MAN STUFF: The Indomitable Thumos of Jack London

Written by Doug Giles on March 26, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 9.38.17 AMAOM- Jack London’s fiercely blazing thumos gave him an insatiable appetite for life. He lived each day as if it was his last. His friend Ford Maddox Ford said London would “burn his life out by his enjoyment of it,” and Upton Sinclair described him as having “an unmatched zeal for living.” He was always reminding them, his friends said, that “we are dying, cell by cell, every minute of our lives.”

London took pride in “the captaincy of his own powers,” and subscribed to the maxim that “Satisfaction with existing things is damnation.” He referred to the journey of life as his “adventure path,” and he was ever in pursuit of “the tang of living.” As a young man, London worked in a cannery, electrical plant, and laundry facility, taught himself to sail, became an oyster pirate, traveled the Pacific aboard a seal-hunting schooner, and ventured into the Klondike in search of gold. By age 22, he had seen and done more than 99% of men will in their entire lifetime.

Yet London was not simply a flighty wanderer. When it came to his self-directed studies and becoming a writer, his discipline could be iron-clad. His interests were wide, he was a voracious reader of the great thinkers in every field, and his curiosity about the world never left him – he loved learning new ideas and debating them with others. Many were drawn to what they felt was his open and ever-questioning nature. He crammed for and passed the rigorous entrance exams of the University of California without ever finishing high school. He penned poems, short stories, and essays for 19 hours a day, and achieved bestselling eminence in just three years of supernaturally-intense effort. Before age 30 he had reached the height of literary fame and was the highest paid writer in America. By the time of his death he had authored 200 short stories, 400 non-fiction pieces, and 20 novels.

Read more: