Jack London

Alex Kershaw, Author, Kershaw, Author Thomas Dunne Books $25.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-312-18119-2
Kershaw, a Los Angeles-based English journalist, writes that by the time London was 39, in early 1915, ""the muses had indeed deserted Jack."" Actually, London seems to have deserted his muses, producing what many considered alcohol-inspired claptrap about violent men and their women intended for quick sale. Even under the influence of John Barleycorn, he usually managed his thousand words a day, writing hundreds of fact pieces, short stories and 20 novels. A few--Call of the Wild, Sea Wolf and Martin Eden--were memorable enough to turn the one-time sailor and laborer into a literary celebrity. Ultimately, he was reduced to purchasing plots to exploit from an aspiring young writer named Sinclair Lewis. London has inspired numerous biographies, though with this work, Kershaw adds little to London's life but cliches (""Jack had... fallen from dizzying heights to rock bottom""). Although writing for an American audience, he uses British spellings (""tyres,"" ""cheque"") and lapses into language that would have embarrassed his mostly self-taught subject (""a boy who weighed less than him""; ""intellectual ideas""). London, who died at 40, very likely of self-administered morphine while in the agonies of terminal uremia, suffers again in this latest life. Photos. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
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