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tv   Life and Legacy of Jack London  CSPAN  November 24, 2016 10:00pm-12:00am EST

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time to approach the museum and enter. thank you. you're watching american history tv. during congressional breaks, follow us on twitter, like us on facebook and find our programs and schedule on our web site
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thank you. bruce. hello my name is mark levine. i'm an affiliated scholar. program today is called jack london, apostle of the american west. and it's being coupon sorried by stanford university library ris. as bruce was describing, the center is dedicated to advancing scholarship and public presentation on the past, future of western north america. this is very appropriate pan ford for them. and the university library comprehensive range both digital formats in support of research and construction here at
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stanford. today we ingnaw grate a new center. it is designed to place a spotlight on the humanities in the american west. arts west offers the stanford community, innovative public programming on the writers' artists and cultural leaders that make it further ground for artistic vision. it offers two distinctive series t great writers of the west focuses on western literary heritage and the great artist of the west elevates the western liberal arts. . we begin today with jack london whose legacy endures 100 years since his death in 1916. we have gathered a stellar cast.
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experts and scholars to share with us insight into the man's unique biography. and his relationship and influence on western fiction. he also had a deep connection to stanford, even though he briefly attended uc berkeley. he often lectured. involved with a stanford graduate student, who remained life long friends and colleagues. and the stanford university press published his letters and complete works. our program today will consist of four presenters, followed by audience participation. our speakers today are the
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following and they're extended by -- it was in the program so i will not bore you with that information. it's there. we begin with sue and jean reece man, sue is with the hundreding ton library and jean is university of texas at san antonio and both of them will be giving us presentation today. then followed will be peter blaja, historian with the huntington library. people will be talking about the era in which jack london lived in california. lastly we'll have donna campbell from washington state university. donna will be talking about jack london, his relation to western europe and other writers so far. and she said she's going to talk a little bit about the bah ham
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yeenl growth. it should be quite interesting. there will be a reception immediately held which is out in the red lounge. make sure to tor in the red lounge, pop up exhibit of memorabilia, which was loaned to the university today courtesy of sarah and anderson benefit, the program is being filmed by cspan and the web cast will appear in early october. the web site address is west dot stanford dot edu. lastly, i think my excellent teammate who is helped me organize today's wond iful
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event. lane center associated director who helped keep me on target and ms. natalie, our gifted graduate student cue rated the exhibit. we also thanked the university library ris and the center for the arts for supporting this effort. i please ask you to turn off all mobile devices and cell phone. i turn it over to bruce king, director of the lain center, they'll be moderating the new we wenter. i think one minor change i think gene is going to go first.
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okay. achieving lasting global acclaim with the call of the wild in 1903, london's brief but remarkably productive career took him to many far away places in the world and allowed him contact with diverse cultures, some ton the brink of disappearance and others
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undergoing dramatic change. london sailed aboort a pacific sealed vessel. jussed an office and reverse the km pli meanted the poor. the end of war in 1904 and the u.s. invasion of the cruise in 1914 as war correspondent. he toured top universities on socialist speaking engagements, urging the children of harvard and yell to spoke about it. he covered the sanfran ses koeest quake.
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he to unorthodoxed. london's writings have come under new writing by scholars but also for what they teach us about dynamic cultural and historical issues of the era. there has been class jus tus, race, imbrags and u.s. impeerlism. though, nearly, any bookstore in the world offers a selection when i heard it. up until now the absence photographed through book shell
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efs was a glaring and someone around the world. photos, up until recently had very points about them. london himself was one of the most imgrayed likely known that he was one of the leading photo kournlists in his day. during certain international news events, would be a drop cal, oun wf hoiz cleser collaborators was honored, a stanford kbrabed aroun.
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rodeo, and parade. young mothers with their children, the women's market of -- in the solomon island. the sneering lips of white slave traders. before the ship, her view of indigenous people and their cultures would have been painted. any learned in his student days from leading scholars at berkeley and stanford. after the boy developed to
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resemble france boax thanes then. london sense of the potential of human drama comes through in his photos, especially which focus on hue minnesota fa-- the ill a the disenfranchised. he rarely di min niches his subjects, their dignity and self predominant. most of captain's native and neither personal or is information. the nay vifs are not types in his work nor alien. his friends especially in those many expressive faces he ap which you ared from aum people, struggling, homelessness, oppression, natural disassic.
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invasion, colonization, racism, slavery, disease, et cetera. london documented issues of lasting global and significant issue. he was there with his note pad and cam rad one at a time and places in most people had ever seen anyone this different, there to witness some of the most defining rachel news, in the urn of the century. they're trer vor trolls there. 's always living there unt scene untim today have much to tell us about the people who lived then at home and abroad pictured by one of the times most imtre mid at these events. ♪ . we're going to play a lirtle tag
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team so jean will be back. . on the slide projector you can see jack london as he was set to be in the city of london and that was in 1982. >> in 1982 she was oppressed upon by legal to report on the after fath of his new york. he did not get associate withholding back, they said, cancel that, there's nobody tell so come home. he said, let's not to that. he wasn't going to turn and go on. he had always wanted to spend time living in the poorest of the cities. london wanted to see for himself, he always wanted to see erg for himself to understand exactly what was going on and
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the situation. so he spent seven weeks living in the east end. the first thing he did was go to pun r pawnshop and that you see jook on the right to his right, to our left is a man that we only know az bert. my frayed jacket was the badge, which was tlar class. it made me a like kiechbd and in place of the fawning and two respectful attention i hithered to receive. i shared with them a conrad
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ship. it was mate now and a fine and hardy word with a tingle to it and a warmth and gladness, which the other term does not possess. so london ventured out on to the streets of the east end of the city and began experiencing and witnessing all of the riggers and do depravation and degradation of life among the poor and homeless. he wrote back home to his good friends george in california. i've read of missouri and seen of it. this beats anything i could everybody have imagined, actually, i have seen things and looked a second time in order to convince myself that it was really so. this, i know. the stuff i'm turning out that is his writing will have will never seen magazine poublicatio.
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you'll read some of my efforts to depict it some day. well, he wrote in rather short order a nonfiction study of poverty called the people of the abis. years later after he written most of his 50 books in just 40 years of life. he commented that that was the book that meant the most to him and took the most out of him as a young man. one can see why, to read it is to experience the life that the people experienced on a daily level. >> one of the aspects of the poor that london particularly felt was the sad and tragic is the plight of the children. you'll see it recurring theme of childhood and child likeness throughout all of the pictures that we show you today.
