Jack London by Earle Labor

I picked up Earle Labor’s book Jack London thinking it was a biography; however, it was actually more of a literary analysis of London’s work with a little biographical information thrown in.  It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but because it was short, I read it and gathered some interesting facts and insights.

1.  According to Labor, The Call of the Wild was London’s “masterpiece”; however, I was surprised to find that he wrote numerous novels that I had never encountered:  Martin Eden, Burning Daylight, The Little Lady of the Big House.  He also mentions The Scarlet Plague, an apocalyptic, dystopian science fiction novel.  I’ve only  heard of it within the last few weeks as Jay, over at Bibliophilopolis, recently read this.

2.  Critics have generally loved Wolf Larsen of The Sea Wolf but have hated the inclusion of Maud Brewster toward the end as a sort of love interest for Humphrey Van Weyden. While I didn’t necessarily hate her, I thought her popping up in the middle of the ocean seemed a little too coincidental.  London indicated that he felt his “fans” would want a romance included in the novel.

3.  London was not the starving artist like some authors.  He gained a considerable amount of success and fame in his relatively short life (he died when he was 40).  The fact that he was successful has always been a source of contention with many critics and has kept him from being considered truly great.

4.  He ran for mayor of Oakland, CA as a Socialist candidate twice and lost both times.  The fact that many of his protagonists or heroes were rugged individualists and London himself pulled himself up by his boot straps more or less, he considered himself a Socialist and many of his lesser known works have a bit of propaganda included in them.

5.  Many have believed that London committed suicide when he was 40; however, according to Labor, London was in bad health, due in part to alcohol and in part to working too hard, and died as a result, but it was not suicide.

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4 responses to “Jack London by Earle Labor

  1. Hi Dale,
    Books like these only work for me if I have read the majority (or at least a significant portion) of an author’s work – and there aren’t many authors I can say that about! I am going to include a London biography in my reading project this year,I just don’t know which one yet.

    I hadn’t realized he had died so young, either. He sure packed a lot of living and adventure into his forty years!
    -Jay

    • His daughter, Joan, apparently wrote a biography of her dad, also. I will probably try to read a real biography at some point, too. The book I got about Rudyard Kipling is called “The Long Recessional: The Imperial Life of Rudyard Kipling”. I’m pretty sure that it’s a real biography.

  2. P.S. thanks for linking me in this post; I wasn’t too impressed with The Scarlet Plague, though, and wouldn’t recommend it.

    • Yeah, for some reason, Jack London and dystopian science fiction sounded kind of strange. From Labor’s book, I got the impression that most of London’s novels that are not that well-known are that way for a reason.

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