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Jack and Leo

John Sutherland

27 July 1989
The Letters of Jack London 
edited by Earle Labor, Robert Leitz and Milo Shepard.
Stanford, 1657 pp., $139.50, October 1988, 0 8047 1227 1
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Tolstoy 
by A.N. Wilson.
Hamish Hamilton, 572 pp., £16.95, May 1988, 0 241 12190 6
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... Jack London has had difficulty emerging from the blur of his own heroic lies, his family’s whitewash, and the libels of his biographers. All accounts agree, however, that London’s was as mythic an American life as anything in Horatio Alger. Raised in grinding poverty, by the age of ten young Jack was up at three in the morning delivering newspapers to support his family ...

In a Boat of His Own Making

James Camp: Jack London

24 September 2014
Jack LondonAn American Life 
by Earle Labor.
Farrar, Straus, 439 pp., £21.99, November 2013, 978 0 374 17848 2
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The Sea-Wolf 
by Jack London.
Hesperus, 287 pp., £9.99, August 2013, 978 1 78094 200 1
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... Jack London’s​ writing routine was the single unchanging element of his relatively brief adult life. From the age of 22 until his death at 40, he wrote a thousand words every day, a quota he filled as a rule between 9 and 11 a.m. He slept for five hours a night, which left him with 17 hours of free time. But in his writing hours he was prolific: he produced short stories, poetry, plays, reportage, ‘hackwork’ and novels, many of them bestsellers ...

Wet Socks

John Bayley

10 March 1994
The Complete Short Stories of Jack London 
edited by Elrae Labour, Robert Litz and I. Milo Shepard.
Stanford, 2557 pp., £110, November 1993, 0 8047 2058 4
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... Man Who Would Be King’, which like all Kipling’s early tales made a great impression on Jack London. His own version, ‘An Odyssey of the North’, concerns an Aleutian Indian whose betrothed is stolen from him by a Norwegian seal poacher, a giant with a golden mane and the blood of the Vikings, much the same as the hero of Kipling’s ...
17 August 1989
This Boy’s Life 
by Tobias Wolff.
Bloomsbury, 292 pp., £12.95, April 1989, 0 7475 0274 9
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... Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life is the story of two boys, Toby and Jack. Toby is an ‘A’ grade student, a boy deeply concerned about the world’s esteem, a loyal support to his mother, destined for Princeton like his brother Geoffrey. Jack is a liar and a thief, graceless and violent ...
19 August 1982
John Buchan: A Memoir 
by William Buchan.
Buchan and Enright, 272 pp., £9.95, May 1982, 0 907675 03 4
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The Best Short Stories of John Buchan. Vol. II 
edited by David Daniell.
Joseph, 240 pp., £8.50, June 1982, 9780718121211
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... talent, to bring together A. E. W. Mason, George Douglas, Raffles, Gissing, Henry James and Jack London in the same series, and in the name of pleasure. One sees that the middlebrow had still not quite secured its grasp upon Britain. One’s sense of Buchan the man, as derived from the excellent and engaging memoir by his son William, is of someone ...

Solid Advice

Michael Wilding

8 May 1986
A Fortunate Life 
by A.B. Facey.
Viking, 331 pp., £10.95, February 1986, 0 670 80707 9
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... are able to write about work as ennobling or degrading find a way to escape into an easier life. Jack London was fending for himself as a 14-year-old, but the experience of the hardships of that life gave him the impetus to educate himself and to escape into writing. Bert Facey worked all his life. A Fortunate Life is his account of it, and the title is ...

Poor Jack

Noël Annan

5 December 1985
Leaves from a Victorian Diary 
by Edward Leeves and John Sparrow.
Alison Press/Secker, 126 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 436 24370 9
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... Leeves, an elderly expatriate, driven out of Venice by the Austrian bombardment, made his way to London. There he met Jack Brand, a trooper in the Blues. A month later Leeves went to Scotland to stay with the Queensberrys having fixed with Jack a day to meet on his return. ...

Fine Chances

Michael Wood

5 June 1986
Literary Criticism 
by Henry James, edited by Leon Edel.
Cambridge, 1500 pp., £30, July 1985, 0 521 30100 9
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Henry James: The Writer and his Work 
by Tony Tanner.
Massachusetts, 142 pp., £16.95, November 1985, 0 87023 492 7
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... a part. How does he look, posing for posterity alongside Poe, Jefferson, Melville, Mark Twain, Jack London, Harriet Beecher Stowe and others? Is he smiling at some of the company he is keeping; frowning momentarily at the presence of Whitman, who at first he thought was not a poet but a man merely ‘bullied by the accidents’ of experience? Does he ...

