Wolf: The Lives of Jack London by James L. Haley (BIOG LONDON) and Jack London: Photographer by Jeanne Campbell Reesman (770.92 RE)
James Haley subtitled his book “the lives of Jack London” because London’s life included more careers and experiences than you would think possible for one man. Anyone who has read his adventure novels, such as The Call of the Wild, White Fang, or The Sea-Wolf, will have been struck by the naturalism and immediacy of his writing. He came by his knowledge of the sea and the Yukon wilderness by living, working, and risking his life in those environments, just as the protagonists of his novels. Author Haley has divided London’s life into fourteen chapters, each investigating a portion of his amazing life. He was born in 1876, and after completing 8th grade began his work career at a pickle cannery , earning ten cents an hour. Such early experiences as a “work beast” turned him towards a life-long support of socialism, reflected in such books as People of the Abyss and The Iron Heel.
As a teenager he taught himself to sail, and even while making a living as an oyster pirate (which was an actual illegal profession in California in the early 1900’s) he began his self-education with the help of a librarian at the Oakland Free Library. Still a teenager, he signed on to a ship sailing the Pacific to hunt for seals and steered through a typhoon at sea such as is described in The Sea-Wolf. After almost dying in the Yukon, prospecting for gold, he determined to become an author and work with his mind. He accomplished this by strength of will, memorizing dictionaries, and setting himself the goal of writing 3,000 words per day. He became a celebrity, a war correspondent, and last, a rancher, dying at the young age of 40 due to complications of alcoholism and kidney failure.
Jack London:Photographer is a fantastic companion book to any biography of Jack London. London purchased a folding pocket Kodak, one of the first popular cameras for amateurs, and taught himself to take pictures. There are over 12,000 prints in the London archive, and the ones selected for this book reflect his wide-ranging interests and travels. His photos of 1903 London correspond to his book on grinding poverty in the industrial age, People of the Abyss. Photos of the Russo-Japanese War and the 1914 Mexican Revolution reflect his work as a war correspondent. London and wife, Charmian, were immediately on the scene of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake with his Kodak, and the depictions of the destruction are stunning. Also included are photos of indigenous peoples of the Polynesian islands that the Londons visited by sailing ship, in the days when very few European or American travelers went there. While not entirely free of the cultural prejudices of the time, London’s photos tend to be more realistic and less stagey than others of the time period. A fascinating glimpse into the past, and the work of an important American author.