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When God Laughs : And Other Short Stories
Jack London (1876-1916), the critically acclaimed and widely read author of The Call of the Wild (1903), White Fang (1906), and The Sea Wolf (1904), produced this collection of twelve short stories toward the end of his career in 1911. Named after the first story -- about a couple that tries in vain to uphold an intensely idealistic romance against the erosions of time and the inconstancy of human nature -- the collection explores themes for which London became famous: the struggle for survival in the midst of hostile environments, human nature's most elemental drives, and worker abuse in industrialized society.
In "The Apostate" his concerns with the working poor and his dislike of pre-union-era capitalism are evident in a grim story about a young man who is brutalized by the subhuman working conditions in a textile mill, yet achieves a kind of liberation in the end.
London's fascination with primitive male characters is evident in "Just Meat," a story of two thieves who plot each other's demise in a selfish grab for a hoard of recently stolen jewelry.
Like his famous novel The Sea Wolf, the stories "Make Westing" and "The 'Francis Spaight'" (described as "A True Tale Retold") portray corrupt sea captains abusing and terrorizing their crews during nightmarish voyages.
In the concluding story, "A Piece of Steak," London starkly portrays the desperate struggles of an aging boxer as he grapples with a younger contender through most of a grueling twenty-round fight.
As all of these stories vividly reveal, many of them brilliantly, no one had a more dispassionate and uncompromising view of human nature at its worst or could express it more forcefully than Jack London.
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November 01, 2004
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