WHEN one writes or speaks of masculinity in American fiction, Jack London comes first to mind. With all the faults of his good qualities, with his hymning of sheer brute force as an end in itself, Jack London is first and always a virile masculine personality. He touches the surface only, but the force and dash of the man are potencies not to be denied. There is so much of Jack London in everything he writes that a new book from his pen becomes interesting to those who enjoy him as a writer, as much as a revelation of a new phase of his personality, as of itself as a book. Seen in this way, his latest novel, Burning Daylight, has some interesting revelations to make. They show us a Jack London who no longer desires to preach his very amusing radicalism, but who is willing to come back to his power as a story teller. Also a Jack London who had passed through the sad phase of unrest out of which Martin Eden grew-âitâs certainly sad to have oneâs emotions take such unpleasant formsâ and who has attained a calmness of mind by reason of which his glowing, vivid style, with the assurance of ripened maturity, can pour itself out into a vehicle of great pleasure for the reader. In this novel Jack London does not preach anything. He has attained the objectiveness necessary to true fiction, and even if he himself believes in a return to the land for health and strength, in this book he makes it appear only as true for his hero, not necessarily true, however enticing in his description, for all humanity. In doing this, he has, incidentally, lost one of his most annoying faults, and made Burning Daylight a better novel than he has given us for many a day.
Elam Harnisch, called âBurning Daylightâ by his pals in Alaska, is one of the physically and mentally strong men, in whose life and struggles in a world of men Jack London delights. It is the type and the theme also of just this masculine school of fiction which we are now discussing. Daylight becomes a Klondike kingâin cleverly buying up all the best claims in the gold creeksâthen goes down into the States and fights many a wild battle in the financial arena. Here he grows hard, selfish and cruel as never before, losing the geniality that had been his in Alaska, losing even the splendid physical strength that was his pride. Unassumingly, with none of the italicizing that sometimes annoys us in Jack Londonâs work, big financial deals that have the ring of truth about them are exposed. But it is all seen through Day1ightâs eyes, in relation to his life, his development. The balance of proportion between the background, first of the Alaskan wilds, then the Gold Stampede, then the world of high finance and gamblingâthe proportion between this teeming background and the central figure is excellently held throughout. Finally, when he is forty, a woman comes into Daylightâs life, this life that had known the things interesting men only, and through his love for her he returns to his former simple, strong self. Leaving the âbig gameâ of finance, leaving also his thirty millions, he settles down to a charming idyl of the Simple Life in married happiness. The picture of the ranch and the life there is very pretty, coming after the storm and stress of the earlier chapters. And we take a real interest in the temptation that comes to Daylight when he discovers gold on his own land, and all his gambling instincts flare up anew. But he conquers them and returns to his wife, with a plan to plant trees over the hidden richness that he may never think of it again. It reads well as a book, and its author may be forgiven some recent failures for its sake.
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This edition contains eight illustrations as per the original New York publication of 1910.
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