Jack London

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Jack London

Fev 10, 2021, 2:50 pm

Can someone suggest where to begin if one wants to read Jack London? From what i could see, three of his novels have been published by the LEC and Heritage. Which of these is the one to begin with? Also, is there any good edition of his short stories?

Fev 10, 2021, 4:11 pm

As for his short stories, the Library of America volume would be a solid choice: https://www.loa.org/books/99-novels-and-stories. There's also an Easton Press option that I can't speak to.

Fev 10, 2021, 8:07 pm

Fev 12, 2021, 10:25 am

I'd start with the most well known, Call of the Wild.

Nov 20, 8:42 pm

I read my first Jack London story a few days ago. It was called "Love of Life" and was amazingly good. The story is about a miner/prospector (let me call him the protagonist) who gets lost along with another person somewhere on the west coast. While crossing a stream the protagonist sprains his ankle and is then abandoned by his companion. Somehow he moves along slowly, and it was interesting how London depicts how he survived in the wilderness all by himself. He eats berries, catches minnows in ponds, and to survive is forced to eat the kind of meat he would probably have avoided in the normal course of things. While trudging along slowly--and encountering some remarkable experiences which I will not narrate here--he notices a sickly wolf has started following him. He is an intelligent man, and immediately realizes that the wolf is not interested in companionship. The wolf has calculated that the man is in such bad physical shape that he is not going to last very long and thus he is following the man because of the prospect of an easy meal. Since the wolf is himself in such bad shape that he is incapable of hunting. The protagonist is doing his own calculation. The berries and minnows he has been eating for the most part have not provided sufficient sustenance. In the distance, one can now see the ocean, as the wolf and the protagonist keep moving along. On the ocean bank a ship is to be seen and that's where the protagonist closely followed by the wolf are heading towards.

The story was based on an actual event that had taken place and had been reported in the newspapers. I wonder if London did any other research besides what he read in the papers.

I read the story in the Westvaco edition. This is a beautifully designed book with good paper and typography, but with one defect: the text is left-aligned, so that the left margin looks ok, but not right-aligned so that the right margin looks a bit odd.

I've collected all the three LEC books of London and plan to read them soon. Meanwhile, if anyone has the ML of the LEC Call of the Wild I would appreciate it if you could share it on the google drive.

Editado: Nov 21, 8:24 am

>5 blue.eyes2: Thank you for the write-up. It sounds like a great story and I want to know how it ends (don't tell me!). Like you, I'm quite new to Jack London, having only read The Call of the Wild, which I really enjoyed. I have 2 of the LECs and am looking forward to diving into those too.

The Westvaco books are great aren't they? I recently read their edition of The Good Earth by Pearl Buck, which I also highly recommend, and I have their Listen! The Wind on my reading pile too.

As you say, the 'ragged-right' alignment can look a bit odd in a book to begin with. However, many people consider it to be easier to read and more natural looking than the 'fully justified' text we commonly see in most books. With ragged alignment, as we see in the Westvaco books, there's usually less need for adjusting the spacing between words or for using excessive hyphenation in order to make each line conform exactly to the margins.

Here's another book that uses ragged rather than fully justified alignment:


This is what the designer of that book said:

"Instead of the typical justified text block, ours is ragged on the right, which is the most natural approach for rightward-reading languages like English. Ragged setting makes it easier to achieve consistent white space in and between words, and reduces eye fatigue. The aesthetic result is organic, a typographic deckle that breathes."

As with the book above, perhaps the Westvaco book designer felt they were prioritising readability over uniformity. Still, I agree it can look a bit jarring when we're all so used so used to fully justified text in books!

Of course, when dealing with fully justified text, this is where a lot of the unsung skill of typesetting comes in, especially when the type is being set by hand and printed letterpress. Someone skilled in these arts can still create a beautiful (arguably more beautiful) and highly readable typographic layout that is fully justified without looking unnatural.

Likewise, even if a book has ragged alignment, the designer can still fiddle with spacing and hyphenation to ensure that the ragged edge is not so ragged as to become messy looking or distracting.

Editado: Nov 21, 10:20 am

>6 GardenOfForkingPaths: The Westvaco books are really well produced with a fine design aesthetic. A lot of care has obviously been taken to design and produce them, and the best part is that most of them are so inexpensive. I think I have about ten of them now. Don't have the Good Earth, but do have the Hemingway and Steinbeck books which are my favourite Westvacos (amongst the ones I have) from the perspective of book design and production.

I am glad to know of a technical explanation for the 'ragged-right' alignment. Thank you.

Nov 21, 11:50 am

Price differential on Westvaco books is interesting. Typee is a good example. Several booksellers offer it for $100 and up. I found (& grabbed) a copy on eBay for $12.00 in at least VG condition...in slipcase.

Nov 21, 12:49 pm

>6 GardenOfForkingPaths: Your post has enabled me to purchase the Westvaco Listen! The Wind.

Nov 21, 12:52 pm

>5 blue.eyes2: I don't see "Love of Life" by Heritage Press. Is there a particular edition you recommend?