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london loved children and he loved promise the innocence of children, so in the east end of london, he looked at the energy, the innocence, the high spirits of the children and knew that in a life of hardship and poverty, those qualities and the purity of the children would never last, but all too soon they would be degraded by a life of dep pra vadepravation. he wish that society and political culture will change to allow those children to grow up to have a future. at another part of the people of the abis he wrote this, we went up the narrow gravelled walk on the benches on either side was a raid amass of miserable and distorted humanity, the sight of which impelled to diabolical flights of fancy than he ever received to achieving. it was a welter of all manner of
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loaf and skin diseases, grossness, indecency, leering and faces. these creatures huddled there, sleeping for the most part or trying to sleep. there were a dozen women hudded there sleeping for the most part or trying to sleep. it was the sleeping that puzzled me. why were nine out of ten of them asleep or trying to sleep, but it was not until afterward that i learned. it is the law of the powers that be that the homeless shall not sleep by night. this is a view of the line of homeless men waiting outside the salvation army shelter for a dinner and a place to sleep over
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night. london experienced this, as well. he stood in line. he had to get there as early in the day as you could. it might be on a day that you have nothing to eat all day and you went and stood in line. you might have to wait for four, five six hours to get a place in the salvation army or other shelter. if you were lucky enough to get in you would get dinner and a bed, before dinner you had to listen to an hour long sermon. london makes no bones about it in his book, he was appalled by that, that people who were weak from lack of sleep and food were made to sit on a hard bench through a hard sermon before they could get any food. he was critical of all of the charitable groups, including the salvation army. it was with some enjoyment that i found in collection of the papers years later i found a we seept for a check that he had written donating to the salvation army.
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i was please head got his kind of disapproval of their actions at that time. london was a great admirer of oscar wild, especially a pamphlet that he wrote called "soul of man" even though i could often figure, they agreed completely on socialism and its hopes and dreams. the best among the poor are never grateful. they are ungrateful, discontented, disobedient and rebellious. charity they feeled to be a ridiculously inadequate part of social restitution, usually accompanied by some impertinent attempt on the part of the sentimentalist to tir ranny.
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he writes, oh, the joy of meeting with them. they are entities. the girl who slanged or spoke in slang, the criminals who shamelessly plied their trays et cetera, et cetera. i was puzzled by that word "entities" i read it again and again, so i checked it out in the oxford english dictionary, one of the means of the word entity is a person who is a real person to wrecken with. comfortable with him or her herself and able to meet the world open faced full forward.
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he admired the people who stood up for themgss and he always did. the city was the source of poverty and a polluted place that stavred both the soul and the body. he looked to the soil and rural life as a place that would restore physical hemt and psychological well being. when he found the land he wanted in 1905 in the sonoma valley, he wrote to the editor, 130 acres of the most beautiful, primitive land to be found anywhere in california. like so many immigrants before him who had traveled over land or around the horn to reach the land of golden dreams, london recognized the special meaning and opportunity of california he
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believes that his ranch would be a socialist model that would benefit people and he determined to establish a part of the ranch as a res bit where labor workers from oakland and other cities could come for hellful rest and recovery. in 1911, he decided to launch a three-month journey north. covering 1,500 miles took to oregon and back. which some of my friends refer to as my best seller, which
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equals only the paradise by adam. the theme of healing by return to the soil occupied london for the final years of his life in such stories as canyon and such novels as the valley of the moon. in this 1913 novel, the valley of the moon, we see the protagonist replicate jack four horse trip as they journey through the country side fleeing the lives of work beast in oakland in search of their own belly of the moon where they may find health and peace in the beauty of the land. here is a quote from the point in the novel where they come upon the valley of their dreams all the eastern sky was blushing
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to rose which descended upon the mountains touching them with wine and ruby. rising, inundating, drowning them in its purple. in which and wine wooded burned and smoldered. it was aromatic. oe oats of many sorts, ferns and grapes grew lush beside the stream. well in great contrast to the peace and came april 18th, 1906
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and i think we all know what happened that morning the great san francisco earthquake struck. here we see a page from the diary and she has headed that notation in red letters, earthquake. they were living at wake robin lodge and they were awakened, they got on horse back to ride all over the land and see what the damage was. they hopped a train to santa rosa and observed and then they hopped a train coming down to san francisco and did the same thing. they spent 24 hours walking all through san francisco and got out in a little skiff out on the bay to look back on the city that had undergone such devastating ruin. he called it the story of
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eyewitness and his was the first eyewitness account of the earthquake and fire to be published about the san francisco tragedy. here is a little section near the begins, in which you'll hear short telegraphic sentences that give you the immediacy of being there on sight. not in history has modern been so completely destroyed. san francisco is gone, nothing remains of it but memories of fringe of dwells houses. its industrial section is wiped out. the factories and wear houses, the great stores and newspaper buildings the hotel and palaces are all gone. remains only the fringe of dwelling houses on the out skirts of what was once san
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francisco. here we see the west side looking north on larkin street from city hall. san francisco stock exchange,
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everyone money couldn't survive. saint frap sis of the church from montgomery avenue. and here we see dupont street.
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jack wrote this, within an hour after the earthquake shot, the smoke of san francisco burning was a tower, reddening the sun, darkening the day and filling the land with smoke. i'm going to turn it back to gene now. [ applause ] [ applause ] [ applause ] [ applause ] we turn to japan. the war of 1904 is not very well remembered today, but it was a great great significant at the time, as it was the first time an asian nation had beaten the
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european one, the czar and the emperor of japan competed for control of eastern asia and sea ports. the world did not think japan was capable of fighting the russians, they the entire russian feet at port arthur in one day in a surprise attack and the war was on. london was set by the sind cat to cover the news. he was extremely frustrated at japanese censorship while attached to their troops. he kept getting arrested and sent back with the other correspondents. the japanese did not want the high cost of their own men to be publicized. london saw only one battle, the battle of the river, which was decisive. but because he could not photograph action, he turned his to the lives of every day people behind the lines who had been effected by the war, beggars, ordinary villagers, village leaders, japanese soldiers with
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their injured feet. he made more photographs here that almost anywhere else. arrested twice in the process, teddy roosevelt was the one to get him out of court marshal in japan. you'll notice here that london is shown with a japanese officer as though he's sort of our man, discussing the war -- that didn't work out. and you'll notice the -- of the stand camera with the cloth, that is not what he used. he was portraying the people that were victimized, but the -- so he was somehow america's representative. that's on the passenger ship on the way, where unfortunately jack fell off the part of the
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deck and broke both ankles which was going to trouble him for the rest of his life. this is caught on to in harbor, man making pipes and soul and this one he called barber. this is a picture of the japanese and here you'll notice something that i hope you'll continue to notice, his gifted eye competition, especially with leanier convergences, "ditches were broken down, they scored with great grooves by the wagon wheels and every the patient and peasant people and one received gazing into the faces of the men who had done these thing an impression of strength. this is a little village he says "arrive at the village people scared to death.
