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Jack London Departs for the Klondike

A momentous day in literary history, courtesy of Minnesota Public Radio:

It was on this day in 1897 that the novelist Jack London left for the Klondike to join the gold rush. He was only twenty-one and had to borrow money from his stepsister for the voyage. Winter came before London could look for gold. He spent the winter in an abandoned fur trader's cabin the size of a tool shed, living on beans and bread. He wrote of that winter, "[It was] a world of silence and immobility. Nothing stirred. The Yukon slept under a coat of ice three feet thick." He read the books he'd brought with him, including Dante's Inferno and Milton's Paradise Lost.

In the spring, London realized that all the good claims had already been made. Instead of looking for gold, he talked to everyone he could and soaked up all their stories. On the way home, he almost died of scurvy, and he barely survived a huge swarm of Alaskan mosquitoes, but he knew he had great material for fiction.

He went on to write about his experiences in books like The Son of the Wolf (1900) and Call of the Wild (1903), and he became one of the most popular writers of his time.

I'm a Jack London fan from way back, though I admittedly haven't read anything of his in years. But I'm planning to podcast a reading of his classic story "To Build a Fire" during the next week or two. Stay tuned.

July 25, 2006 in Books | Permalink