Wolf: The Lives of Jack London

  • by James L. Haley
  • Narrated by Bronson Pinchot
  • 12 hrs and 32 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Jack London was born a working-class, fatherless San Franciscan in 1876. In his youth, he was a boundlessly energetic adventurer on the bustling west coast—by and by playing the role of hobo, sailor, and oyster pirate. From his vantage point at the margins of Gilded Age America, he witnessed such iniquity and abuses that he became a life-long socialist and advocate for reform. His adventures in the American wilderness and underworld informed his fiction, and his writing came to captivate the nation as it defined his era. Within his own short lifetime, London became the most popular, and bestselling, author of his generation.
By adulthood he had matured into the iconic American author of such still-universally loved books as The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and Sea Wolf, but in spite of his success, he was at war with himself. The highest-paid writer in America, he was constantly broke. Famous as he was for conjuring the brutality of nature in story after story and novel after novel, upon the actual deaths of his favorite animals he would dissolve into helpless tears. Sick, angry, and disillusioned, after a short, breathless life, he passed away at age forty, but he left behind him a glorious literary legacy.
Award-winning author James L. Haley explores the forgotten Jack London—a man bristling with ideas, whose passion for social justice roared until the day he died. In Wolf, Haley returns Jack London to his proper place in the American pantheon, resurrecting the author of White Fang in his full fire and glory.

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What the Critics Say

"[A] valuable London biography. It surpasses Irving Stone’s 1938 Sailor on Horseback, giving us a well-delineated picture of a singular, complicated figure…These days we have little sense of the literary glory that was Jack London. Thanks to James Haley’s zeal, the author of [the fiercely imaginative Before Adam], not just the man of The Call of the Wild, is before us again." (Wall Street Journal)
"James L. Haley’s sharply focused biography recaptures the breadth of London’s achievements and the intricacies of his personality…We can be grateful to Haley for restoring London to us in all his passionate conviction and flawed humanity." (Washington Post)
“[A] gripping narrative…Haley understands what longtime scholars of London have often failed to see: that London had multiple lives, and explored his own identities in his fiction." (San Francisco Chronicle)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Just Ok

I've waited a while to write this review to sort out why I felt let down. I thought I would get to meet an adventurous larger than life character on the scale of Hemingway. What I got was a rather ordinary, insecure guy who changed his personality to meet his perception of others' expectations in order to fit in, and went to sea and to the Klondike for money, not for adventure. I was disappointed to get through the Klondike period to learn only that it was hard work, inhumanly cold, he got sick and came home broke. His socialist convictions seemed tainted by a desire to get back at the capitalist world for his own poverty as much as for general injustice, and his passion to write was his plan to escape the "Work Beast" world he hated. There didn't seem to be an adventurous spirit in the man - he came across as resigned and cynical. I didn't gain hoped for insights into the inspiration behind "The Sea Wolf" and "Call of the Wild".

So was I disappointed in the book or in the man? I think it's both. In his forward, author Haley states an intent to present the whole man, warts and all, and to avoid the pigeon-holing of previous biographers presenting The Adventurer, The Political Activist, The Drunken Womanizer. In that he succeeded, but I think that by trying to remain steadfastly neutral he ended up writing a work filled with facts but little heart. The facts make it clear that London was a man of many contradictions, but Haley does little to explore and illuminate these contradictions. London never fully came to life for me.
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- Janice "Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories."

A life of bright flames to ashes...

The biographer and his subject are a superb match, as is the choice of the narrator. I had no idea that Jack London did so much with his life across a spectrum of so many different contexts of bold and varied adventures and daunting personal challenges. I'm equally intrigued how today's world so parallels as to the need for others to take the baton of his "worker passions." Here's content for many fine novels that amazingly was actually compressed into one formidable life.
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- Danny

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-25-2010
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.