Editado: Nov 21, 3:24 pm

>8 Glacierman: $100 seems very optimistic. Well, for $12 you can hardly go wrong! :)

>9 maisiedotes: Cool! I hope you like it. I hope I like it when I read it too! I agree with >7 blue.eyes2: assessment that the Westvaco books are great value and were designed with care. I have a couple of volumes that are still in the original cardboard mailing cartons and even those have colours and designs that tie in with the book, which is a nice touch. I should try and get the Hemingway volume too.

Nov 21, 4:51 pm

Century Press has a wonderful, letterpress and illustrated production of Call of the Wild for about $135 USD -- note that they are in Canada so it's Canadian dollars on their website --


Editado: Nov 22, 12:44 am

>10 maisiedotes: Heritage and LEC only published call of the wild, white fang and sea wolf so far as Jack London's writings are concerned. I read Love of Life in the Westvaco edition. I don't know of a better edition for this (or for other) London stories. By the way, the Westvaco edition of London's stories contains, along with several of his short stories, the full text of Call of the Wild.

Editado: Nov 23, 4:28 pm

in 2012 a film was made based on Love of Life. I haven't seen the full film, but I've seen a few clips of it. At least one scene indicated to me that the film makers were not faithful to the original story which I thought was unfortunate. (In the film scene I am referring to, the protagonist is shown holding and looking morosely at a photograph of a woman who appears to be either his wife or his lover. In the original story there is no such scene, nor any undercurrent of romantic love.) The trailer of this film, however, gives a pretty good overall idea about the story:


Note the gun the protagonist is carrying. This gun the protagonist has in the story also, but he doesn't have any bullets left. At some point of time he is obliged to discard this gun along with his other belongings (even all the gold he is carrying with him) as movement keeps becoming more and more difficult and it starts becoming a life and death situation.

Nov 22, 12:26 pm

>13 blue.eyes2: Ah, thanks for the lead. I've just found "Love of Life" listed in the Westvaco Farther North and purchased it.

Nov 22, 4:14 pm

>8 Glacierman: The colophon page of the Westvaco books says that it is a limited edition without specifying the limitation number. I think some of these books were published in fewer quantity than others which would explain the price differential.

Nov 22, 5:03 pm

>16 blue.eyes2: For different books, yes...but here we have the same title going for $12 or $125 and everything in between. Good example of why it pays to spend a little time searching....

Nov 22, 6:14 pm

>12 astropi:
It seems to be $186 in US currency.

Nov 22, 6:53 pm

>17 Glacierman: very true. I was talking of a price differential that seems to exist across the different Westvaco editions as well. For instance there is a Mark Twain authored Westvaco publication called 'Jumping Frog and other stories' or something like that. The LEC has a similar title of a book (a collection of stories actually), but the Westvaco book appears to be even more expensive (and rarer) than the LEC edition.

Nov 22, 8:52 pm

>8 Glacierman: Most Westvaco books can usually be found in great condition, in their slipcase for really low prices. The 24 titles in my collection average out at less than $10 a book including shipping. Of course I did do one bulk buy of 16 titles for $40 plus $16 in postage or $3.50 a book.

Nov 23, 2:39 pm

Westvaco books are beautifully designed and offer a lot of fascinating material. Although I initially found the "ragged right" justification jarring at first, I've come to quite appreciate it and it has made me more critical of typesetting in fully justified books where there is awkward spacing--or insufficient spacing--between words.

Two of their publications I particularly cherish are Ring Lardner's You Know Me, Al which is unjustly neglected (probably because it is baseball-themed) but is a masterpiece in the use of vernacular and may be the finest American epistolary comic novel. The other is Willa Cather's O Pioneers!. Both of these important American works were neglected by the LEC and HP and I'm happy that Westvaco stepped in to fill the gap so wonderfully.

It's good to see Jack London getting the attention he deserves. I highly recommend the Library of America's anthology of London's writings, especially for The Road which describes London's experiences "on the bum" during the depression which followed the Panic of 1893. It is very strong stuff and may come as a jolt to those who associate London only with White Fang and Call of the Wild. I read it after seeing one of my favorite films, "Emperor of the North Pole" which mines many of its details.

Nov 23, 4:22 pm

>21 Django6924: A No.-1 will always be king tramp!

Nov 26, 11:30 pm

>21 Django6924:

Enabled for the Ring Lardner, thank you.

Nov 27, 3:22 pm

>18 booksforreading: I apologize, you're right. I was certain it was in Canadian dollars -- I placed my order when the book first came out, so perhaps things have changed. That said, still a great deal for an illustrated letterpress edition. In my mind, this publisher is following in the footsteps of Macy. Here is a bit more about the book --

Fully bound in vegetable-tanned, Slate Blue goatskin leather from the Hudson Valley.

Two-colour letterpress printed on premium 100% cotton 'Flurry' paper with a 1956 Heidelberg 'Windmill' platen press, typeset in Caslon.

Four brand new, full-page illustrations from Calvin Laituri.

Italian, tight-weave, cotton ribbon bookmark.

New introduction by Jack London historian, Jonah Raskin.

Original silver-stamped artwork on front cover, back cover, and spine by Mac Pogue.

Smyth-sewn by hand for maximum durability.

Measures 7.5" x 5.25"

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