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Reviews 361 The Summer of Jack London. By Andrew J. Fenady. (New York: Walker & Co., 1985. 173 pages, $13.95.) Since, as it is so often said, Jack London’s life reads like a novel, it is puzzling that more novelists have not discovered his story. The only fictional treatment of London’s life before this engaging book by novelist and screen­ writer Andrew Fenady (discounting Irving Stone’s Sailor on Horseback, which, in several of its countless printings was subtitled “A Biographical Novel”), was Rose Wilder Lane’s He Was a Man (1925), a melodrama in which London’s name is disguised, but little else. Fenady’s is a polished story covering one pivotal summer of London’s young life when the budding writer, not yet 20, has just returned from a voyage on the hell-ship “Northern Star” to face the responsibility of support­ ing his family while falling in love with a young society beauty and struggling to learn his writing craft. Fenady’s principal sources seem to be London’s Martin Eden, John Barleycorn, and The Sea-Wolf, with healthy dollops of The Valley of the Moon, Cruise of the Dazzler, with perhaps stories like “South of the Slot” also consulted. Since all these works are novels (including the seemingly autobiographi­ cal Barleycorn), it means that Fenady has the unusual distinction of creating a work of fiction that is based, for the most part, on works of fiction. But it works for obvious reasons: London’s work is autobiographical and Fenady is not interested in following strict biographical fact. Nor should he be except when it fits his story purpose. He is a novelist and borrows on the same licenses granted to Jack London and all fiction writers. And so, sequential time isout of kilter in “The Summer ofJack London,” and real people like John London, Flora Chaney, “Mammy Jennie” Prentiss, and Eliza Shepard, share space with such creations as the remorseless Captain Erik Diequest, skipper of the “Northern Star” who is most certainly inspired by London’s Wolf Larsen just as the “Star” is Fenady’s fictional version of London’s fictional “Ghost” in The Sea-Wolf. Fenady occasionally leavens his fiction with a bit of well-handled fact: The reader learns of London’s deep love for John London, that feckless Pennsylvania farmer who gave young Jack his name and his unlimited affec­ tion; of London’s “work-beast” experiences as a coal-shoveler; of London’s shattering discovery that his true father was William Henry Chaney, the itinerant astrologer with whom Flora Wellman had a common-law “mar­ riage.” The result of all this is a very entertaining piece of story-telling—in the Jack London tradition. DALE L. WALKER The University of Texas at El Paso ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
p. 361
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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