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333 - Recommended reading: Jack London


Mark Worden (Standard British accent)

If you’ve seen the movie or read the book The Wolf of Wall Street you may have wondered where did that phrase originally come from. Well, as far as we know, it was first coined by an American author, Jack London, in his book The Road, which was published at the beginning of the 20th century. At one point he says that “I was greedier than any of the wolves of Wall Street.” Now, Jack London was a very interesting writer. The Road was a book that he wrote, as I said, at the start of the 20th century, and it described his journeys around the United States as a hobo, i.e. a sort of tramp, riding the trains, and for some people it is a model for a later book which is more famous, which was On The Road by Jack Kerouac. Jack Kerouac travelled around the States by car in the 1940s, but Jack London travelled around the United States by train in the 1890s, so he was very much “doing a Jack Kerouac” but 50 years before Jack Kerouac. Jack London is also interesting because he managed to predate another famous writer or book, and that is George Orwell’s Down and Out in... in Paris and London. That was a very famous book about poverty in London and Paris in the 1930s. What many people don’t know is that Jack London himself, as an American, visited London – the city – in 1902, and he spent six weeks living in the East End, which was the... the slum area, the very poor part of London, and the book he wrote, which is called The People of the Abyss, is an incredible account of poverty in... in Edwardian England. It’s... it’s a remarkable book. These were two of the books that London wrote. He actually wrote more than 50 books during the course of his short life. He died in 1916 at the age of 40, and the reasons why... the reason why he died young was that essentially... that he was an alcoholic, like Jack Kerouac. And he was also similar to George Orwell in that he was... he was a socialist, he felt very strongly about... inequality and poverty and the dreadful things that he saw in London. And unfortunately, to complete this unhappy trio, George Orwell also died in his 40s, but the reason was not that he was an alcoholic but that he spent so much of his time living rough in Paris and London where he caught various diseases such as tuberculosis. But anyway Jack London is a marvellous writer and I thoroughly recommend him.