Sailor on Horseback Critical Context - Essay

Irving Stone

Critical Context

Stone’s biography was reviewed in 1938, as a whole, favorably. Reviewers most often cited the abundance of fact and detail within the book as its principal strength. To attest to the book’s importance at the time, it was reviewed in eighteen publications of national merit, including The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Saturday Review of Literature, and The Times Literary Supplement of London. As a point of comparison, London’s daughter Joan published Jack London and His Times: An Unconventional Biography (1939), a book that was reviewed in five publications. The biography satisfies the curiosity of the readers of The Call of the Wild (1903) and The Sea-Wolf.

Sailor on Horseback was initially released during the Great Depression and just before World War II. Because of the historical swing toward totalitarianism that was occurring at the time of publication, one reads the history of socialism as recorded in this biography with a slightly different point of reference. Because every era is an era of transition, all young readers will be offered an opportunity to consider the ebb and flow of economic and political systems as they read of London’s struggles to find work and his being urged to run for president on the Socialist ticket. Stone’s biography offers an effective blend of personal and societal concerns in his portrait of London the socialist, concerns that will be meaningful to a young reader.