Thursday, January 12, 2017

Birthday Book of the Day: “I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.”

jack london stamp.jpg

Jack London, born this day in 1876, had an eighth-grade education and didn’t publish a word until he was 22: a short story that won him $25.

It took him another five years to publish anything else, but when The Call of the Wild came out in 1903, London became one of the most famous, bestselling authors in the world.

His run as an author lasted only thirteen years. He binged on life, smoking sixty cigarettes a day and indulging a morphine addiction. He ate like a trencherman, and drank so much he began experiencing kidney failure at thirty-five. He died at forty.

He was an atheist, a socialist and a racist who borrowed $300 from his black nanny to buy his first sailboat.

In between personal excesses, he churned out massive piles of words. Three to five books a year was his norm: almost 150 short stories; 23 novels; 20 story collections; four memoirs; 19 nonfiction works; three plays and 45 collections of poetry.

One of the last books published in his lifetime (1876-1916), Jack London's The Little Lady of the Big House was a shocker, says Wikipedia:

"London said of this novel: 'It is all sex from start to finish — in which no sexual adventure is actually achieved or comes within a million miles of being achieved, and in which, nevertheless, is all the guts of sex, coupled with strength.' One reviewer disparaged the novel's 'erotomania.'
"Clarice Stasz comments:
"Little Lady upset readers in London's day for its gushing sexual imagery... [and] its close portrayal of the tempting pull of adultery. Modern critics, on the other hand, deride its Victorian coyness and sentimentality, its unrealistic characters. Both were correct—it was too sexy for readers in 1915, when it appeared, and not sexy enough for readers beyond the sexually free twenties."

London thought the book among his best. Its plot- which seemed to cover every topic that ever interested London the man- anticipated Steinbeck’s preoccupations with love and agribusiness.
Published by Macmillan in 1916 and made into a silent film in 1921, this tale of a love triangle on a California ranch is claimed, by some London scholars, to be semi-autobiographical.

Jack London, The Little Lady of the Big House (Macmillan, 1916), hardcover, no dustjacket 392 pp, with four pages of ads for other London works after the conclusion. Very good condition. PBA Auctions sold a copy in poorer condition last year for $110. Your price: US $90 obo.

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