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already have had russian and japanese soldiers we put the finishing touch. they swear they have no room for us, no fuel, no charcoal, no food for our horses. we stormed the village, force our way into the stables, captured 25 pound of barly hidden in a man's trousers and so forth and so forth for two mortal hours and this is but one of the days." this is the red cross wagon, about which he writes an entire disspach. you can see what's happening, the snow comes, it melts, it comes, it melts, the russians
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were assailed from three sides. the day was loss, they knew it. they fought on. night was falling as the japanese drew closer, the russians turned loose their horses, destroyed or threw away their guns. bayonet encountered bayonet and threw handkerchieves a token of surrender. this is the japanese army entering what they call -- in korea. next day, early, we found the reed as far as the eye could see from past to past in the crest of the passes, gorged with
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baggage trains coming and going and double lines. there were squads of calgary and detachments, offices mounted and officers afoot. parties of the red cross outfit, bunches of pioneers drifting along and repairing the rode, men of the telegraph port work on the military wires, bullet carts, packed bullets trains of little and korean ponies, tiny jackasses, squealing horses and all down through it alone, looking neither to the right nor the left, but heading south with curious eyes and face for a land where peace still smile. as i write this a thousand soldiers are passing through, my men are busy drawing and horses for the army. these are his fellow correspondents watching that
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battle. exhausted japanese soldiers. this man was the former russian ambassador to sol and that little horse was name jack ended up owning it after the ambassador was es skorted out of the country and he named her bell and that's the first horse he ever learned to ride. the morses fight. cook and interpret or squabbling four feet away from me. korean family, refugees their
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household goods on their back just went by. now, he made too portrait series in korea, which shows artistic intent. in other words he was not snapping snapshots. "for days we had forced our horses along a road which swarmed with white clad coollies. their soldiers were stooped forward, their faces bent towards the ground, their face burdened, all the food supply. the villages were desert t. protesting against the general devastation, here and there along the road, old men and women and children sold food to the toiling kood dis the first series of children and their numerous photographs of them, or fan children of sol.
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this small girl has smaller sister on her back. this boy is probably about four years old working to sweep the street for something to eat. the second series involve young man. some of them are ordinary citizens. but the way he catches the faces shows his intent on. the focus was on the healing cost of war, not really narrating battles, correspondents such as jimmy took photographs of sunken ships but he wants to see people's faces, thus old children, old people -- i mean, children, old people and even the sufferings of the japanese enlisted men caught his camera. well, now, we move to the south
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seas and the cruise of the snark from 1907 to 1909. it seems odd that a man newly remarried, having thought the beginning and extensive branch and embarked upon a highly rewarding writing career would spend a small fortune to have a sailboat built and try to sail it around the world with his wife and small amateur crew. but that is what london did claiming that he learned navigation aboard the first week. i tried that for my students i didn't get past page two. the collapse of every necessary system or structure abort.
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the snark had been smashed in an accident before they left. she would not come about if. i can talk more about that during questions and answers. his reason for sailing, he says "i like." here is the sea, the wind and the wave. here are the seas, the winds and the waves of all the world, here is ferocious environment. and here is difficult adjustment, the achievement of which is delight to the small and quivering vanity, which is eye. i like. i am so maid.
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the golden gate was the opening to the gold of the orient and all of the south seas. london's west expanded to include much of what use to be called the pacific realm today. "now, i leave it to you, he says, whoever heard of a sailing boat that wouldn't heed to a sea anchor to help him, out of my brief experience with boats, i know i never did and i stood on deck and looked at the naked face of the infant sea, the snar f that wouldn't heed to, a stormy night with broken moonlight had come on it was a splash of wet in the air. and up to winter, there was a promise of rain squalls and then there was the trough of the sea, if you're in a trough horizontal to the waves you capsize. and this snark complacently rolled and then we took in the
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sea anchor hoisted and ran the snark off before and went below. and to listen to the water spouting knee high on the gally floor. here they are yale valley in maui. london's powerful curiosity about other communities and individuals around the globe took him west. yes, they made it to the mar kay sus. solo mon, australia. along the way he photographed men, women and children in a variety of settings and
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photograph the whites that now controlled their lives, missionary traders government officials. wonderful. his friends in honolulu, when he was lie niezed by all of the wealthy, or white people who belonged or been in hawaii for a long time, but they made a mistake, lauren, the editor of the honolulu advertisers took to maui, i'm sorry, of ohau. there he discovered the mix of nationalities whose slavery
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fuelled the island economy. i'd say like sharecropping, really, found it difficult to get out of him. the hawaii want, chinese and japanese, and portuguese plantation workers, he was flung out of favor among the powerful when he wrote and photographed these people and settlement. here is the famous that went at 500 records. in tahiti they met a man called nature man, who was an early proponent and socialism and eventually run off by the french who got tired of his red wag.
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was a pilot and character in his works. he can see the tenderness of some of these photographs. a prince and a somoian princess. this man is called bob. he's the bottle for the story. this photograph great consternation at mcmilllen, can you guess why? it's not the naked savage. it's the fact that the white woman is in the same frame with the naked savage. we can talk about that in a bit. this was another photograph that mcmilllen witch to excise from the book. an 18-year-old boy who managed to join and later became a worldwide adventurer with his wife, osa johnson. this was a hasish party.
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the gentleman there -- well my left is george darby sher, one of the owners of the plantation. oh, sorry. and on the right, solomon island cocra plantation. they dried coconut meat for soap for proctor and gamble. he and his wife were kikied in 1914. that means eaten. this is one of my very favorite pictures, and i'll just say a few words and turn things back over to sue. this family is in the gilbert islands. they are cannibals. london somehow gets them, and one thing you'll notice about them, they have on all their finest jewelry and decorations, but what they all have is a cigarette or a pipe. tobacco in that place is money. so they are showing you their
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new rolex, their new porsche. london gets it. and if you look at it, you have to understand he was flat on the ground to get that shot. he often shoots up on the natives to ennoble them. they went aboard a slave ship, which was nearly overrun by angry islanders. they were saved by the local missionary. these are all inhe solomon islands. and there is jack saying good-bye with his camera. [ applause ] >> thank you. >> i just want to utter a half dozen words to sum up the entire show of the photography. jack london's literary idol was the novelist joseph conrad. conrad wrote, "my task is before all to make you see that and no more and yet it is everything. if i succeed, you shall find
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there, according to your desserts, encouragement, consolation, fear, charm, all you demand. and perhaps also that glimpse of truth for which you have forgotten to ask. thank you." [ cheers and applause ] >> next up is peter blodgett. >> thank you, bruce, and i'm >> thank you, bruce, and i'm happy that i managed to navigate past my cospeaker donna campbell without having landed either on her or over her. it's a bit crowded quarters, but i trust that by the end of the program, you'll agree that having the four of us up here was worth it.
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well, let me offer particular thanks to mark and preedy for their marvelous management of today's festivities, though in doing so let me also say that, really, i'm sure we didn't need quite so warm a welcome. but i do appreciate it nonetheless. my part in the festivities, of course, is to speak about jack london's west, or the west in which jack london found himself. i'm the outlier here. i'm a historian, and i bow to the knowledge of my colleagues about london and am going to safely avoid most reference to him in the course of my remarks today. although as a proper historian, i do share my profession's belief in the significance of contingency in history. i am also fully aware of the dangers relying upon coincidence as the framework for any argument.
