Male Call

Becoming Jack London

Male Call

New Americanists

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Book Pages: 304 Illustrations: 2 illustrations Published: August 1996

American Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

When Jack London died in 1916 at age forty, he was one of the most famous writers of his time. Eighty years later he remains one of the most widely read American authors in the world. The first major critical study of London to appear in a decade, Male Call analyzes the nature of his appeal by closely examining how the struggling young writer sought to promote himself in his early work as a sympathetic, romantic man of letters whose charismatic masculinity could carry more significance than his words themselves.
Jonathan Auerbach shows that London’s personal identity was not a basis of his literary success, but rather a consequence of it. Unlike previous studies of London that are driven by the author’s biography, Male Call examines how London carefully invented a trademark “self” in order to gain access to a rapidly expanding popular magazine and book market that craved authenticity, celebrity, power, and personality. Auerbach demonstrates that only one fact of London’s life truly shaped his art: his passionate desire to become a successful author. Whether imagining himself in stories and novels as a white man on trail in the Yukon, a sled dog, a tramp, or a professor; or engaging questions of manhood and mastery in terms of work, race, politics, class, or sexuality, London created a public persona for the purpose of exploiting the conventions of the publishing world and marketplace.
Revising critical commonplaces about both Jack London’s work and the meaning of “nature” within literary naturalism and turn-of-the-century ideologies of masculinity, Auerbach’s analysis intriguingly complicates our view of London and sheds light on our own postmodern preoccupation with celebrity. Male Call will attract readers with an interest in American studies, American literature, gender studies, and cultural studies.


“[A] fine book . . . Auerbach, whose subject is the early London, argues nicely that from the very beginning London’s authenticity was ‘an effect of his writing and not its cause". . . Auerbach is quite convincing in reading virtually everything that London wrote, especially the dog stories that made him famous, as a parable of the author’s own agon of impotence.” — Kenneth Dauber , American Literary History

“[A] superb book . . . [Auerbach’s] rigorously argued study marks a large advance in depth and sophistication over any previous extended reading of London.” — Charles N. Watson Jr. , American Literary Realism

“Auerbach has written a book that should go some way toward promoting a reevaluation of Jack London’s works. . . . This is a very impressive book.” — Russell Harrison, American Literature

“The book as a whole is exemplary in its analysis of the interrelation between film noir and the social and political history of the 1940s and early 50s.” — Martin Fradley , Film Quarterly

"Auerbach’s account of the relationship between notions of citizenship, ideological alienation, and the production of film noir in mid-century America is both comprehensive and engaging…. Both insightful and unique in its undertaking, this book speaks openly and convincingly to the relationship between political agenda, disenfranchisement and art." — Laura Crawford , Media International Australia

“No other critic writing today is doing such interesting work on Jack London. Jonathan Auerbach offers a fascinating explanation of the process by which Jack London self-consciously fashioned himself as a professional writer and inscribed that process in his writings. Male Call delivers our most interesting account of London’s early career and the turn-of-the-century literary culture that helped make his career possible.” — Brook Thomas, University of California, Irvine


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Price: $27.95

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