L’Assommoir (The Dram Shop) by Émile Zola (1877). Like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, this story—of the downfall of a Parisian laundress—turned a burning social issue into a sensational best-seller. The desperate alcoholism of Gervaise Lantier and her husband held a mirror to the shocking moral condition of the urban poor. But it is saved from mere didacticism by Zola’s eye and ear. The unbuttoned urban dialogue prefigures Celine and Henry Miller; the cinematic structuring of the novel’s great scenes suggests that Zola would have made a great film director.
Total Points: 10 (TW 10)