chapter  4
54 Pages

“This is the book I write”: Jack London’s Strictly Limited Body

In April 1907, Jack London put out from San Francisco in a forty-five foot long ketch of his own design and building, with the intention of fulfilling his simply-put aspiration, “to go around the world in a small boat.”1 In fact, what he had intended to be a seven-year-long odyssey ended in the ruin of his health and reputation, in August 1909, having covered barely a third of the circumference of the globe. In his biography of London Andrew Sinclair has noted that, far from establishing the mythology of himself so cherished by London, the journey was actually a most ruthless demythologizing: “The cruise of the Snark was a sad illusion. It was begun to show off Jack’s physical dominance, yet it ended in his physical collapse.”2 Whereas the preceding chapters have made aspects of building the central focus, the focus of this chapter will be to trace the various collapses apparent in the representations of the Pacific that London produced from this experience-his own bodily collapse, the collapse of the Snark, and the various collapses that exist within and between his written works.