To Build a Fire by Jack London (Audiobook)
Read by Christopher Ragland (Unabridged: 49mins)
John Griffith Chaney was born on January 12th, 1876 in San Francisco.
His father, William Chaney, was living with Flora Wellman when she became pregnant. Chaney insisted she have an abortion. Flora's response was to turn a gun on herself. Although her wounds were not severe the trauma made her temporarily deranged.
In late 1876 his mother married John London and the young child was brought to live with them as they moved around the Bay area, eventually settling in Oakland where now, calling himself Jack, he completed grade school.
Jack worked hard at several jobs, sometimes 12-18 hours a day, but his dream was university. He studied hard and borrowed the money to enrol in the summer of 1896 at the University of California in Berkeley.
In 1897, at 21, Jack searched out newspaper accounts of his mother's suicide attempt and for the name of his biological father. He wrote to Chaney, then living in Chicago, who claimed he could not be Jack’s father because he was impotent and casually asserted that London's mother had relations with other men. Jack, devastated by the response, quit Berkeley and went to the Klondike. Other accounts suggest that his dire finances presented Jack with the excuse he needed to leave.
In the Klondike Jack began to gather material for his writing but also accumulated many health problems, including scurvy, which together with hip and leg problems he would carry for the rest of his life.
During the late 1890's Jack was regularly publishing short stories and by the turn of the century full blown novels.
By 1904 Jack had married, fathered two children and was now in the process of divorcing. A stint as a reporter on the Russo-Japanese war of 1904 was equal amounts trouble and experience. But that experience was always put to good use in a continuing and remarkable output of work.
In 1905 he married Charmian Kittredge who at last was a soul and companion who brought him some semblance of peace despite his advancing alcoholism and his incurable wanderlust.
Twelve years later Jack had amassed both wealth and a literary reputation through such classics as ‘The Call of the Wild’, ‘White Fang’ and many others. He had a reputation as a social activist and was a tireless friend of the workers.
Jack London died suffering from dysentery, late-stage alcoholism and uremia, aged only 40, on November 22nd 1916 at his property in Glen Elen in California.