London, Jack (John Griffith London), 1876–1916, American author, b. San Francisco. The illegitimate son of an astrologer and a Welsh farm girl, he had a poverty-stricken childhood, brought up by his mother and her husband, John London. At 17, Jack London shipped as an able seaman to Japan and the Bering Sea. He was an oyster pirate, a gold-seeker in the first Klondike rush, a newspaper correspondent during the Russo-Japanese War, and in 1914 a war correspondent in Mexico. His stories, romantic adventures with realistic setting and character, began to appear first in the Overland Monthly. In 1900, The Son of the Wolf: Tales of the Far North was published. London's Klondike tales are exciting, vigorous, and brutal. The Call of the Wild (1903), about a tame dog who eventually leads a wolf pack, is one of the best animal stories ever written. Among his other works are The Sea-Wolf (1904), White Fang (1905), and Smoke Bellew (1912). Martin Eden (1909) and Burning Daylight (1910) are partly autobiographical. Although he was a highly paid writer of extremely popular fiction, London, a socialist, considered his social tracts— The People of the Abyss (1903) and The Iron Heel (1907)—as his most important work. The Cruise of the Snark (1911) is a vivid account of his interrupted voyage around the world in a 50-ft (15.2-m) ketch-rigged yacht, and John Barleycorn; or, Alcoholic Memoirs (1913) is autobiographical. Beset in his later years by alcoholism and financial difficulties, London died at the age of 40.
See Charmian London (his second wife), The Log of the Snark (1915), Our Hawaii (1917), and The Book of Jack London (2 vol., 1921); biographies by his daughter, Joan London (1969), and by J. Hedrick (1982), A. Sinclair (1983), C. Stasz (1988), and A. Kershaw (1998); studies by E. Labor (1977) and C. Watson (1982).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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