John Barleycorn: "Alcoholic Memoirs" (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – Jan 1 1998
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Top Customer Reviews
Most of all though, this book is about alcoholism. As one reviewer correctly notes, London had a strong liking for intoxication. However, one would be wrong to think of this book as pro-drinking, London is fairly fanatical in his dislike of alcohol and what it eventually did to him and other young men of his age. However, the brilliance of these 'alcoholic memoirs' is that he successfully illuminates the thought processes of most intelligent persons that have drinking problems. You will come away from this book understanding why many people, even an almost super-human person like Jack London, can fall prey to this vice. An absorbing read, and the book has a much more reader friendly and 'modern' style than many of London's fiction.
Let me note that "John Barleycorn" is one of Jack London's best books, and the closest thing to an autobiography he ever wrote. Chapters XXXVI and XXXVII, where he describes the "White Logic," contain some the finest, most lyrical, most poetic writing he ever did.
He describes the minuses of alcohol, AND he describes the plusses of alcohol. He describes BOTH the minuses AND plusses vividly, with all the skill of a great writer. He is a man who LOVES alcohol. He is a man who knows he has been damaged by alcohol. He describes both.
He praises saloon-keepers:
"Saloon-keepers are notoriously good fellows. On an average they perform vastly greater generosities than do business men. When I simply had to have ten dollars, desperate, with no place to turn, I went to Johnny Heinhold. Several years had passed since I had been in his place or spent a cent across his bar. And when I went to borrow the ten dollars I didn't buy a drink, either. And Johnny Heinhold let me have the ten dollars without security or interest...."
Of course, he balances this by explaining how this is in saloon-keepers own interest, and says "this is not to exalt saloon-keepers."
He praises the physical strength alcohol provides:
"And here again we come to another side of many-sided John Barleycorn. On the face of it, he gives something for nothing. Where no strength remains he finds new strength. The wearied one rises to greater effort. For the time being there is an actual accession of strength.Read more ›
There are so many pathetic books by quasi experts these days, it is really refreshing to read something written by a true expert who devoted his troubled life to the art of writing. As relevant today as when written.
The silent advice here comes from his failings....read it and see what I mean.
Consider the following quotes about "him" and his effects:
"He is the august companion with whom one walks with the gods."
"And every thought was a vision, bright-imaged, sharp-cut, unmistakable. My brain was illuminated by the clear, white light of alcohol."
Most importantly consider what "he" says:
"Let the doctors of all schools condemn me....What of it? I am truth. You know it....Life lies in order to live. Life is a perpetual lie-telling process. Life is a mad dance in the domain of flux, wherein appearances in mighty tides ebb and flow...You are such an appearance, composed of countless appearances out of the past. All an appearance can know is mirage."
I don't think so great a poet as Shelley could have put this ghastly vision of life more powerfully in prose form, though he does in verse, in his last, ironically titled poem, The Triumph Of Life.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Admirably honest rendering of his drinking problem. I was rivetted. And as an introspective person who thinks about things too much, I could TOTALLY relate to his pondering, to an... Read morePublished on April 23 2001
A stirring, deeply affecting account of one man's gradual resignation to the unrelenting grip of alcoholism. London at his electrifying, almost unsettling best. Read morePublished on Nov. 21 1999 by Steven J. Conifer
Brilliantly written biography of Jack London. Deals with his decent into alcoholism. An excellent read.Published on Oct. 21 1999
Hear him sing. Jack at his bestI don't know what else3 to say.Wonderful riffs.Published on May 10 1999 by email@example.com
I really enjoyed this book. It is an intelligent and humorous view of a drinkers experiences, and we all know how entertaining Jack London's experiences were. Read morePublished on Nov. 9 1998