Jack London – still living

September 8th, 2008 • Posted in News |

Jack London said “The function of man is to live, not to exist.” And he certainly did much living in his forty years. It’s quite humbling to think that he died when he was just a little older than I am now, and yet he experienced so much in his lifetime. He was a student, explorer, tramp, gold prospector, political activist, oyster pirate, convict, and one of America’s first celebrity authors. He had a very full life, yet challenging and depressing as well. This experience comes shining through in his writing.

When I was a kid I read London’s most famous books: The Call of the Wild, The Sea Wolf and White Fang. I’m re-reading them right now as research for an exciting new project (more of that in a minute), and I realise now that as a young teen I never realy got as much out of these books as I should have. The Call of the Wild isn’t just about a dog; it’s about being human. It contains what is probably my favourite passage of writing from any book (and as it’s available for free download, I see no problem quoting it here):

There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive. This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artist, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame; it comes to the soldier, war-mad on a stricken field and refusing quarter; and it came to Buck, leading the pack, sounding the old wolf-cry, straining after the food that was alive and that fled swiftly before him through the moonlight. He was sounding the deeps of his nature, and of the parts of his nature that were deeper than he, going back into the womb of Time. He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in that it was everything that was not death, that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars and over the face of dead matter that did not move.

That is just beautiful.

Chris Golden and I are writing a series of YA novels about Jack London for Atheneum in the USA. Based on his three most famous works, they explore London’s inspiration to write, the lengths he went to to live, not just exist, and the strange events that followed him along the way. It’s fiction, of course, but fiction about one of the very best storytellers there has ever been. I’ll update here when there’s more news on these books.

It’s always a pleasure to work with Chris, and this time doubly so. I look forward to the next year or two, delving deeper into London’s extraordinary work, and trying my very best to live.

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One comment on “Jack London – still living”

  1. Iz says:

    Good luck for next weekend mate. So proud of you and everything you’ve done.
    Always a winner in my eyes. xx

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