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The Road by Jack London
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The Road (1907)

by Jack London

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English (3)  Danish (1)  French (1)  All (5)
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I read this to complete the Sonoma County Library's Winter Reading Program Challenge. Jack London would not have been my first choice for a book to read. I did find this much better and more interesting than I had anticipated. This is Jack London's stories of being a hobo on the railroad from the time he was about 16 to I'm not sure exactly when. It was a page turner. Some funny bits and lots of adventure. Not a life I would want to try. I'm glad such a good writer was able to share it with me. ( )
  njcur | Feb 4, 2016 |
Sketches of people, places and events by a teenage London who rode the rails during the 1890s looking for adventure. He begged, stole and generally whatever he could do to get by without working (even if it was work). London provides lots of flavor in the slang used by hobos, and interesting details of riding the rails during the golden age. Remarkable how innocent and simple the times were, yet also brutal. I've read better tramping memoirs from this period, this one has good moments and some snoozers. Most significant for biographical details about London but still worthwhile for adventuresome stories. ( )
  Stbalbach | Sep 4, 2014 |
The 'Road' in question is the railroad - motor cars were almost unheard of when Jack London was travelling around America as a hobo. This is a fascinating look at a very different country. It's full of great characters and long-forgotten slang and exciting tussles with policemen and railroad employees.

The interesting thing about the book, for me, is that it works so well even though the story doesn't have much of a trajectory. It's really just a series of anecdotes about life as a hobo, from surviving a stint in jail to sneaking onto trains and staying on despite the brakemen trying to throw him off. The reason I kept reading was for the wonderful details, the vivid descriptions, the large characters, the tall tales and the wonderful insight into a world that seems very distant now. Highly recommended. ( )
1 vote AndrewBlackman | Oct 20, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jack Londonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Eads, BarryNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"Speakin' in general, I 'ave tried 'em all,

The 'appy roads that take you o'er the world.

Speakin' in general, I 'ave found them good
For such as cannot use one bed too long,

But must get 'ence, the same as I 'ave done,

An' go observin' matters till they die."

—Sestina of the Tramp-Royal
Dedication
TO

JOSIAH FLYNT

The Real Thing, Blowed in the Glass
First words
There is a woman in the state of Nevada to whom I once lied continuously, consistently, and shamelessly, for the matter of a couple of hours.
Quotations
When a man is paralleling your mental processes, ditch him. Abruptly break off your line of reasoning, and go off on a new line.
Perhaps the greatest charm of tramp-life is the absence of monotony. In Hobo Land the face of life is protean—an ever changing phantasmagoria, where the impossible happens and the unexpected jumps out of the bushes at every turn of the road. The hobo never knows what is going to happen the next moment; hence, he lives only in the present moment. He has learned the futility of telic endeavor, and knows the delight of drifting along with the whimsicalities of Chance.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0813538068, Hardcover)

In 1894, an eighteen-year-old Jack London quit his job shoveling coal, hopped a freight train, and left California on the first leg of a ten thousand-mile odyssey. His adventure was an exaggerated version of the unemployed migrations made by millions of boys, men, and a few women during the original 'great depression' of the 1890s. By taking to the road, young wayfarers like London forged a vast hobo subculture that was both a product of the new urban industrial order and a challenge to it. As London's experience suggests, this hobo world was born of equal parts desperation and fascination. 'I went on The Road,' he writes, 'because I couldn't keep away from it . . . because I was so made that I couldn't work all my life on 'one same shift'; because - well, just because it was easier to than not to.'

The best stories that London told about his hoboing days can be found in The Road, a collection of nine essays with accompanying illustrations, most of which originally appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine between 1907 and 1908. His virile persona spoke to white middle-class readers who vicariously escaped their desk-bound lives and followed London down the hobo trail. The zest and humor of his tales, as Todd DePastino explains in his lucid introduction, often obscure their depth and complexity. The Road is as much a commentary on London¡¦s disillusionment with wealth, celebrity, and the literary marketplace as it is a picaresque memoir of his youth.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:59 -0400)

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