane, a writer with whom Norris is frequently compared, Norris died too young to fulfill his considerable promise, but he has more than held his own ground among turn-of-the-century writers whose works have lived. One reason may be that he took his craft as a writer seriously, as is shown by his posthumously published Responsibilities of the Novelist and Other Literary Essays (1903) and The Literary Criticism of Frank Norris, edited by Donald Pizer.