Jack London's Strong Truths

By James I. McClintock | Go to book overview
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PREFACE

Jack London's Strong Truths was originally published in 1975 as White Logic: Jack London's Short Stories (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wolf House Books, 1975) and has remained the standard critical study of London's short fiction. Focused on Jack London's nineteen volumes of short stories, it was one of the first studies to challenge easy, often condescending, generalizations about London's fiction and to offer a balanced, tightly-reasoned analysis of his impassioned, albeit often "exasperatingly uneven artistry." It remains the most frequently cited work on London's short fiction. Long out of print but still in demand, parts have been reprinted not only for their importance in understanding Jack London's life and writing but for understanding short story criticism in general. Now, happily, the entire work will once again be widely available for scholars and students of American literature and culture.

Originally reviewed by Charles Walcutt as "a valuable, in many ways definitive, study," this critical work has aided a generation of London scholars who, as Joan Hendrick says in her own Solitary Companion (Chapel Hill: North Carolina University Press, 1982), have built on McClintock's example. Recently, for instance, London scholar Dale Walker described McClintock's study as "rare and invaluable" ( Firsts, December, 1993). That it is indeed rare and invaluable singles out the two major reasons for its re-issue.

The objectives of Jack London's Strong Truths do not admit to simple generalizations. In a study that attempts to describe and evaluate Jack London's nearly two hundred short stories of so protean a nature, no controlling thesis is adequate. Rather, it is best to break down the easy generalizations that have been made about London's fiction and to suggest a more complex understanding of London's art.

The first third of McClintock's study focuses on the initial three years of London's literary life, from 1898-1902, when he learned the craft of short fiction and crystallized his literary theory. It is one of the strikingly original aspects of the book. He details London's self-conducted apprenticeship in his craft when the writer was determined to master "the proper trend of literary art." London studied magazine fiction and short story handbooks to learn form and technique at a time when critics were asking for more dramatic fiction and praising Rudyard Kipling. The first

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