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nonetheless, in undertaking my portion of this appraisal of jack london's life and career, there are some irresistible coincidences at the moments of jack london's arrival and departure, to which i must refer in framing my remarks here today. let me begin, therefore, by teasing out certain historical adjacencies to jack london's birth. it was, of course, as any of us sbla january 10th, 1876, it was, of course, as any of us who are not completely numerically challenged realize the year of the american centennial, including the great exhibition in philadelphia that year. it's the year alexander graham bell had his success in
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communicating with his mr. watson through his pioneering efforts with the telephone. it's the year of the -- and this is, i hope, not forecasting what this year may bring us, but it is the year of the hayes tilden presidential contest, one of the most bitterly disputed in american history, that ended up hanging upon the disputed electoral ballots of south carolina, louisiana, and -- wait for it -- florida. it is the year of the publication in britain and the united states of the adventures of tom sawyer, and, of course, as i'm sure our distinguished panelists will elaborate upon, it's intriguing to see how those two grand meteors of 19th century american letters would
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intertwine themselves over time. most intriguingly, at least to me as an historian of the west, it is also the year in which george armstrong custer on june 25th of that year and then less than two months later "wild bill" hickok on august 2nd transformed to their realm in american mythology, entering the great pantheon of americans who are winners by virtue of being losers. certainly true of custer and, to a degree, i think, one could say that of hickok, as well, thousand i've never had and hope not to at any time in the near future, had the pleasure of aces and eights, the fabled dead man's hand that hickok had drawn just before jack mccall put an end to his career as a gambler
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and turned him into a hero. so i am here to look at the west in the 40 years that london was present with us. of course, that has to begin with the west of the gilded age, as several people have already mentioned. derived, as we all know, from mark twain and charles dudley warner's 1873 novel, "the gilded age: a tale of today," this for the decade spanned the last quarter of the 19th century has established itself as the irresistible metaphor. not only for the cynical malfeasance and unrelenting corruption of those years, but as the characteristic description of the epitome of such behavior in any other time and place, including, of course, as we see today, any number of
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people resurrecting it for our own time. but what is the west in that era? well, it's the region that spans the continent from the mississippi river to the pacific slope, is one in which the extraction of wealth from often obdurate realms of land and sea is the essential aspect of the american west. it is extracted industries that are essential, such things as mining, livestock raising, and agricultural more generally. those are the key things for the entire region. there is, of course, a handful of cities.
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the one just a little distance from here, the one whose name, of course, should never pass the lips of any angeleno. san francisco, folks, it's okay. and which the center of american society in the west was already taking place, but really outside of a handful of urbanized locations, was an era in which the pursuit of opportunity was one in which it involved extracting wealth from some aspect of the landscape. it's also an era characterized by that aggressive pursuit of opportunity by millions, while at the same time a great many others were denied access at all to the opportunity for wealth, denied the opportunity for
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liberty, and in some instances denied the opportunity even for life itself. if you look at the effects of american expansion upon the indigenous peoples of the west, if you look at the treatment of mexican-americans, chinese, japanese, or other immigrants of color. it's certainly an era of staggering economic gyrations, including the panics of 1873 and 1893 that would have significant impacts upon the west for years at a time, and it's an era of oligarchy. that's pretty clear. not merely in the center of the
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country or the eastern states, you know, the rockefellers, the guggenheims and other economic figures of great wealth whose fortunes are even now taking shape, but in particular figures here in the far reaches of the country, huntington, mark hopkins, leyland stanford and charles crocker, of course, the celebrated or infamous big four of american railroad history. it is at the same time, however, the moment at which there are cultures of descent and opposition that are already beginning to appear. and as much as the extracted industries would characterize the west, the response of individuals to the oppression that so many involved in those industries would suffer would
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become absolutely crucial for defining this landscape, as well. it's also important to remember, though, it wasn't merely the age of the gilded, but also the era of progressivism. for the descent, the opposition that was beginning to coalesce at the end of the 19th century was certainly taking shape as part of a series of significant movements, beginning, of course, with populism and really coalescing in particular with the progressives of the very early part of the 20th century. the urbanization of the region played no part of that. so many of those who supported progressivism were of the middling classes, people of sufficient means to pursue their
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opportunities while not so economically well healed as to be leaders of the oligarchs of the west. it was also a time in which, especially in california, but elsewhere, as well, americans began to become increasingly unquiet about what the results of the impact of these great oligarchs of resource development would be. leading to the kinds of pursuit of resource preservation that would characterize much of the 20th century. it's an era of accelerating technological advance in nearly every field of extracted industry. that would be a development that would have enormous importance upon the bright pool of
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unskilled laborers who made up the west's working classes, and it was also an era that would begin to stress, along with or in concert with theodore roosevelt, the tribune of the progressive era, the importance of immersing one's self in the outdoors, which roosevelt in his so characteristic fashion, described as the strenuous life. that life of toil and effort, of labor, that ensures the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or bitter toil will win the splendid ultimate triumph. it is certainly an era in which both prosperity and poverty, to steal a line from the social reformer henry george, characterized the landscape of the west, it was, however, in the imagination of americans an era powered by the unrelenting flood tide of tales of adventure and fortune that emanated from
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the hastily understood landscapes of the west as early as 1849 here in california. the mythological west of unlimited opportunity and heroic episodes that rapidly took shape after the civil war and came to dominate every medium of popular entertainment it would encounter. this is, of course, the west of the imagination that takes up the wild west shows. and later the great popular writers, great only in the sense of their success in selling their wares, such as owen wister and the first western film, such as "the great train robbery," in which americans were absolutely
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inundated with the renderings of popular culture. it's worth noting, for example, that between two of those moments, the appearance of the virginian, 1902, and the great train robbery, 1903, came "call of the wild." i would argue that much of what could be characterized as western fiction, western popular entertainment, does not necessarily lead us directly into jack london, and that is
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all i'm going to say on that topic, because you have someone much more skilled to lead you into the notion of london and western literature. i would just say that it's important to remember that the west as conceived by these writers, was really a landscape of -- that could be seen as opening, conquering, and settling the transmississippi west and the literature that described those events is really abstracted from those experiences, their distinctive virtues that were thought by many americans to have been
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infiltrated in the race, as they would have called it at that time, as the nation passed through the era from the beginning of the fur trade to that of the conclusion of the indian wars.
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"intolerance," a great example of the kind of interest in cinema that london, of course, himself exemplified in his later years. and sadly for most of us here in this room, it also saw v. union pacific railroad company, which unfortunately for all of us upheld the revenue act of 1913, which, of course, established the income tax as having -- as it was accepted by the 16th amendment to the constitution. it was, on a more serious note, also london's death, that is, nearly three weeks after woodrow wilson was re-elected president, winning the crucial votes of california, that is the electoral votes, by a mere 3,800 votes in the popular election. though wilson was the candidate
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who kept us out of war, much of that year could hardly be described as pacific, except, perhaps, in your view of the ocean. the mexican revolution spilled over into the united states with poncho villas attacks. the easter rising in dublin, attempting to overthrow british rule over the long suffering island of ireland. the abandonment of british efforts to knock the ottoman empire out of the first world war with their evacuation of the expedition and at verdon and the psalm, the agonizing continuation of the slaughter of a generation continued on the squalid battlefields of france. these are moments in the historical landscape which i
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think are important and worth considering for they offer us a framework of how america would be unfolding in the coming generations. it can at least be said, however, that american historical landscape was richer for the -- at least for the presence of london's interpretations of it. the writings that he left for his audience at the time and for those of generations to come upon the passage of his life on november 22nd, 1916. thank you. >> okay, donna.
