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October 2015 Vol. 53 No. 2

University of Nebraska Press

The following review appeared in the October 2015 issue of CHOICE. The review is for your internal use only. Please review our Permission and Reprints Guidelines or email

Language & Literature - English & American

2014-20276 CIP
Williams, Jay. Author under sail: the imagination of Jack London, 1893–1902. Nebraska, 2014. 600p bibl index afp ISBN 9780803249912, $90.00; ISBN 9780803256835 ebook, contact publisher for price.

In this literary biography of Jack London (1876–1916), Williams eschews the beleaguered rags-to-riches theme of previous biographers in favor of a fresh assessment of London's life as an author.  He shows that though London sought psychological relaxation and a leisured life more than money, money was the way to get that life, so he wrote continuously.  Williams carefully examines London’s correspondence with publishers and editors and each article, story, and novel written between 1893 and 1902 (a second volume is forthcoming), identifying stages—craftsman, poet, genius—in London’s early authorial career to argue that the writer's conflict with his own creativity enmeshed him in both acceptance and rejection of the dominant model of Progressive Era authorship.  In analyzing London’s conflict with his imagination, Williams relies on Michael Fried’s concepts of absorption and theatricality to develop an understanding of London’s writerly self and to explain how he “experienced the act of writing his own work"—an aspect of London no one has heretofore tried to decipher.  Thoroughly documented and cogently argued, Author under Sail heralds a departure from all scholars who thought they knew about Jack London and promises a wealth of new directions in London scholarship.

--S. M. Nuernberg, emerita, University of Wisconsin--Oshkosh

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.