Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Jack London Excerpt & Quotes

Jack London (January 12, 1876 – November 22, 1916) was an American author, journalist, and social activist. He was a pioneer in the then-burgeoning world of commercial magazine fiction and was one of the first fiction writers to obtain worldwide celebrity and a large fortune from his fiction alone

Excerpt from MARTIN EDEN (1909):

It was the rejection slips that completed the horrible machine likeness of the process. These slips were printed in stereotyped forms and he had received hundreds of them—as many as a dozen or more on each of his earlier manuscripts. If he had received one line, one personal line, along with one rejection of all his rejections, he would have been cheered. But not one editor had given that proof of existence. And he could conclude only that there were no warm human men at the other end, only mere cogs, well oiled and running beautifully in the machine.

"I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time."

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."

"There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive."

"A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog."

"I write for no other purpose than to add to the beauty that now belongs to me. I write a book for no other reason than to add three or four hundred acres to my magnificent estate."

"Darn the wheel of the world! Why must it continually turn over? Where is the reverse gear?"

"I wrote a thousand words every day"


Special thanks to Matt Mayo for bringing to my attention Wolf: The Lives of Jack London. A terrific bio that is highly recommended.


u.v.ray. said...

As a point of interest: it is not 100% certain, but it is thought that Jack London also wrote the book Might is Right under the pseudonym Ragnar Redbeard.

It's an intemperate diatribe that would, in today's political climate, upset more than just a few people.

Another possible author suggested is an Australian by the name of Arthur Desmond. But the time frame, literary style and personality profile make London the most likely candidate. Not to mention that entire sections of Might is Right have been found written in London's own handwriting.

David Cranmer said...

It is very hard to believe considering what a Socialist he was his whole life. He was always giving handouts to any drifter that passed by. Interestingly, the bio I read (I'm pretty sure) didn't mention it. And according to the sometimes reliable Wikipedia: Claims that London was Redbeard come, in part, from Satanists; Anton LaVey thought him "the most likely candidate."

Still if sections were found written in his own hand that pre-date the release...

Kieran Shea said...

will check that out

Leah J. Utas said...

Those are wonderful quotes to chew on.

u.v.ray. said...

Yes. Anton LaVey lifted the first section of his Satanic Bible from Might is Right.

There is nothing particularly anti-social about Might is Right. Rather it is something of a rail against religions and political regimes that the author feels seek to crush natural human inclinations:

"For I stand forth to challenge the wisdom of the world; to interrogate the laws of man and of God. I request reasons for your Golden Rule and ask the why and wherefore of your ten commands. Before none of your printed idols do I bend in acquiescence and he who saith "thou shalt" is my mortal foe. I dip my finger in the watery blood of your mad redeemer (your Divine Democrat - your Hebrew madman) and write over his thorn-torn brow "the true prince of evil."

One might not agree with what they read in the book. But it is a powerfully written and poetic tome.

Alyssa Goodnight said...

I'd like to be a magnificent glow too.

I remember fondly reading Call of the Wild and White Fang...

David Cranmer said...

Kieran, Intriguing life that London.

Leah, The inspiration for our one thousand words a day though I'm not passing much beyond five hundred this week.

u.v.ray, You have piqued my interest, sir.

Alyssa, Same here with WILD and FANG. Since this bio I'm interested in branching out to some of his other novels and will begin MARTIN EDEN this week.

Chris said...

Great quotes. I'm a big fan of London myself; The Call of the Wild was a huge influence on me as a kid, and after re-reading it earlier this year I was reminded why.

Charles Gramlich said...

Ooh, I wanna read that. I'm a big fan of London's but didn't know about this book.

David Cranmer said...

Chris, WILD, without a doubt, was his Mona Lisa. It may be time for me to read it again as well.

Charles, You will enjoy it.

Oscar said...

Great quotes! A wild free man it sounds like.

Evan Lewis said...

Sounds like rejection slips haven't changed all that much. Except that the current trend seems to be no answer at all.

David Cranmer said...

Oscar, That he was.

Evan, Yep, I don't understand ignoring all together. That has happened to me as well. As ed I only did it by accident thus far to one guy: Nik Morton. Sorry again, Nik.

Chris said...

I'll take a rejection any day. But the ignoring bit . . . that irks me just to think about it.