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>> okay. i promise you 22 minutes of vast sweep, so i can only hit a few things in there. oh, sorry. sorry. the california writer jack london encouraged readers to see his works as an extension of his life in which action, adventure, and writing seemed to be mixed in equal proportions. london represented his own life as a story in which he rose from working class poverty and long days as a child laborer to become an oyster pilot, sailor on a sea hunting ship, a seal hunting ship, a prospector during the klondike gold rush, a war correspondent, and a rancher. like mark twain, london embraced his status as a celebrity author and became internationally
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famous for his life and adventures, as well as his writing. what london did not embrace celebrity for its own sake. he worked steadily as a writer for nearly 20 years before his early death at age 40, turned out 1,000 words a day before publishing 40 books, 22 novellas, short stories, five volumes of essays and travel sketches, two memoirs, three plays, not to mention the journalistic pieces that funded his travel to the south seas, korea, and mexico. as jack london biographer notes, by december 31st, 1914, the mcmillan company alone had sold nearly 1 million copies of his books and he was now the highest paid author in america. the northland tales, including to build a fire and "call of the wild" made him famous. "the sea wolf" and "white fang" confirmed his literary reputation, and his short stories, including those written late in life, are now considered to be his most psychologically complex works.
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above all, he was, as the title of this symposium has it, an apostle of the american west, a tireless chronicler and son of california. from his days in oakland and san francisco, to his promoting of farming methods near glen ellen. today i want to give a brief overview not of london's many other lives, but of his literary life and contributions to american fiction, including a few of the influences on his fiction, the literary climate of the u.s. when his work was first published, his mentoring of and relationships with his contemporaries, his influence on other writers, and his contributions to american fiction. so, jack london was not in the first wave of western writers the california bohemians such as bret hart, mark twain, and charles warren stoddard seen here with george sterling. london was mentored by one of their number, though, later the poet laureate of california as
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the librarian of the oakland public library, she as london later wrote, was the first to encourage this thirsty hungry little kid and compliment him on his choice of books. london read widely and traveled history, anthropology, science, and philosophy, citing darwin's origin of species and herbert spencer's philosophy of style as influential but also mapped out an ambitious reading program, one of two volumes he took to the klondike with him. as well as robert browning, edgar allan poe, robert louis stevenson, and roger kipling. i would never have written the way i did had kipling never been. but london was no mere imitator of kipling and he initially had a difficult time getting his work published. among the problems was the literary climate of the times. the literary climate at the beginning of london's career was divided between the well established literary east,
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centered first in boston and then new york, and the roughneck west, but by london's day influenced by darwin and the emerging science of anthropology, theodore roosevelt, whom we've heard about, and others, began to worry about the united states becoming too soft and overcivilized, a culture of molly coddles, as roosevelt put it, instead of red bloods. roosevelt, pictured here in presidential splendor and in the cowboy garb of his days in south dakota had overcome a sickly childhood to become an apostle of what he called the strenuous life. as roosevelt showed in his own books, the time was right for literature to follow suit. when london began his career, however, historical romances and the genteel realism of the previous generation still held sway, as london shows in his novel "martin eden." the high priest of realism never
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reviewed jack london, but london did not hesitate to caricature him in "martin eden" as a, quote, ponderous bromide and favorite of english professors, microscopic minded parrots. so, the later novels of henry james, another realist writer, frustrated london as indeed they did james' good friend because of their focus on interior consciousness with very little action. a story that sinclair louis told about london suggests the difference between the two. jack picked up james' the wings of the dove and standing there, short, burly, soft shirt and black tie read allowed in a bewildered way while henry james' sliding, slithering, glittering verbiage unwound itself on and on. itself on and on..
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jack banged the book down and yelled, do any of you even know what this junk is about? so howell's dominance and that of the high cultured literary magazines was slipping away with the new century. for newer popular magazines such as "the saturday evening post," the call went out for good easy reading for the people, no frills, no fine finishes, but action, action, always action. london could provide the action, as could a host of other writers such as rex beach and richard harding davis. what london could add, however, was a deeper significance to the tales of action based on his scientific theories, aligned with literary naturalism. in contrast to howells and james, who chronicled civilized behavior, london wrote of a world in which heredity and environment ruled human behavior and the primal impulses of human beings were barely concealed behind civilization. this was shared by its contemporary steven crain,
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theodore drieser and feller californian novelist frank norris. beginning with his tales of the klondike, animals and human beings, he showed the brute within with his theme of atavism, the accumulation of primitive traits from prehistoric ancestors. balancing out tendencies with the teachings of civilization, london's characters were forced to balance ethical principles of comradeship and fair play with the realities of their desperate situations, a situation he explored in the "call of the wild." reviewers took note when london burst on to the literary scene with "the call of the wild," described as red bloodied, vigorous, primitive, "the call of the wild" seemed to introduce a breath of fresh air. the story of buck, a dog, who reverts to his ancestral wolfish nature is the, quote, hard laid bear and a book untouched by its bookishness, kind of a double-edged compliment there. an instant classic, it introduced the phrase "a call of
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the wild" into the american lexicon as you can see by its rise in popularity after 1903. so with a bold stroke of "the call of the wild," london set the course for changing the new century of american literature in terms of his style, subject matter, and treatment. london's style, which featured bold, clear, and vigorous prose blasted through fiction, subject matter of human beings ignored by polite realism, oppressed workers, boxers, tramps, by polite realism, oppressed workers, boxers, tramps, prisoners, revolutionists and the rest, opened new realms for writing about real life. his treatment was accompanied by a complexed new approach to gen res consigned to leisure reading or a juvenile story. so having made his mark, this is
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the most of caramel we're going to get, london was eager to share what he had learned, not only with those who had encouraged him, george sterling, blanch gentry among others, but aspiring writers that sought his council. note mary austin's braids there. those will come back into play. so among those who benefited from london's advice were western women writers. to frequent ranch visitor and future journalist, london said, be careful not to prune away all the strength. the world will always buy strength, admonishing her surprisingly enough to look at the strength of jane austen. writer francis marian, born in san francisco, credited london, a friend of her father's, with telling her to write about real things. "if you expect to write stories
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pulsing with real life, you must go forth and live," he said. inspired by this advice she got a job in a factory, mistakenly hit another worker with a peach and was promptly fired. yet she persisted. she launched a successful collaboration and later worked as a screenwriter for mgm, winning an academy award in 1930 for her screenplay of "the prisoner picture." rose wilder lane, daughter of laura ingalls wilder, was inspired by london and wrote the first biography of him for sunset magazine. when charmian london threatened a lawsuit over the book publication she lightly fictionalized the biography into a novel she called "he was a man." mary austin, london had a closer professional relationship with mary austin, best known for "the land of little rain," her novel about the water project. as an old friend from their days at carmel, austin felt free not merely to praise, but take him
