The Human Drift

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Macmillan, 1917 - Adventure stories, American - 184 pages
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A collection of eight very different pieces by Jack London, including an essay, short stories, plays, and personal narratives. The title essay, "The Human Drift", describes the ebb and flow of the world's population over the centuries, highlighting the effect of war and disease on checking the numbers. London argues that socialism offers the best hope of combating catasphrophic world hunger. He writes about sailing on San Francisco Bay in "Small-Boat Sailing" and a travel experience in "Nothing That Ever Came to Anything," and finishes with two humorous plays, "A Wicked Woman" and "The Birth Mark."

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Page 38 - Motion as well as matter being fixed in quantity it would seem that the change in the distribution of matter which motion effects coming to a limit in whichever direction it is carried, the indestructible motion thereupon necessitates a reverse distribution.
Page 23 - Driving the darkness, Even as the banners And spears of the Morning ; Sifting the nations, The slag from the metal, The waste and the weak From the fit and the strong...
Page 17 - The Revelations of Devout and Learn'd Who rose before us, and as Prophets burn'd, Are all but Stories, which, awoke from Sleep They told their comrades and to Sleep return'd.
Page 38 - Apparently the universally coexistent forces of attraction and repulsion which, as we have seen, necessitate rhythm in all minor changes throughout the universe, also necessitate rhythm in the totality of its changes, — produce now an immeasurable period during which the attracting forces predominating cause universal concentration, and then an immeasurable period during which the repulsive forces predominating cause universal diffusion, — alternate eras of Evolution and Dissolution.
Page 40 - There is nothing terrible about it. With Richard Hovey, when he faced his death, we can say: 'Behold! I have lived!' And with another and greater one, we can lay ourselves down with a will. The one drop of living, the one taste of being, has been good ; and perhaps our greatest achievement will be that- we dreamed immortality, even though we failed to realize it.
Page 38 - And thus there is suggested the conception of a past during which there have been successive Evolutions analogous to that which is now going on ; and a future during which successive other such Evolutions may go on — ever the same in principle but never the same in concrete result.
Page 72 - ... was for, nor did he know that in running a boat before the wind one must sit in the middle instead of on the side; and finally, when we came back to the wharf, he ran the skiff in full tilt, shattering her nose and carrying away the mast-step. And yet he was a really truly sailor fresh from the vasty deep. Small-Boat Sailing from The Human Drift by Jack London, 1911 Of course, the 'experienced merchant mariner
Page 31 - From the beasts of prey and the cannibal humans down to the death-dealing microbes, no quarter is given; and daily, wider and wider areas of hostile territory, whether of a warring desert-tribe in Africa or a pestilential fever-hole like Panama, are made peaceable and habitable for mankind. As for the great mass of stay-at-home folk, what percentage of the present generation in the United States, England, or Germany, has seen war or knows anything of war at first hand? There was never so much peace...
Page 34 - And socialism, when the last word is said," he saw it, "is merely a new economic and political system whereby more men can get food to eat. In short, Socialism is an improved food-getting efficiency.

About the author (1917)

One of the pioneers of 20th century American literature, Jack London specialized in tales of adventure inspired by his own experiences. London was born in San Francisco in 1876. At 14, he quit school and became an "oyster pirate," robbing oyster beds to sell his booty to the bars and restaurants in Oakland. Later, he turned on his pirate associates and joined the local Fish Patrol, resulting in some hair-raising waterfront battles. Other youthful activities included sailing on a seal-hunting ship, traveling the United States as a railroad tramp, a jail term for vagrancy and a hazardous winter in the Klondike during the 1897 gold rush. Those experiences converted him to socialism, as he educated himself through prolific reading and began to write fiction. After a struggling apprenticeship, London hit literary paydirt by combining memories of his adventures with Darwinian and Spencerian evolutionary theory, the Nietzchean concept of the "superman" and a Kipling-influenced narrative style. "The Son of the Wolf"(1900) was his first popular success, followed by 'The Call of the Wild" (1903), "The Sea-Wolf" (1904) and "White Fang" (1906). He also wrote nonfiction, including reportage of the Russo-Japanese War and Mexican revolution, as well as "The Cruise of the Snark" (1911), an account of an eventful South Pacific sea voyage with his wife, Charmian, and a rather motley crew. London's body broke down prematurely from his rugged lifestyle and hard drinking, and he died of uremic poisoning - possibly helped along by a morphine overdose - at his California ranch in 1916. Though his massive output is uneven, his best works - particularly "The Call of the Wild" and "White Fang" - have endured because of their rich subject matter and vigorous prose.

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