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Jack London: An American Life by [Labor, Earle]
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Jack London: An American Life Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 69 customer reviews

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Length: 481 pages Word Wise: Enabled Audible Narration:
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Jack London (1876–1916) improvised a fast-burning life of reckless adventure that served as the wellspring for his magnificently dramatic writings, from The Call of the Wild to Martin Eden. A good student and insatiable reader ever-grateful for the public library in Oakland, California, young London, poor and fatherless, worked demeaning jobs, then took to sea as an oyster pirate. He learned to fight and drink and became a socialist and constant wanderer. His Klondike escapades yielded a gold mine of stories and inspired his lifelong practice of writing 1,000 words a day, no matter what. London scholar Labor extracts every drop of excitement, folly, romance, creative ecstasy, grueling effort, and despair from the vast London archives, including the relentless press coverageof his exploits. What writer today could ignite the front-page frenzy that surrounded London and the love of his life, Charmian? His fearless second wife, literary accomplice, and stalwart companion on perilous South Sea journeys, Charmian kept a diary from which Labor extracts riveting disclosures leading up to her robust, sexy, carousing husband’s precipitously failing health and early death. Labor’s unceasingly vivid, often outright astonishing biography vibrantly chronicles London’s exceptionally daring and wildly contradictory life and recovers and reassesses his complete oeuvre, including many powerful, long-neglected works of compassionate, eyewitness nonfiction. Let the Jack London revival begin. --Donna Seaman

Review

"More than 20 biographies have been written about London, but this volume promises to be one of the best for those who have read London's books but know less about his life." ---Library Journal Starred Review

Product Details

  • File Size: 1112 KB
  • Print Length: 481 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (December 24, 2013)
  • Publication Date: December 24, 2013
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00H6EJSK6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #554,915 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Over 40 years in the making, this biography is built solidly upon original research into the life of Jack London. Well-known myths and fallacies are left behind leaving only the truth to shine through. Dr. Labor has striven for the utmost accuracy, revealing both the bright and dark sides of his subject. Did Charlie Chaplain once impersonate a waiter to serve Jack London and Wyatt Earp at a Los Angeles Restaurant as one report states? He very well may have, but the episode is NOT in this book because it could not be independently verified. That is the accuracy for which he has striven.

London's life was as much of an adventure as any of his best books...and was the basis for much material in his books. If there is one shortcoming to this biography, it is the limitation of space. Much interesting material had to be jettisoned in order to fit the work into the space allowed by the publishers. Still, if you only read one biography of Jack London, this is the one it should be. You cannot choose a better one.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Any number of biographers have tackled Jack London's extraordinary life, and there are plenty of choices out there for those who wish to find out about his origins and life's work. The most widely-read of these include "Sailor on Horseback" by Irving Stone; "Jack" by Andrew Sinclair; and more recently "Wolf" by James Haley.

Of these, the iconic tome remains Irving Stone's, written just two decades after London's death and published in 1938. Irving Stone himself is one of the great authors of the mid-twentieth century, and his "Sailor on Horseback the Biograhy of Jack London" is an excellent piece of work. Stone had the full cooperation of Charmian London (Jack's second wife) as well as many other people who knew London well and were still available for interviews and as sources of raw material. "Sailor on Horseback" reads right along, and accords Jack London a gracious and truthful respect, lauding his hard work, vision, imagination, and most importantly, London's humanity, which was his most outstanding trait.

"Jack London,: A biography" by Richard O'Connor was published in 1964, and is a good read, with a number of interesting details not found in most biographical work on London, even today. O'Connor still, however, makes occasional attempts to hit below the belt, like most of London's biographers. It was followed by Andrew Sinclair's "
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Format: Hardcover
As an early pal saw Jack, he strove "to be the conqueror". This, Earle Labor argues, was London's greatest asset and his greatest liability. After a second lowly paid and repetitive, dangerous job feeding a machine, he refused to bow to the "work-beast" again.

Instead, he relied on his strength, his determination, and his wits. He finally sold a couple of "yarns" at the age of twenty-one. Most writers at this stage would have little to go on from their experience. Jack had plenty.

Labor takes us through the early years, already crammed with possibilities for the later London to draw upon. As a teenager, Oakland cannery worker, oyster pirate, fish patrolman, hobo, able-bodied seaman, he did all this before returning to high school and, briefly, the U. of Cal. Although he had to drop out to work again, after his menial labor, he vowed to find a better way to make a living.

Then, the 1897 Klondike Gold Rush spurred him and his uncle north to the Yukon. Labor memorably captures the excitement and dread of this hyped event. While we never learn how London eked out his five dollars worth of gold, this is not Labor's concern. He wants us instead to learn how Jack began to listen, watch, and ponder what he saw all around him. Out of this, soon after, nearly eighty stories would emerge when, finally, he left hard labor behind for a career as a paid writer.

What distinguished London from his contemporaries who had beaten him back to cash in on writing about the Klondike and the Northland, Labor finds, was Jack's "human interest, romantic imagination, and sympathetic understanding". He gets the silence in, the primitive pull of the landscape, where its woods and animals lurked, and where foolish men fell to the harsh climate.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Earle Labor, the dean of London scholars, got it exactly right with this definitive biography. The facts are there. Dr. Labor incorporates those facts, timelines, Lonon's complicated life and the published works into a piece that is also a pleasure to read. As a fiction writer, I luxuriated in the finesse of Labor's talent for giving the reader everything a London fan/scholar would wish for in a reading experience extraordinare.

Previous biorgraphers were merely extrapolators, drawing conclusions from slight scholarship and/or personal slants and prejudices. Labor's approach is that of a fine writer who has spent a life in London research in order to give readers information and insight into a writer who is, indeed, a great American literary giant.
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