A literary historian has no right to assume that a period of writ-ing will organise itself into neat mathematical units, or even that its formal opening will automatically be auspicious. The year 1900

produced little significant American fiction, if compared with 1899 (Kate

Chopin’s The Awakening, Henry James’s The Awkward Age, Frank Norris’s

McTeague) or 1901 (Henry James’s The Sacred Fount, Norris’s The Octopus).