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Jack London's Racial Lives: A Critical Biography Hardcover – February 15, 2009
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Jack London's attitudes toward and treatments of the race issue in his public statements and in his fiction constitute one of the most controversial and problematic aspects of his complex persona. Reesman's study is both exhaustive and definitive. She rightly argues that London's attitudes defy simplification, not only because he was divided on the issue in his own mind but also because his attitudes were dynamic, not static. She has deftly analyzed the causes of his ambivalence and accurately traced the course of his significant attitudinal changes through both his fiction and his nonfiction.(Earle Labor editor of The Portable Jack London)
Almost certainly destined to be a 'lion in the path' to all future work on Jack London.(Lawrence I. Berkove coeditor of The Short Fiction of Ambrose Bierce: A Comprehensive Edition, Volume I)
This is an important book, not only because Jack London is an important and often underappreciated writer but because the contradictions and ambiguities about race that marked London’s work continue, alas, to mark American society and politics to this very day. Reading London, as this book so vividly shows, is reading ourselves.(Paul Lauter general editor of The Heath Anthology of American Literature)
History seems to have dealt London a bad hand as he's now best remembered as an adventure story writer meant for Boy Scouts and teen naturalists. Reesman knows better. Her detailed explications of London's life and writings reveal the complicated and radical thought behind his fiction.(Steve Horowitz Pop Matters)
Jack London's Racial Lives reveals the ambiguity of London's temperamental views of race while making a case that he was progressive and radical in his racial views in some of his work. Was Jack London a racist? Yes, the answer seems to be, but it's complicated.(John Lennon American Studies )
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London was a pioneer in the realistic/naturalistic style of literature coming about in the early 1900s. He wrote journalism about the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, the heavyweight championship boxing match pitting the African-American Jack Johnson against the white man Tommy Burns in 1908, and the Mexican Revolution in 1914. Reesman follows how in London's series of writings on the heavyweight fight, his regard of Johnson underwent a sea change. Settings of London's fiction were the wilderness of Alaska or the Klondike, the remote islands of the South Pacific, or some other unpopulated place where individuals had to use their wits and their strength to survive in direct contact with nature. London's stories drew the interest of movie studios for their adventure and drama of survival.Read more ›
Where she goes badly wrong here is in trying to laud Mr. London for his extraordinary work, all the while performing a painful dissection of his psyche, trying to explain in clinical terms why he's a racist, or at least a "racialist". This operation is done without anesthesia, and if I may say so, without any surgical training. Jack London himself performed far more skillful tooth extractions on headhunters and other impromptu dental patients during his cruise of the Solomon Islands (see "The Cruise of the Snark" for more on this). What results is a muddy, convoluted amalgam of excuses, conjecture, half-baked theories, and faint praise mingled with subtle slander.Read more ›