Isle of Dogs

Iain Sinclair

10 May 1990
Pit Bull 
by Scott Ely.
Penguin, 218 pp., £4.99, March 1990, 0 14 012033 5
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... the dog is a prick with teeth. What the beast believes, I do not pretend to know. I leave that to Jack London. My wife teaches in a borderland school. The place is invisible to those who cannot wait to escape from Hackney, who rush to their doom in a perpetual, honking stream, over the Lea and away into the comparative safety of Leyton, Whipps Cross and ...

Diary

Frank Kermode: American Books

1 April 1983
... on the score of timidity. It is hardly the kind of thing imaginable anywhere but in New York. London need fear no such disturbances. However, there is another enterprise afoot, also in its present form entirely American, at which the British might want to look with a more active or even an envious interest. The idea of a library of American literary ...

Anglo-America

Stephen Fender

3 April 1980
The London Yankees: Portraits of American Writers and Artists in England, 1894-1914 
by Stanley Weintraub.
W.H. Allen, 408 pp., £7.95, November 1979, 0 491 02209 3
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The Americans: Fifty Letters from America on our Life and Times 
by Alistair Cooke.
Bodley Head, 323 pp., £5.95, October 1979, 0 370 30163 3
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... The London Yankees has been warmly and widely noticed in this country, and (up to now, anyway) literary editors have set their heavies to the task of reviewing it. Why the fuss over what is, after all, no more than a lively compilation of literary biographies, a descriptive rather than analytical account that adds little to published materials already familiar to the reader interested in the subject? Because literary biography always fascinates; because lively books do not appear all that regularly; and also because of a certain pessimism about the cultural horsepower of Europe, as compared to America, which has been fashionable ever since Stephen Spender’s Love-Hate Relations ...

My Old, Sweet, Darling Mob

Iain Sinclair: Michael Moorcock

30 November 2000
King of the City 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 421 pp., £9.99, May 2000, 0 684 86140 2
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Mother London 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 496 pp., £6.99, May 2000, 0 684 86141 0
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... Around the time of the London mayoral election, that stupendous non-event in the calendar of civic discourse, posters appeared out of nowhere with the head of a man who wasn’t quite Frank Dobson. There was nothing peevish or pop-eyed about this citizen. The shirt was open-necked. The tilted look was watchful, eyes narrowed against bright light: a non-combatant shocked to find himself exposed on the hustings ...

So Very Silent

John Pemble: Victorian Corpse Trade

25 October 2012
Dying for Victorian Medicine: English Anatomy and Its Trade in the Dead Poor, c.1834-1929 
by Elizabeth Hurren.
Palgrave, 380 pp., £65, December 2011, 978 0 230 21966 3
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Dickens and the Workhouse: Oliver Twist and the London Poor 
by Ruth Richardson.
Oxford, 370 pp., £16.99, February 2012, 978 0 19 964588 6
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... But they bequeathed a vivid legend. Recent redevelopment of the Middlesex Hospital site in London revealed that its outpatients’ department used to be the Strand Union Workhouse. It’s also been discovered that Dickens once lived in the same street, and the Georgian workhouse has been saved from demolition because it’s reckoned, on evidence ...

At Home in the Huntington

John Sutherland: The Isherwood Archive

10 June 1999
... increasingly mid-Atlantic, Thirties drawl was hard to hear above the din of the Angry Young Men in London and the Wild Men of New York (novelists who stabbed their wives in the stomach). As a screenwriter, Isherwood has credits on The Great Sinner (a Dostoevsky biopic), a vehicle for Shirley Temple, and a treatment of Carson McCullers’s Reflections in a ...
7 March 1991
Downriver 
by Iain Sinclair.
Paladin, 407 pp., £14.99, March 1991, 0 586 09074 6
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... time, at the end of his tether, in a city of the near future with a hallucinatory resemblance to London. The decisive influence on this grisly dystopia is surely the grand master of all dystopias, William Burroughs. Jack Kerouac, asked for a quote for the jacket of The Naked Lunch, said ...

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