Thursday, April 7, 2011

Jack London's "The Road" an Adventure

I remember reading White Fang, by Jack London, a couple times as a kid. So when I saw I could download London’s The Road for free onto my Kindle, I did. The book turned out to be his rehearsal of a stint in his life when he hoboed on the rails. He was 18, and the year was 1894. The book is fascinating, well-written, and at times humorous.

The Road details, among other things,

  • how London became good at telling stories to housewives in order to get a meal

  • the different types of names hoboes took and what they meant (like Leary Joe, Painter Red, Chi Plumber, Michigan French)

  • London’s physical escapades in hopping on trains, hopping off, and evading the train’s police while on a train

  • his stint with an army of hoboes (or "bums" or "stiffs") some 2000 strong that traveled together and practiced a certain kind of extortion with small towns

  • what prison life was like and how he got ahead and survived in prison during his 3-month stint

  • and his run-ins with bulls (the police, also called "John Law").

Well worth the read in terms of entertainment and in terms of opening one’s eyes to another side of life.

First line: There is a woman in the state of Nevada to whom I once lied continuously, consistently, and shamelessly, for the matter of a couple of hours.

Last line: So I caught the next train out, and ate my breakfast in Baltimore.

My rating (out of 5): 3 ½

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