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Before Adam

By Jack London

About Jack London

(1876-1916) California-born novelist, John Griffith London, quit school at the age of 14 and ran off to find a life of adventure. He found what he looked for. Much like Melville's Ishmael he went to sea, although hunting seal rather than whales, and sailed as far as Japan in the process. At about age 17, he marched on Washington with Kelly's Industrial Army, a protest group assembled during the financial panic of 1893. During the depression that followed, he became a railroad tramp and served a prison term for vagrancy. It was an exciting life, but it gave him a painful look at human suffering — as well as bitter first-hand experience. By the age of 18, after reading Karl Marx, he embraced Socialism, and some of his books reflect that belief.

Soon after, he crammed an entire high school training into one year and studied for one semester at the Univerity of California, setting out to become a writer. Spending a winter in Alaska, joining the Klondike gold rush, Jack London did indeed strike gold — not with a shovel, but with his pen! Dipping into Darwin and Spencer for philosophy and into Kipling for style, in 1900 he produced his first book: the very successful "The Son of the Wolf".

During his remaining 17 years, with frequent interruptions as a reporter in the far parts of the world, he produced an amazing total of 50 books, including Call of the Wild (1903); White Fang (1906); Burning Daylight (1910); The Sea Wolf (1904); The Iron Heel (1907); The Valley of the Moon (1913); and his autobiography, John Barleycorn, also in 1913.

In addition to being a prolific writer, Jack London was also a celebrity of his day. Handsome, witty, and full of enthusiasm, he was a romantic figure of his time. When he died of gastrointestinal poisoning at age 40, his passing was greatly lamented by the public. The San Fransico Bulletin wrote: "No writer, unless it were Mark Twain, ever had a more romantic life than Jack London. The untimely death of this most popular of American Fictionists has profoundly shocked a world that expected him to live and work for many years longer."


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