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Wolf: The Lives of Jack London Paperback – October 4, 2011


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Wolf: The Lives of Jack London + Jack London : Novels and Stories : Call of the Wild / White Fang / The Sea-Wolf / Klondike and Other Stories (Library of America) + Jack London: An American Life
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (October 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046502503X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465025039
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #284,675 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* “I have drifted all my life—curiosity, that burning desire to know.” In the intensely curious drifter who penned these words, Haley recognizes one of the most unlikely yet compelling novelists of the twentieth century. Lacing his biographical narrative with acute insights, Haley recounts how the flame of curiosity was first kindled in the son of an impoverished spiritualist medium, particularly chronicling the young Jack London’s voracious boyhood reading of Melville, Kipling, and Flaubert. But only after his restless curiosity has schooled him in the harsh world outside of books—the world of panhandling, oyster-pirating, and prospecting—does London find his vocation in distilling the brutalities of life into the epiphanies of art. Careful research illuminates the creative process through which London forged such powerful works as Call of the Wild, White Fang, and The Game. But alongside London’s curiosity-driven imaginative artistry, Haley traces a parallel strain of conviction-fired social activism, evident in works such as War of the Classes. Not all readers will share Haley’s admiration for an idealist intent on revolutionizing society—while himself keeping a valet and habitually mistreating his wife. But any reader who shares even a spark of London’s incandescent curiosity will relish this vivid portrait. --Bryce Christensen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Booklist (Starred Review)
“Careful research illuminates the creative process through which London forged such powerful works as Call of the Wild, White Fang, and The Game…[A]ny reader who shares even a spark of London’s incandescent curiosity will relish this vivid portrait.”

Library Journal
“Haley’s work is the sympathetically told story of a man unlucky in his birth to foolish parents, unlucky enough in his health to die at 40, and unlucky with women until his second wife, Charmian. Recommended.”

Wall Street Journal
“[A] valuable London biography. It surpasses Irving Stone’s 1938 Sailor on Horseback, giving us a well-delineated picture of a singular, complicated figure…These days we have little sense of the literary glory that was Jack London. Thanks to James Haley’s zeal, the author of [the fiercely imaginative Before Adam], not just the man of The Call of the Wild, is before us again.”

Daily Telegraph(UK)
“[Haley’s] argument is persuasive that the unexpurgated London has never been more relevant…His biography is polished, sleek, readable and pulls no punches.”

San Francisco Chronicle
“[A] gripping narrative…Haley understands what longtime scholars of London have often failed to see: that London had multiple lives, and explored his own identities in his fiction.”

Seattle Times
“[V]ividly drawn…Haley has done a fine job. His book is a compelling story about a man who, after the death of Mark Twain in 1910, was America’s most prominent author.”

Crosscut.com
“In Wolf, James L. Haley gives us a terrific, compact biography that helps to restore London as a complex, prodigious writer of much (perhaps too much) more than tales of adventure.”

Biography
“Rough-and-tumble, passionate writer who set the stage for Sinclair Lewis and John Steinbeck captured in tumultuous color.”

Irish Examiner (Cork)
"Wolf is a glorious achievement which will encourage readers to seek out more about and by Jack London.”

Dallas Morning News
“[Wolf] reads smoothly, and for any who lack a knowledge about this iconoclastic and sensational writer of the early 20th
century, it will make a pleasant bedside companion.”

USA Today
“James Haley’s fascinating biography is as much about London’s socialist politics and domestic turmoil as his best sellers.”
 
Washington Post
“James L. Haley’s sharply focused biography recaptures the breadth of London’s achievements and the intricacies of his personality…We can be grateful to Haley for restoring London to us in all his passionate conviction and flawed humanity.”
 
Daily Mail (London)
“This extraordinarily incident-packed study, told with brio, speeds along.”

