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Jack London: An American Life by Earle Labor

Jack London: An American Life

by Earle Labor

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I am halfway reading Jack London an American life, a biography written by Earle Labor.
It is a book that shows how not to write a biography and I don’t mean that in a sarcastic or ironic way. The reading is interesting, no doubt about that, but for the simple reason that Jack London is an exceptional and interesting “larger than life” character. One appreciates that Earl Labor knows his subject very well, he is after all curator of the Jack London museum, but his rendering of London’s life is a bit boring. It is knowledge without passion, narration without empathic sparks of insight. His work is like some elaborate, well researched Wikipedia piece, but really nothing more than that and it is a bit unfortunate. London’s life, let’s not forget, was nothing but passion ! Suffice to read the writer’s own semi-autobiographical books to get a better idea of who London really was, than Earl’s biography. From his early days as a trapper described in “ The Call of the Wild” over his young writer efforts in “ Martin Eden”, not forgetting his alcoholic memoirs in “John Barleycorn” , to his hilarious sailing adventure on his “Snark “, London’s books deserve reading and rereading. At least Labor’s book reminds us that.
This biography reinforces my opinion that to have a worthwhile read, the biographer, while not necessarily a match of his subject, should at least be as passionate as the writer or his readers. ( )
3 vote Macumbeira | Jan 9, 2016 |
Jack London was an oyster pirate, a ‘hobo,’ a sailor, a janitor, a prospector, a fighter, and a socialist sermonizer. He outdoes Hemingway at his own game to live life in the pursuit of experience.

Earle Labor’s biography of Jack London, [Jack London: An American Life] is among the most well researched and detailed biographies of any person I’ve read, and easily the best exposition of a writer’s life. Labor is the curator of the Jack London Museum and Research Center and a professor of American Literature – so, he knows his subject. But the ease with which he matches London’s life with the work he produced goes a step further than mere research. He has entered the writer’s mind through the writing to provide the experiences behind the stories in a way that can’t be found in London’s correspondence or prose.

London is one of the most remarkable and interesting people, aside from his writing. He had no teachers or mentors to put him on the right track. He simply decided he was going to write and then he started reading. From his reading, he taught himself the trade and became a prolific and unique writer under his own steam. Were it not for his fractured personality and health, he could’ve secured for himself an even higher place of honor in literature.

Labor’s book is good for those who want a good historical account or for those interested in London himself. But it is also a perfect resource for those who want a glimpse into the writing process. The biography is a wonderfully instructive treatise on writing practice, composition, creativity, and the publishing world.

Bottom Line: Jack London was the epitome of an autodidact and an inspiration to everyone who scribbles.

5 bones!!!!!
A favorite for the year!!!!! ( )
5 vote blackdogbooks | Dec 23, 2015 |
As a teenager, I enjoyed Jack London's works, so I was delighted to find this very readable biography. Fascinating, authoritative life of Jack London, the author. Not a literary critique but a narration of his life, his rise from illegitimacy through many jobs such as oyster piracy, gold prospecting in the Klondike, as a sailor, as a hobo, his self education and prolific use of the public library, to fame and fortune with such books as Call of the Wild, The Sea Wolf, other novels and many short stories. We go with him and his wife on their boat to an eye-opening trip to the South Seas. They ranch in California. Jack's ill health, neglected for years, and hard living, do him in at 40. Labor explodes many myths about London and shows how even the lowliest of his life experiences have influenced his work, many of which are now considered classics.

I got new insight into this man, appreciate his literary contributions more, but regret the unpleasant aspects of his personality. The biographer didn't try to sugar coat anything. There were copious quotations from London himself, his wife, and from others, which added to the authenticity. ( )
  janerawoof | Feb 4, 2015 |
This biography is extremely well-researched and well-written. It manages to be both compelling and comprehensive. While it may be advanced for high school readers, it has certainly expanded my knowledge of London's life and writing and will serve as a reference for any future teaching of London's work. ( )
  Tables | Mar 7, 2014 |
A straightforward but comprehensive telling of London's life story and often the origins of his short stories and novels as well as mention of how they were received in his lifetime and how they are perceived now. ( )
  nmele | Mar 3, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374178488, Hardcover)

A revelatory look at the life of the great American author—and how it shaped his most beloved works

Jack London was born a working class, fatherless Californian in 1876. In his youth, he was a boundlessly energetic adventurer on the bustling West Coast—an oyster pirate, a hobo, a sailor, and a prospector by turns. He spent his brief life rapidly accumulating the experiences that would inform his acclaimed bestselling books The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and The Sea-Wolf.

The bare outlines of his story suggest a classic rags-to-riches tale, but London the man was plagued by contradictions. He chronicled nature at its most savage, but wept helplessly at the deaths of his favorite animals. At his peak the highest paid writer in the United States, he was nevertheless forced to work under constant pressure for money. An irrepressibly optimistic crusader for social justice and a lover of humanity, he was also subject to spells of bitter invective, especially as his health declined. Branded by shortsighted critics as little more than a hack who produced a couple of memorable dog stories, he left behind a voluminous literary legacy, much of it ripe for rediscovery.

In Jack London: An American Life, the noted Jack London scholar Earle Labor explores the brilliant and complicated novelist lost behind the myth—at once a hard-living globe-trotter and a man alive with ideas, whose passion for seeking new worlds to explore never waned until the day he died. Returning London to his proper place in the American pantheon, Labor resurrects a major American novelist in his full fire and glory.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:36 -0400)

"The first authorized biography of a great American novelist"--

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