Saturday, January 07, 2006

Jack London, the writer who launched me

Jack London
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
PUERTO VALLARTA, Jalisco, Mexico (Versailles District) - When I was about 14-years-old, I read a magazine account (in TRUE magazine) about the life of Jack London, a swashbuckling, take-no-prisoners kind of guy who started out with nothing and flamed out at 40-years-old.

These many years later, I still credit old Jack with getting me interested in writing and a brand a journalism that barely exists today, but which is, well, a helluva lot more fun than the corporate drivel that fills most newspapers.

London wrote narrative news accounts for newspapers, wild political tracts for magazines, and books for an adoring public that had never seen someone write so clearly and honestly about them, the nation, and the world.

He lived in the shadow of a bad childhood and poverty and when he died was badly in debt, despite having earned several fortunes.

Many of his books are still in print and while he is frequently miscast as a child's author, because of books like Call of the Wild, London as a social critic is great reading too.

If London were alive today, he would likely challenge George W. to a pistol duel. But then again, if London were alive today, it's also likely that George W. might not have been elected at all.

Every so often, when I feel overwhelmed, I yank out that TRUE magazine article and reread it. It's still the most inspiring piece of work like that I've ever read. (I've also read every biography of Jack London ever written.)

This week in San Francisco there is an exhibit of some of the photos London took of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake, the fire from which he could see from many miles away.

After that fire, London outfitted a sailing yacht and headed out for the Pacific, a largely uncharted ocean and sans any sexy electronics or radios.

London lived in a simpler world that is reflected in some ways here in Mexico, a life that doesn't revolve around television or the latess episode of Desperate Housewives.

But the questions for this gringo to answer are: "What would Jack London do if he were me?

Sail off again?

Retire to the seaside and sip drinks?

Or climb onto the horse again for one last slashing (and likely futile) attack at the bad guys?

Guess it's time to drag out that TRUE magazine piece one more time.

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