JL in the News: The Short, Frantic, Rags-to-Riches Life of Jack London by Kenneth Brandt (Smithsonian Magazine)
An extremist, radical and searcher, Jack London was never destined to grow old. One hundred years ago this month, London, author of The Call of the Wild, died at age 40. His short life was controversial and contradictory.
Born in 1876, the year of Little Bighorn and Custer’s Last Stand, the prolific writer would die in the year John T. Thompson invented the submachine gun. London’s life embodied the frenzied modernization of America between the Civil War and World War I. With his thirst for adventure, his rags-to-riches success story, and his progressive political ideas, London’s stories mirrored the passing of the American frontier and the nation’s transformation into an urban-industrial global power.
With a keen eye and an innate sense, London recognized that the country’s growing readership was ready for a different kind of writing. The style needed to be direct and robust and vivid. And he had the ace setting of the “Last Frontier” in Alaska and the Klondike—a strong draw for American readers, who were prone to creative nostalgia. Notably, London’s stories endorsed reciprocation, cooperation, adaptability and grit.
In his fictional universe, lone wolves die and abusive alpha males never win out in the end.
London grew up on the grungier streets of San Francisco and Oakland in a working class household. His mother was a spiritualist, who eked out a living conducting séances and teaching music. His stepfather was a disabled Civil War veteran who scraped by, working variously as a farmer, a grocer and a night watchman. (London’s probable biological father, a traveling astrologer, had abruptly exited the scene prior to the future author’s arrival.)
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/short-heroic-rags-riches-life-jack-london-180961200/#qM18ZzG2tQgXEwcg.99
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