Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In Sailor on Horseback: The Biography of Jack London, Irving Stone has documented the personal and professional life of one of the United States’ greatest writers. The book begins with a brief history of London’s mother and father and then moves chronologically through London’s life. Organized into ten chapters, the book reads like a novel, recounting London’s risks as a fifteen-year-old “oyster pirate” who brawled in the waterfront saloons and fended off armed attacks of his sloop, the Razzle Dazzle, as well as his trip to the Alaskan goldfields in 1897. London’s life continually alternated between adventure and bouts of back-or mind-breaking work to support his family. The end of the first chapter, like the end of the tenth chapter, shows London trying to provide for his family.

The book effectively traces London’s professional life. The first stories that he published were both sold on the same day, near the end of November, 1898—one for five dollars and the other for forty. His payment of forty dollars from an Eastern magazine persuaded him that he could earn a living as a writer, so from that point on he worked his eighteen-hour days writing instead of shoveling coal or scrubbing windows. By 1913, London earned $75,000 a year from his writing, money that never quite covered his expenses.

Stone documents well the adventuring life that was, in fact, the source for much of London’s fiction. London’s...

(The entire section is 586 words.)