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Jack London fought his way up out of the factories and waterfront dives of West Oakland to become the highest paid, most popular novelist and short story writer of his day. He wrote passionately and prolifically about the great questions of life and death, the struggle to survive with dignity and integrity, and he wove these elemental ideas into stories of high adventure based on his own firsthand experiences at sea, or in Alaska, or in the fields and factories of California. As a result, his writing appealed not to the few, but to millions of people all around the world.
Along with his books and stories, however, Jack London was widely known for his personal exploits. He was a celebrity, a colorful and controversial personality who was often in the news. Generally fun-loving and playful, he could also be combative, and was quick to side with the underdog against injustice or oppression of any kind. He was a fiery and eloquent public speaker, and much sought after as a lecturer on socialism and other economic and political topics. Despite his avowed socialism, most people considered him a living symbol of rugged individualism, a man whose fabulous success was due not to special favor of any kind, but to a combination of unusual mental ability and immense vitality.
Strikingly handsome, full of laughter, restless and courageous to a fault, always eager for adventure on land or sea, he was one of the most attractive and romantic figures of his time.
Jack London ascribed his literary success largely to hard work - to "dig," as he put it. He tried never to miss his early morning 1,000-word writing stint, and between 1900 and 1916 he completed over fifty books, including both fiction and non-fiction, hundreds of short stories, and numerous articles on a wide range of topics. Several of the books and many of the short stories are classics of their kind, well thought of in critical terms and still popular around the world. Today, almost countless editions of London's writings are available and some of them have been translated into as many as seventy different languages.
In addition to his daily writing stint and his commitments as a lecturer, London also carried on voluminous correspondence (he received some 10,000 letters per year), read proofs of his work as it went to press, negotiated with his various agents and publishers, and conducted other business such as overseeing construction of his custom-built sailing ship, the Snark (1906 - 1907), construction of Wolf House (1910 - 1913), and the operation of his beloved Beauty Ranch, which became a primary preoccupation after about 1911. Along with all this, he had to continually generate new ideas for books and stories and do the research so necessary to his writing.
Somehow, he managed to do all these things and still find time to go swimming, horseback riding, or sailing on San Francisco Bay. He also spent 27 months cruising the South Pacific in the Snark, put in two tours of duty as an overseas war correspondent, traveled widely for pleasure, entertained a continual stream of guests whenever he was at home in Glen Ellen, and did his fair share of barroom socializing and debating. In order to fit all this living into the narrow confines of one lifetime, he often tried to make do with no more than four or five hours of sleep at night.
London was first attracted to the Sonoma Valley by its magnificent natural landscape, a unique combination of high hills, fields and streams, and a beautiful mixed forest of oaks, madrones, California buckeyes, Douglas Fir, and redwood trees. "When I first came here, tired of cities and people, I settled down on a little farm ... 130 acres of the most beautiful, primitive land to be found in California." He didn't care that the farm was badly run-down. Instead, he reveled in its deep canyons and forests, its year-round springs and streams. "All I wanted," he said later, "was a quiet place in the country to write and loaf in and get out of Nature that something which we all need, only the most of us don't know it....
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