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 21 customer reviews
What a goal for all authors!
R. J. Karris
You will almost experience the travels and experiences that Jack London actually traveled into.
Don Gracey
The book is also easy to read and moves at a good pace.
Andrew Desmond

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By David Marion Wilkinson on October 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Greatly enjoyed this latest and best biography of one of America's great writers. American boys of my generation came of age reading CALL OF THE WILD and WHITE FANG, both of which I adored as a child, and yet in all of my fifty-some-odd years, I'd never bothered to learn much about Jack London the man. Mr. Haley's book beautifully captures the life of this enigmatic, brilliant, courageous, and, utlimately doomed man. My heart ached at the depiction of London's bleak, bleary youth--what in today's parlance we'd term "abusive" to the point it was criminal. And yet, he soldiered through impossible circumstances to educate himself, and even more, teach himself to be a professional writer. He would accomplish that feat at an early age, and quickly rise to be America's most successful, prolific, and famous writer of his day. James Haley writes of Jack London's live with resonate faith, clarity, skill, and assurance. I greatly enjoyed this book.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By R. J. Karris on July 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a most informative and very well written biography of Jack London. Who would believe that Jack London could have so many "careers" in his short life: day laborer, student, navigator, sailor, prospector, hobo, war correspondent, author, rancher! It is captivating to see how London, the socialist, fought unbridled capitalism in his lectures and writings. Generally, the chapters fly by as one reads of London's struggles to make ends meet, to be faithful to his friends, to make the right financial decisions, and to be flexible to the challenges that circumstances and publishers might throw his way. One memory that I cherish is that of London writing 1,000 words in the morning each day. What a goal for all authors!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Sam Sattler on February 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Jack London, the man who several years before Mark Twain's death unseated Twain to become America's favorite author, was a man of contrasts. Illegitimately born into a poverty stricken environment, for much of his adult life London would employ a full domestic staff, including a personal valet. Even as an avowed and outspoken advocate of socialism, he saw nothing wrong with living the luxurious lifestyle his personal labor eventually earned him. He was a staunch defender of the rights of "native peoples" but is said to have been a "racialist," believing that no good would come from a mixing of the races.

London's era was one still very much influenced by the sexual mores of the Victorian Age but he was always sexually active, even when married, and made little effort to explain his actions to either of his wives. He enjoyed the company of children but was never close to the two daughters he fathered by his first wife, allowing them effectively to slip out of his life. Those who knew him considered London a "spiritual" man, but he detested the way that religion helped maintain what he saw as an illegitimate and unjust society and considered himself an atheist. He was capable of superb writing but was willing to do as much "hackwork" as it took to support his lifestyle.

Even in death, London was a mystery. That he died in his sleep at age 40 is not disputed; the cause of his death, however, is still open to discussion. Did London die of an accidental overdose of morphine or, as many suspect, was he so depressed that he decided to take his own life that night. He was known to be upset about his health and the shape he was in but adamantly refused to change the lifestyle that was rapidly killing him.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By LeeAnn Heringer on July 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book is an interesting biography that ties together the threads of his writing and the personal inspirations for his writings, the arc of how he got from "Wage Beast" 10 cents an hour shoving coal to one of the most celebrated writers of his age, traveling widely, and owning a large ranch in Somona. It covers his ties and beliefs about socialism, his problems with drinking, the relationships with the women in his life. It provides background on lesser known works by London.

Jack London is a local hero in the San Francisco area and known for his boys' adventure tales, like Call of the Wild. But he was more complex than that. Like Hemingway and Kerouac who followed him, the beginning is filled with turmoil and adventure, the ending filled with loss and physical decline.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Anne Rice on March 23, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It was reading the novel, "Martin Eden" that prompted me to come to this book. "Eden" was my first experience of London's prose, and I wanted to know all about the man who could create such a rich, sensuous and disturbing fictional portrait of the writer as hero. Well, this extremely well written biography of London answered all my questions. I also found it entertaining. It gave me a full and fair picture of the author of "Martin Eden," who, even more than his fictional creation, was indeed a writer who was a hero. ---- I can't compare it to other biographies except to say that when I examined a few, I found myself coming back to this one for intense study and I have not regretted the decision. Haley provided plenty of context for the key people in London's life, and the key events. And as so often happens with a good biography, this one taught me a lot about the period in which London came of age, became famous and eventually died. In sum it gave me a deeper understanding of American history, of the conditions of the working class when London was struggling to earn ten cents an hour, and of the literary world in which "Call of the Wild" was a huge career making event and the darker haunting "Martin Eden" was not perceived as a success. I come away from this book loving Jack London, loving his great appetite for life, his unbelievable personal stamina, his unending curiosity, and his beguiling combination of faith in himself and what I can only call enduring humility. I want to read more of London's works. I'll keep this book on my shelf. Highly recommended.
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