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to task. the truth is, jack, that the one thing that keeps you from being the great writer of your generation is your incapacity to understand my kind of women. you don't know anymore about us than a stallion knows about eagles, to use your kind of figure. so, this apparently amused jack and his wife for written on the back of the envelope are two comments in their handwriting, she seems very egotistic, so much so she almost thinks you can't live without her. upton sinclair had personal, as well as professional ties to jack london, for he had recruited london to be the celebrity president of the intercollegiate socialist society in 1905. sinclair was also associated
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with the progressive era group of authors who, like london, wrote for mcclure's magazine and exposed social injustice and corruption. called mock rakers by theodore roosevelt because, he said, they were like john bunion's man with the muck rake who could see nothing but filth before him, the muckrakers wore it with pride. the jungle led to the pure food and drug act and london had already endorsed it as a masterpiece, which he called the uncle tom's cabin of wage slavery. sinclair louis, also a member of the carmel crowd and later the author of main street babette was the first american to win the nobel prize for literature in 1930, but when london knew him he was young, eager and broke. so from london louis would learn to ground his fiction in
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ordinary american lives and speech patterns. so london's influence was particularly strong if not always acknowledged in a couple of mid century writers. moving a little bit later here. john stein beck and ernest hemingway. steinbeck laid claim to london as a literary precursor as his biographer writes, steinbeck entertained visions of sailing in the manner of his fellow californian jack london and his novels. as london had done with the people of the abyss, stein beck used a documentary approach to weave together the stories of those driven from their land by a combination of the great depression and an interlocking set of economic structures that held accountable to no greater good than making a profit. in combining three of london's persistent themes, social justice, the road, and love of
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land, grapes of wrath updates london's 1913 novel the valley of the moon, which we've already heard about, but it reaches a very different conclusion. like saxon brown and billy roberts, the characters that claim land of their own, the joad family leaves search of work and land in california, the promise land. unlike billy and saxon, the joad family is driven from place to place and cheated of their wages to keep the price up even as children go hungry. although in the green hills of africa ernest hemingway claimed kinship whose adventures of huckleberry fin he called the best novel we've had, his work owes the most obvious debt to jack london in terms of style and subject matter. the ostensible subject matter, boxing, fishing, hunting, the
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consciousness of nationals and being on the road and his actual subject matter, grace under pressure, relationships between men and women and an alienation that his characters feel but can never express all align him with london, so does the famous style with its visceral rugged prose consisting of lean descriptions, terse dialogue, and understated emotions. credited to hemingway, the style is an acknowledged echo of the best of london's work. so many contemporary writers owe a debt to london, but in interest of time i'll mention just three. the first one is jack kerouac, although his best known work is a half century old, he was inspired by london's travels and his 1907 book "i'm riding the rails." kerouac wrote about his experiences famously in "on the road," and london is the only author kerouac mentions by name
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in the novel. although london saw his book as nonfiction and kerouac wrote his as a novel, books about traveling through the underside of america reveal the social constraints of its promise of freedom. the second author is author of the shipping news, accordion crimes and a trilogy of wyoming stories, the finest close range includes "brokeback mountain." she protested that influence is a silly concept. in addition to the spare pitiless wyoming landscapes of her stories and characters' helpless accidents, she reveals a combination of the craft of story telling and social justice issues that drive some of london's best stories. as she explains, story telling trumps social issues. i don't write to inspire social change, but i do like situations of massive economic or cultural change as a background. adding, fiction can bring about change. okay.
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as jeanne campbell reesman reminds us, almost exactly 50 years separates the road. mccarthy shows the influence of london not only his characters traveled, but naturalistic philosophy. in an interview, mccarthy explains there's no such thing as life without bloodshed. i think the notion that the species can be improved in some way, that everyone can live in harmony, is a really dangerous idea. your desire that it be that way will enslave you and make your life vacuous. which sounds like it could have come from london's mouth. in conclusion, london's legacy for western writers is multifaceted. i want to mention just a few things. first and most obvious is his insistence in writing about and investing with deeper significance subjects that people actually wanted to read about in a style that they actually could read. a clarity that makes london seem perennially modern. a second facet of london's
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legacy lies in his attempts to comprehend beings different from himself, from other animals to other cultures and portray the sense of justice and personal dignity to which all sentient beings learn, yearn. the same honor that animates westerns such as the virginian and his countless successors. third, london brought a story teller's vivid descriptive power not only to the beauties of california or tasks his readers would never know, but also to introducing people such as the lepers of malachi or poor people of the abyss to his readers on terms of common humanity. and finally, what links london with other western writers in particular is what we might call american restlessness, the desire to take to the road and seek adventure in the west. it is this restlessness that inspires huck finn to lie out
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for the territories. but in london's life where the pull of his beauty ranch at glen ellen could not cure his yearn to travel, finding a home in the west always competes with the individual's desire to escape from an oppressive society. it is this that animates their best work and writing and manage to find a place where they can exist in both. thank you. >> well, thank you very much. it's cooled off a little bit. so we have time for question and answer, and we're going to throw it out to the audience. i will throw out a first question to give you some time to think, but i'm only going to ask one question. we teach a course on the american west and one of the things that shelly and the other
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instructors developed is how the west was kind of a creature of a 19th century optimism about technology. and what strikes me is there must have been a real lesson there about the limits of technology. we're talking about how underneath the romanticism of the west was poverty, there was things he saw that suggested optimism and civilization wasn't as well placed as people believed, so i wonder first of all what was the reflection on the 1906 earthquake, did it make him think about even more how fragile civilization was on top of this? and secondly, i found a contradiction between his lifestyle, which is this heroic lifestyle you normally associate with this optimism and man's ability to conquer nature, and that it doesn't seem to have been where he concluded. so first the 1906 and second,
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because you ended on the contradiction of the man. >> the earthquake deeply affected london. it showed the fragility of man's inventions. he certainly believed in those inventions, he used them abundantly to make his life more enjoyable and easier, but he thought there was a fragility there and we shouldn't depend unduly upon them. he always looked back to the natural land, to his ranch, to the beautiful scenery in california and elsewhere in the south pacific, to center himself and to find release and relief from the rigors and the deprivations of the cities and the way the city could just wear down your spirit and your soul, as well as your body. so for him, the natural landscape was always restorative. >> i'm thinking about your question, i kind of wanted to talk about there's one scene in his very last fully published
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novel, "the little lady of the big house," and i think it kind of says a lot about the way he looked at technology. in the book, the rancher, who is, of course, based on london, has all these technological marvels and runs his acreage like clockwork and so forth and he has a new invention, and the invention is a tractor, and you chain it to a pole in the middle of the field and it plows itself, kind of like a self driving car, right? but what he never addresses is what happens when it all winds up and you have the tractor stuck in the middle of the field all wound up with the pole. you're stuck. there's a kind of stuckness to it, and i think that idea that we think about technology, but we don't think it all the way through and that is, i think, a theme in that novel. i think that's what he's trying to address is, we rely on it, but at the same time it literally can stop us, or if natural events stop us such as the earthquake, there we are.
