The Critical Response to Jack London

The Critical Response to Jack London

The Critical Response to Jack London

The Critical Response to Jack London

Excerpt

Readers seeking to learn about Jack London encounter many wide-spread myths and highly embellished accounts of his life and work in supposedly reliable sources of information such as biographies and encyclopedias. In spite of the vigorous campaign waged during the past twenty years by the late Russ Kingman, founder of the Jack London Foundation and Research Center in Glen Ellen, California, to set the record straight, the myth-making process is perpetuated, perhaps unwittingly, by readers relying on information about London that was inaccurate from the beginning.

The prevailing myths are that London was one of the most autobiographical of American writers, that he committed suicide, that he wrote obsessively about his own illegitimacy, that he was a writer of dog stories and adventure tales for adolescent boys, that he was a racist, a womanizer, an alcoholic, and a hack writer, and that he contradicted himself and was confused in his thinking about socialism, individualism, scientific materialism, and idealism.

While there is always a grain of truth in any myth, none of the above accurately describes London. Readers who reject London as a mess of contradictions should realize that he was true to his own experiences, and those who reject him as a hack writer should know that he is highly esteemed abroad as a great writer. Those who reject him for being a racist should know that he based his ideas on the most advanced scientific theories of the period. Those who reject him as an adventure-story writer for boys should know that he wrote a wide variety of prose and fiction. And those who look for parallels between his fiction and his life should look instead for his philosophy of life, that view . . .

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