After tonight's appearance with Jesse Watters on Fox News Primetime, we continue our voyage through life and love in America's Gilded Age in our latest Tale for Our Time: Jack London's Burning Daylight.
Now that our story is coming down to Jack London's backyard, more or less, a Philadelphia member of The Mark Steyn Club, James Laurie, offers this perspective on the author's upbringing:
Privileged Jack London.
Though a bastard son born to prototype S.F. hippies, Flora Wellman & John Chaney, London's claimed destitution seems to be a bit embellished. His mother grew up in a 17 room Ohio mansion. And she had hired a wet nurse for baby Jack, from whom years later he would borrow $300 for sailboat.
Though he lived in a "shoddy" part of Oakland, it may have been by choice of his socialist mum, rather than necessity. Likewise his menial cannery job and later oyster pirating and goldmining were adventures of a guilt ridden trustfundy wanting to prove himself. It just fits the pattern, IMHO. Brings to mind Oliver Stone's adventure in Viet Nam.
Unfortunately, this adventurism would lead to London's alcoholism and early death. But, not before he shared his experience and imaginative story telling with the world, thankfully. I only speculate on London's background because context makes his writing that much more interesting.
What's the king of context think?
Well, I'm not sure about that, to be honest, James. Generally speaking, when I read my first novel by any author, I know nothing about the guy - and only if the novel's any good am I sufficiently curious to find out anything. Posterity renders a man's life and a man's work separate things: A fellow can be a socialist and write what he thinks is a socialist novel, but the fellow dies and the novel doesn't, and it floats free of its creator and becomes something in its own right. Which is a point perhaps more relevant to our next Tale for Our Time, so perhaps we'll say more then.
In tonight's episode, our two lovebirds begin their new life together:
Many persons, themselves city-bred and city-reared, have fled to the soil and succeeded in winning great happiness. In such cases they have succeeded only by going through a process of savage disillusionment. But with Dede and Daylight it was different. They had both been born on the soil, and they knew its naked simplicities and rawer ways. They were like two persons, after far wandering, who had merely come home again. There was less of the unexpected in their dealings with nature, while theirs was all the delight of reminiscence. What might appear sordid and squalid to the fastidiously reared, was to them eminently wholesome and natural. The commerce of nature was to them no unknown and untried trade. They made fewer mistakes. They already knew, and it was a joy to remember what they had forgotten.
And another thing they learned was that it was easier for one who has gorged at the flesh-pots to content himself with the meagerness of a crust, than for one who has known only the crust.
If you're a member of The Mark Steyn Club you can hear my reading of Part Forty-Four of our serialization of Burning Daylight simply by clicking here and logging-in. All previous episodes can be found here - so you can choose whether to listen each night twenty minutes before you lower your lamp, or save them up for a weekend binge-listen now that Netflix et al have exhausted all their pre-lockdown stock of watchable telly.
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