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Jack London Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (2)  | Trivia (4)  | Personal Quotes (3)

Overview (3)

Born in San Francisco, California, USA
Died in Glen Ellen, California, USA  (uremic poisoning brought on by acute nephritis)
Birth NameJohn Griffith Chaney

Mini Bio (1)

Jack London was the best-selling, highest paid and most popular American author of his time.

He was born John Griffith Chaney, on January 12, 1876, in San Francisco. He was raised by his mother Flora Wellman and his stepfather John London (he didn't know who his father was until his adulthood). After graduation from a grammar school he worked 12 to 18 hours a day at a cannery. Jack had a special relationship with his black foster mother, Virginia (Jenny) Prentiss. She loaned him some money and in 1891 he bought a sloop and became an oyster pirate. A few months later he joined the California Fish Patrol. In 1893 he joined the crew of a sealing schooner, bound for Japan. His first story, "Typhoon off the Coast of Japan", based on his sailing experiences, was published in November of 1893. Still unemployed, he became a tramp and hoboed around the country. In 1894 he was arrested for vagrancy and spent a month in jail, where he was a witness to "awful abysses of human degradation." His entire life, after these events, became a race to erase the traumatizing memories of his childhood and youth.

He continued his self-education at the Oakland Public Library. Among his readings were works by Gustave Flaubert and Leo Tolstoy. In 1896 he was admitted to the University of California, but after a year was forced to leave due to financial reasons. In 1897 he went to the Canadian Yukon and joined the Klondike Gold Rush. There he experienced all the hardships of uncivilized life and suffered from--among other things--severe frostbite, scurvy, malaria and dysentery. This left his health seriously impaired. London's struggles for survival inspired "To Build a Fire" (1902), which is considered his best short story. Writing became his ticket out of poverty; a way, in his words, to "sell his brains". His first marriage to Bess Maddern began as a friendship, not love, and ended 3 years later, leaving her with two daughters. His second marriage to Charmian Kittrdge, an editor, lasted until his death.

"The Call of the Wild" (1903) was his biggest success. "The Sea-Wolf" (1904) was turned into the first full-length American movie. Later came "The Iron Heel" (1908), a premonition of the Orwellian world, and the autobiographical "Martin Eden" (1909). The highest-paid writer of his time, he earned over $2 million yet he was always broke. In 1905 he bought a ranch in California, where he designed the first concrete silo in the state. His books provided operating income. He once said, "I would write a book for no other reason than to add three or four hundred acres to my magnificent estate." His ecological approach and effort to adapt the ideas of Asian sustainable agriculture was ahead of his time. In 1913 his Big House was ruined by a devastating fire and Jack was financially and mentally hurt. He built a small cottage and made big plans, but he lived only 3 more years. His 1400-acre ranch is now a National Historic Landmark, named Jack London State Historic Park. The writer's cottage was preserved by his wife Charmian, who lived there until her death in 1955.

His changing views and philosophy were often misunderstood as he grew out of his own mistakes. At one time he wrote, "I have been more stimulated by [Friedrich Nietzsche] than by any other writer in the world." Later London disregarded the "superman" theory of Nietzsche, calling himself Nietschze's "intellectual enemy." His readings of Carl Jung contributed to his complex philosophy. His other influences ranged from Rudyard Kipling and Robert Louis Stevenson to Charles Darwin, Aldous Huxley and Karl Marx. While sympathizing with the Mexican revolution in "The Mexican", he wrote differently about it when he was sent to Mexico as a reporter in 1914. By age 40, somewhat disillusioned, he resigned from the Socialist party and from various clubs. During his last years London was in extreme pain, caused by complications from kidney failure (uremia is recorded on his death certificate). He was laid to rest at his ranch according to his will: "And roll over me a red boulder from the ruins of the Big House."

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Steve Shelokhonov

Spouse (2)

Charmian London (19 November 1905 - 22 November 1916) ( his death)
Elizabeth "Bessie" May Maddern (7 April 1900 - 18 November 1905) ( divorced) ( 2 children)

Trivia (4)

Pictured on a 25¢ US definitive postage stamp in the Great Americans series, issued 11 January 1986.
London became the best-selling, highest paid and most popular American author of his time.
Jack London wanted a son. His first wife, Bessie, gave him two daughters, Joan and Bess (Becky) London, and it is said that their marriage was "Victorian," that is, that they married because it was the "proper" thing to do. The real love of his life was Charmian, whom he met around the time of his marriage, and the day after Bessie finalized their divorce he married Charmian. They lived in happiness, sharing the same adventures, until his death.
His first story received 600 rejections before being accepted.

Personal Quotes (3)

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 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 proper function of man is to live, not exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them, I shall use my time.
You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.

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