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Martin Eden by Jack London
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Martin Eden (1909)

by Jack London

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» See also 38 mentions

English (15)  French (2)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  Lithuanian (1)  All languages (20)
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Martin Eden is a young sailor who has spent his entire life firmly entrenched in the lower class in San Francisco. When he helps Arthur Morse, a young man from the upper middle class, in a bar fight, Arthur invites Martin home for dinner partly out of gratitude and partly as a way to entertain his family with Martin’s uncouth ways. Martin promptly falls in love with Arthur’s sister, Ruth, and he begins spending every waking hour trying to educate himself through the local library so that he can raise himself up to her level and be worthy of her. Along the way he develops a passion for writing and spends several years sending his work to various magazines only to receive rejection after rejection. Martin ultimately realizes that he has reached a level of education that has surpassed that of the Morse family and their social circle, and when he finally achieves success as a writer, he is immediately completely disillusioned with it. Martin has many similarities with London himself, although there are some significant differences between the two.

I’ve never been a fan of London’s work about nature, but I enjoyed this novel. It raises a lot of questions about what defines education and constructive labor and about the nature of social class. I did, however, feel that the ending was a bit rushed, especially after the beginning and middle of the story were so drawn out and detailed. ( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
London, Jack
Martin Eden

Fiction
Jack London, known predominantly as the author of The Call of the Wild and the short story "To Build a Fire," is often pigeonholed for his “dog” and “man-against-nature” books. But he actually wrote on other subjects, including a memoir of his struggles with alcoholism, John Barleycorn. Considered too shocking to be published in his day, today it would rest on a crowded shelf. Martin Eden is not about dogs or nature but is an adventure story of another kind. Imbued with philosophy and the difficulties faced by anyone who tries to circumvent society’s predilection for squelching individualism and nurturance of mediocrity, the peril of our hero, while not physical, is real. Attempting to become worthy of a woman far above his class, autodidact extraordinaire Martin Eden manages to outstrip all his contemporaries only to find that it is, indeed, lonely at the top. Throughout Martin’s quest, London gives glowing examples of public libraries and librarians and the self-empowerment they facilitate. I felt as if I’d been thanked. Thank you, Jack.
Recommended February 2009
  dawsong | Jun 15, 2015 |
Given that Martin Eden is the most autobiographical work Jack London ever wrote (this, according to Andrew Sinclair, who wrote the Intro), we have to believe that the author actually lived most of what he writes. If so, the work should be mandatory reading for anyone contemplating a writing career at the cost of a day-job.

If any of us should still believe that ‘the road less traveled’ is a glorious one, this work will cure him or her of that illusion. But for an occasional fluke (which aspiring writers and the publishing world alike all feed upon), the writer’s life – if Jack London’s is a fair example, and I believe it is – is one of poverty and debilitation – if not downright humiliation. Oh, and did I mention hunger?

But no matter. Go and feast on the ideal if you insist. Just know that the ideal contains damned few calories.

At one point, Martin Eden (the eponymous principal character of this novel) actually does achieve fame and fortune. Is this, then, a kind of ‘Cinderella story?’ Without giving away the actual conclusion of London’s novel, I’ll allow you a glimpse via some of his principal character’s ruminations: “And always was Martin’s maddening and unuttered demand: Why didn’t you feed me then? It was work performed. “The Ring of Bells” and “The Peri and the Pearl” (two of the fictional writer’s short stories) are not changed one iota. They were just as artistic, just as worthwhile, then as now. But you are not feeding me for their sake, nor for the sake of anything else I have written. You’re feeding me because it is the style of feeding just now, because the whole mob is crazy with the idea of feeding Martin Eden” (p. 450).

Antiquated if not downright flawed though it and he may be, I suspect that Martin Eden (the novel) and Martin Eden (the novel’s protagonist) are – just as is London’s superb short story, “To Build a Fire” – memories to last a lifetime. In this age of rampant self-publication and an unbridled quest after the glory of artistic recognition – but in which so few are willing to do the work London obviously did to achieve recognition for his work – this novel should stand as both Bible and roadmap. Or as Dante once wrote over the gates of Hell, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

RRB
Brooklyn, NY, U.S.A.
07/17/14

( )
  RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
hi
  cryptoJack | Sep 3, 2014 |
I was so excited for him the whole time. Why did it have to end that way? I am so disappointed. ( )
  TanyaTomato | May 5, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (42 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jack Londonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Berdagué, RoserTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Giménez-Frontín, José LuisForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hillerich, Robert L.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sinclair, AndrewIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The one opened the door with a latch-key and went in, followed by a young fellow who awkwardly removed his cap. He wore rough clothes that smacked of the sea, and he was manifestly out of place in the spacious hall in which he found himself. He did not know what to do with his cap, and was stuffing it into his coat pocket when the other took it from him. The act was done quietly and naturally, and the awkward young fellow appreciated it. “He understands,” was his thought. “He’ll see me through all right.”

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140187723, Paperback)

The semiautobiographical "Martin Eden" is the most vital and original character Jack London ever created. Set in San Francisco, this is the story of Martin Eden, an impoverished seaman who pursues, obsessively and aggressively, dreams of education and literary fame. London, dissatisfied with the rewards of his own success, intended Martin Eden as an attack on individualism and a criticism of ambition; however, much of its status as a classic has been conferred by admirers of its ambitious protagonist. Andrew Sinclair's wide-ranging introduction discusses the conflict between London's support of socialism and his powerful self-will. Sinclair also explores the parallels and divergences between the life of Martin Eden and that of his creator, focusing on London's mental depressions and how they affected his depiction of Eden.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:44 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

London tells the story of Martin Eden, a young sailor who, through self-education and determination, rises out of poverty to passionately pursue a dream of literary and intellectual achievement. But soon he discovers a life of success is not what he hoped it would be.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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