Jack London

Jack London (John Griffith London), 1876–1916, American author, b. San Francisco. The illegitimate son of William Chaney, an astrologer, and Flora Wellman, a seamstress and medium, he had a poverty-stricken childhood, and was brought up by his mother and her subsequent husband, John London. At 17 he shipped out as an able seaman to Japan and the Bering Sea. He was at times an oyster poacher, a hobo, a laborer, a gold-seeker in the first Klondike rush, and a newspaper correspondent during the Russo-Japanese War and Mexican Revolution. His stories, romantic adventures with realistic characters and settings, often where life is harsh and hard to sustain, began to appear first in the Overland Monthly and soon after in The Atlantic. In 1900, The Son of the Wolf: Tales of the Far North was published. London's Klondike tales are exciting, vigorous, and brutal. The Call of the Wild (1903), about a tame dog who becomes wild and eventually leads a wolf pack, is one of the best animal stories ever written. Among his other works are The Sea-Wolf (1904), White Fang (1905), and Smoke Bellew (1912). Martin Eden (1909) and Burning Daylight (1910) are partly autobiographical. Although he was a highly paid writer of extremely popular fiction, London, a socialist, considered his social tracts—The People of the Abyss (1903) and The Iron Heel (1907)—as his most important work. The Cruise of the Snark (1911) is a vivid account of his interrupted voyage around the world in a 50-ft (15.2-m) ketch-rigged yacht, and John Barleycorn; or, Alcoholic Memoirs (1913) is autobiographical. Beset in his later years by alcoholism and financial difficulties, London died at the age of 40. There is a museum in Shreveport, La., devoted to London and his works.

See C. London, his second wife, The Log of the Snark (1915), Our Hawaii (1917), and The Book of Jack London (2 vol., 1921); biographies by his daughter, Joan London (1969), and by J. Hedrick (1982), A. Sinclair (1983), C. Stasz (1988), A. Kershaw (1998), and E. Labor (2013); studies by E. Labor (1977) and C. Watson (1982).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Critical Response to Jack London
Susan M. Nuernberg.
Greenwood Press, 1995
The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and Other Stories
Jack London; Earle Labor; Robert C. Leitz III.
Oxford University Press, 1998
Understanding The Call of the Wild: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents
Claudia Durst Johnson.
Greenwood Press, 2000
The Sea-Wolf
Jack London.
Bantam Books, 1963
John Barleycorn: Alcoholic Memoirs
Jack London; John Sutherland.
Oxford University Press, 1989
Jack London's Strong Truths
James I. McClintock.
Michigan State University Press, 1997
Solitary Comrade, Jack London and His Work
Joan D. Hedrick.
University of North Carolina Press, 1982
Sea-Brothers: The Tradition of American Sea Fiction from Moby-Dick to the Present
Bert Bender.
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Jack London in the Tradition of American Sea Fiction"
Utopianism and Radicalism in a Reforming America, 1888-1918
Francis Robert Shor.
Greenwood Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Socialism and Its Discontents: London's The Iron Heel and Reader Response"
Imaginary Communities: Utopia, the Nation, and the Spatial Histories of Modernity
Phillip E. Wegner.
University of California Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Four "The Occluded Future Red Star and The Iron Heel as 'Critical Utopias'"
"No Ties except Those of Blood": Class, Race, and Jack London's American Plague
Raney, David.
Papers on Language & Literature, Vol. 39, No. 4, Fall 2003
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