London Calling: BBC Radio Broadcast on Jack London

Tobias Wolff recalls in this BBC broadcast, “I really was enraptured by not only London’s work but also the kind of myth of his life, and when I was eleven I persuaded my mother to let me change my name to Jack. She allowed me to do this on condition that I be baptized in the Catholic Church. I was Jack until I was fifteen. I visited my father who insisted that I return to my given name, but when I hang out with my old friends from those days they still call me Jack, and they think I made up this other name as some sort of nom de plume. He was a wonderful storyteller for one thing. He is really in the cannon. He has an almost child-like delight in story. He puts his people out in the world and tries them sorely, but there’s always an excitement to his work. He was probably the prototype of the writer-in-the-world—the writer putting himself in harm’s way. Also London, it should be noted, was a war correspondent. He was on the front lines of the Russo-Japanese War. He went on the road as a tramp and wrote a book about that. So that kind of life that perhaps we most closely associate with writers like Hemingway—and that family of writers—really London was the first I think to play that role in our literature.”