Jack London, The Road

Steve Wishnevsky of Winston-Salem likes to review many kinds of books, including classics that people may not have read but might enjoy.

One of the many things to recommend such books is that   they are now in the public domain, and if you search for them you might find them where you can download them free as e-books or audio books. I recently found a free audio-book version of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, downloaded it to a thumb drive and listened to it while driving on various errands.

By Steve Wishnevsky

THE ROAD. By Jack London, Public Domain. 1907.
I have been slack on my book reviews; it’s all my wife’s fault. She gave me a Kindle for Christmas. It is so easy to download a free book that one always wanted to read and zip through it. Old books are often shorter than the modern mode, and forget reading the new stuff.

Jack London was more a socialist and revolutionary than a spinner of animal tales, no matter what you might have learned in seventh grade. The Road is a rambling memoir, quite in keeping with its subject matter, riding the rails before the turn of the last century.

The modern Republican Romantics might idolize the McKinley Era, but it was hard times for many people. There was no social safety net whatsoever; a poor man had to root hog, or die. Many people “hit the grit,” rambling and bumming town to town, living on the charity of strangers and by their native wit, if any.

This book is full of hard-core wisdom on race, and work and cops and jail and living on the road.

There is a more or less coherent memoir of the trek of Coxey’s Army, a mass movement of the unemployed, circa 1894, that marched on Washington to protest. London’s relation concerns his getting ahead of the mass movement down the various rivers, living off the fat of the land.

This is a fine book, if not a great one, full of gritty details of rambling life, and train hopping. One could write quite the adventure from this book, Woody Guthrie’s autobiography and perhaps a little Carl Sandburg.

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