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>> just add a little bit more, he certainly had this contradiction of liking technology, but, you know, reverting back to the natural landscape, but he, as donna was just saying, he used technology in that landscape on his own ranch he raised prize-winning pigs, and he built a stone edifice called the pig palace and the pig palace was a wonder of technology. it was built in a circle and had what i like to think of as porcine condos around the edge in stone and concrete and a large, large silo in the middle of it. you could pull a lever and it would release food simultaneously to all of the little piggy condos. it was very easy. one person could feed all the pigs very easily and quickly, and it could also round up all the waste matter in the same fashion with one pull of the lever, so he was able to adapt technology for what he saw as a
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useful and productive and noble purpose. >> new idea for undergraduate housing, i guess. just a thought. >> okay. i'll send it out. yes? [ inaudible question ] >> let's start again with the mike. >> i wonder if one of the panelists could speak to jack london's connection to the bohemian grove. i saw a cartoon in the beginning of the slide show. >> i can't really -- that was part of what got cut, but he was a member of the bohemian club. he wrote plays for their annual
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high jinks. it was then an exclusive club, as well. i don't know, i should probably turn this over to jean, who can talk more specifically about it. >> i'd be happy to. the bohemian club is a gentleman's club in downtown san francisco, but up in the russian river in mendocino county, of course, is the grove. closed to women forever. still that way. it started out -- pardon me? do you, that's wonderful. my goodness, that's a change. they had a summer event called the jinks," or high jinks. london, george sterling, a number of other writers and so-called bohemians, artists and so on, would go up there and enjoy a week or so of running probably naked in the woods, a lot of drinking, a lot of partying, but they put on a play
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every year, which they still do. no one is supposed to talk about the bohemian grove club who's not a member, so i shan't speak much, but i do know from people that talk two years ago my friend observed clint eastwood and henry kissinger in drag. today it's more a club for very wealthy people, but it started out as a bunch of artists up there and it occupied a lot of london's time in the summer, and he enjoyed being with his friends, except for ambrose bierce. if you read the letters between sterling and london or between bierce and sterling, it's just full of offers to fight and curses and this, that, and the other. i think they were the frenemies, as we say now. there was a famous incident in which -- i'm sure there was a
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lot of alcohol behind it -- bierce and london actually did get into a fistfight. both of them ended up passed out on the edge of the river, the russian river. thank god that someone pulled them out, but it was a very important part of his life to be with his artist friends and to, shall we say, carry on at the bohemian grove. it's still very private and exclusive and you can drive by it, which i've done, but i have not ever set foot. >> let's -- yeah, what we're going to do is go to one speaker and the second one so that we're
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always one lined up ahead. okay, hands up to the question. question in the front. anybody else have a question? then my system isn't -- two in >> all right, i won't star on it. >> also works best when you put it next to your mouth. >> i got introduced to jack london, besides being a native san franciscoen because did you know that the setting for "call of the wild" is in santa clara at the ranch there, and i was writing a book on historic architecture and somebody gave me a list, so i got real interested. and i've been reading everything preparing for the 100th thing, and what about the big sickness? now, one of his biographers attributed that to that it had to do with nichy, but as early as 1904, 1905, right when he was making all the money and so successful and marrying, was the beginning of his strong depression. does anybody know anything more about that and where the term "the big sickness" came from?
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>> okay. >> i'd be happy to speak to that, if i may. it was a long sickness, he called it, and it was, you know, probably the result of a number of factors, but his separation from his first wife bessey and his two daughters, joan and becky, caused, obviously, a great deal of pain for everyone. and he had fallen in love with a woman named charmian kitridge and was experiencing the upheavals of leaving his family. he never left the girls, but sometimes it was difficult to see them because the first wife did not want them to go to the ranch were charmian there. i believe this was probably the most important factor. people need to remember he did not read nichy until 1906 and that's after "the sea wolf," which is often described, 1904,
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often described as a critique of the nichy and superman. nichy was in the air. london read about him, probably read some, but in the end, as you can see in "the sea wolf," he utterly the individualist, although this could be a problem in the book like martin eden, his semi-autobiographical novel. everyone reads it as a portrait
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of a strong individualist undone by celebrityhood. london believed it was a testament to socialism, and that were martin a socialist, he would not have committed suicide as he does, sorry, spoiler, oops. and so, you know, i think he was also torn between city and country. he had never liked the country, because as a child he lived on several unsuccessful farming ventures, and the decision to leave his friends from san francisco and oakland to move with charmian eventually up into sonoma valley, i think that was probably fairly difficult, as well, but it's important to remember, and i often have to remind my students, london did not stand for the solo macho adventurer, although it certainly often appears that way. he believed in the trail mate, the comrade, those who in his works set out alone die, especially in the klondike tales. so in the end, not take very long, london rejected both spencer and his social
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darwinism, as well as niche. although a lot of readers still are attracted to that lone wolf aspect. a good example of this is john krackow's book "call to the wild," which was made into a popular film in which this poor young man believes he understands london and heads out into the alaskan wilderness to escape his parents by himself. and if you know the story, you know that alexander super tramp, as he calls himself, oops, another spoiler, dies in the end. he carves all these things on this board about jack london, but he totally misinterpreted london. london is a socialist and he believes in brother and sisterhood. >> okay, very good. i think we go to the mike. >> given his experiences, what do you think sparked him to spend so much time on his
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aquarium interests? >> well, i can also speak a bit to that, it was charmian. he had, as i said, an aversion to country life, but when he met her, you know, she was a vegetarian, she was what we call a health nut, she had been raised that way. and i believe he saw the country as salvation, as several people have mentioned. and a healthful way of life, something that might save him from the pressures and temptations of urban life. it is an interesting fact, however, that for all of his devotion to that ranch, and it was love for that ranch, he kept building it and buying more and more property, london was, if you look at the dates, in a way rarely on the ranch. his travels took him around the world, he was a war correspondent and so on, so it's a very interesting tension in his works between the urban and the country. oh, if i could add one more thing, he thought of the ranch
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as a socialist experiment. he tried organic farming and was successful at that. he thought of the ranch as a sort of engine that would take in any stray who showed up, give him a job. he'd send workers' children to college, he planned to build a school on the ranch, and felt that it was a demonstration of his principles of social -- something that would work for the good of society. >> i was just going to add, a book that he talks about this in is "burning daylight." it's one of his farm novels, and the main character is a prospector and makes a fortune and comes down and engages in a lot of business and tradings. actually the first half is kind of a business novel and then he finds himself out of shape, depressed and so forth, and then he moves to glen ellen with the help of a woman that he falls in love with and there are these rapturous descriptions of their rides throughout the country and how the farm helps to restore
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him, so he kind of wrote that experience and feeling into -- well, he wrote it into several novels, but that's the one he describes the transformation, i think, as well as in any. >> i'd also add a bit to this broader content the american letters and more broadly in american society the desire to immerse one's self in the outdoors was approaching an app ji in the early 20th century. you see people like john muir in california writing about how important it is for thousands -- and how wonderful it is for thousands of nerves shattered over urbanized americans to go out and immerse themselves in these landscapes where they can save their souls, and this kind of expansive scope of this kind
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of perception of what nature means in opposition to the city, while i wouldn't argue is necessarily the principle thing pushing london out the door in that regard, it certainly is incredibly common within the society of the time. and californians in particular, especially the middle class and above, are beginning really to look at bringing the outdoors in and taking the indoors out in life, in recreation, architecture, outdoor recreation, you know, so these are things, again, as several of my co-panelists have said, these are concepts very much in the air. and it's important to keep that in mind, as well.
