Thursday, September 14

Regarding Jack London

From "The Man Who Would Be Jack London" in the August 2006 issue of The Believer:
Writing in the New York Times Book Review, E. L. Doctorow pronounced London "the most widely read American author in the world." That's right. More than Twain or Hemingway or Melville. Something of a literary footnote in his own country, Jack London is considered an emblematic American author in Japan, Russia, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere. The Call of the Wild has been translated into eighty languages, more than any other American work. An Albanian anthology of American literature pictures Jack London along with Mark Twain on its cover. A collection of London stories in Russian sold 200,000 copies in the first printing. On his deathbed, Lenin asked his wife to read him a Jack London story.
Who knew? Also, this man who readers of our generation (if they're anything like myself) know only from Call of the Wild, White Fang and perhaps To Build a Fire, wrote more than fifty books! This is a swell article that offers insight into a life that some would call "as romatic and ruggedly American as any novel ever written." We also encounter a rather comedic fellow who is a part-time Jack London impersonator, part-time hardware store manager.

H.L. Mencken, master of the hedged compliment, on London:
I have often argued that he was one of the few American authors who really knew how to write. The difficulty with him was that he was an ignorant and credulous man. His lack of culture caused him to embrace all sorts of socialistic bosh, and whenever he put it into his stories, he ruined them. But when he set out to tell a simple tale, he always told it superbly.

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