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>> i think we go -- we follow the mike. you have the mike, right? >> thanks. can i be heard? >> yes. >> oh, good. i had wanted to say that i believe that jack london considered both the people of the abyss to be more representative book of his world view and feelings and that my family feels very honored to have been inspiration that was better known to both "the call of the wild," which begins with a description of my family and my family's farm and central character, dog based on my family's dog. >> okay, very good. i think we go to the mike. >> you've talked about the external contradictions that jack london, the contradictions between country life and city life and the rich and the poor. i'm interested in what seemed to me like internal contributions. his trope of the wolf. it seems the wolf is the
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predator in so many instances. wolf larsen. there is no redeeming qualities in this man. a major figure in his writing and yet he lived in wolf house. and buck reverts to his wolf ancestry. was he conflicted in his use of this trope of this wolf? >> yes. i think what makes a writer, an artist interesting are those complexities and contradictions. the most obvious one is between
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individualism, strong, masculine hero, the strenuous. >> adrian: and socialism. this is something back and forth his whole life. as far as the wolf, one of the things london stresses so much in "the called call of the wild" is bucks joining the pack. they work in concert with each other. and his nickname was wolf both to his friend george sterling who was greek and to some of his other friends. but they called each other mate. and it is is sort of referencing animals. london is a writer full of many contradictions. but they are all productive and fascinating to the reared, to the scholar and historian i think. but definitely a very, very complex man. hardly the person some readers sought of. they sat down and wrote them down.
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most of jacks time was spent reading. he claimed he could read six books a day sometimes. and i'm not going to say he couldn't. >> where is the mike? >> right here. >> oh, there you are. >> as it happens right now, i'm reading a book called "buffalo bill in blown that" about the globalization of american culture. and on to that it made me think about jack london as a vector of this globalization. i wonder which was more than national celebrity. i wonder if some of you could comment on that issue. >> jack london made headlines no matter what he did or no matter what he was rumored to be about to do. he was headlines. everyday's mail would arrive clippings from all over the world. in huntington, we have 30 scrapbooks. they are this thick. they are huge, ledger volumes that are just packed.
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every page is packed edge to edge with clippings. solon don cultivated celebrity because he needed to make money to support the ranch. he supported a large extended family. he embarked on all of these ventures that were enormously expensive. the snark cost $30,000. that is a ton of money. he lived big. and he spent a lot of money. he made a lot of money. and he knew that if his name was big that would bring in more
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income and sell more books. ye is s, he was a worldwide celebrity. when he embarked on the crews of the snark, it was uncles are co. uncle roscoe said he would be navigator on the cruise. they got out in the pacific and roscoe said, where are we? and roscoe goes, i don't know. so the story is, and i almost think it's true, that jack from the library of books pulled out the guides to navigation. we have those in the huntington library. and i have looked at his annotations. he spent an afternoon teaching himself how to navigate. then he was the navigator from then on. so they were a little bit overdue hitting honolulu, but they hit it. it was on the nail worldwide the press was reporting famous author lost at sea, overdue in honolulu, presumed lost, tragic loss. they followed the cruise of the snark. when he sent home his dispatching from korea about the japanese war, they didn't publish pictures of the war, they published pictures of jack london.
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his celebrity was always there. he was translated in many, many foreign languages. to this day it is said, and i don't doubt that it might be true, he is still the most read american author in the world. and that says a lot. a lot of other cultures find things to admire about jack london, whether in russia, it might be his socialist views or the fact that he was a self-educated man. i know in france, among many views of london, his political actions and writings are highly valued. so he resonates. and he can write person to person. you feel as though you know him. when i did an exhibit on jack london in the late 1980s we put a 300 page of blank volumes and asked people the question, what does jack london mean to you? i was stunned. i hadn't expected this men. more than 50% filling those 300 pages. more than 300 people addressed
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their remarks, dear jack. i found that stunning. yet the more i read about him, i'm not surprised anymore. he reaches people in a very direct way. so his readers follow him in that way. >> okay. we have time for one more question and that's it. because they closed off the windows here. it's going to get hotter and hotter. a brief question and a brief response. >> is it on? very brief, the socialist movement at that time was very infected biracial ideas, particularly white supremacy and ferociously anti-chinese and anti-japanese.
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what was his relationship to that dynamic within the socialist movement? >> jean has written a whole book on this, so i will let her answer it. >> jack london's racial lives from the university of georgia press. and i wanted to take on the elephant in the living room. what keeps many professors, in particular sometimes away from london, is their assumption that i was consistently a rabid, sort of racist. i had in my book he was a racist but not a very good one. his attitudes toward other cultures, unfortunately from my writing in that book, didn't go from being a racist, oh, to being completely free of such a thing. it goes up and down. i index it to his health at the time. the financial pressures he was under. but, for example, london covered the two jack johnson heavyweight
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fights. unfortunately for people like ken burns, they read incomplete newspaper stories. i worked at a newspaper. i blocked off many an ending of a story. but the actual things that he wrote about those fights are in a book called "jack london reports." published in the '70s. out of print. very hard to the find. but he starts out the white man is
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superior. over the course of his dispatching in sydney in 1908 when he fought tommy burns and in reno in 1910 when he fought jim jeffrey's, jack's appreciation and understanding of johnson does go from thinking complete and total admiration for him. here's my hand, jack. you're the better man. he compares jeffries to a corn field. and johnson to mont blanc, which is an odd image. but he treated jeffries at the train station. jeffrey blew him off. london went to jack johnson's camp where there was wine, women, and song. in both cases, his prior attitudes, which were public attitudes become genuinely admiring of jack johnson. the two had a lot in common. they are both entertainers. he quoted shakespeare to annoy the crowd which screamed kill him, kill him over and over. but london's racial studies are really vital to his work. >> okay. i think we have to finish. first of all, let's thank both the panelists and the staff for all the work they did. [ applause ]. and then she secondly i want to remind you we have reception and the pop-up exhibit behind you.


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