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John Barleycorn or Alcoholic Memoirs

Jack London

Book Overview: 

Jack London died at the age of forty. In this autobiographical work, London describes his life as seen through the eyes of John Barleycorn (alcohol). There is much controversy about the cause of his death just as there is about alcoholism and addiction. London’s brutally frank and honest analysis of his own struggles and bouts with alcohol was way before its time and more modern theories of addiction. With remarkable candor and insight, London describes the demons and gods he encountered through both friend and enemy, John Barleycorn.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .to petty routine, who flouted restrictions and the law, who carried their lives and their liberty in their hands. And it was through John Barleycorn that I came to join this glorious company of free souls, unashamed and unafraid.

And the afternoon seabreeze blew its tang into my lungs, and curled the waves in mid-channel. Before it came the scow schooners, wing-and-wing, blowing their horns for the drawbridges to open. Red-stacked tugs tore by, rocking the Razzle Dazzle in the waves of their wake. A sugar barque towed from the "boneyard" to sea. The sun-wash was on the crisping water, and life was big. And Spider sang:

"Oh, it's Lulu, black Lulu, my darling,
Oh, it's where have you been so long?
Been layin' in jail,
A-waitin' for bail,
Till my bully comes rollin' along."


There it was, the smack and slap of the spirit of revolt, of adventure, of romance, of the things forbidden and done. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Ironic that a book read in preparation for a wine trip to Sonoma would make me understand Prohibition, but there you have it. I get it. Jack London vividly explores a world before TV, before Radio, before the Internet when the local saloon was, for the working classes, their entertainment, their...more

Me, I drink. My father drank. But he had a hollow leg and I never but once saw him the worse for liquor, the New Year's Day morning (a day on which my parents traditionally had a revolving-door party for their friends and relations) when Brother Peter phoned from Mexico to state that he and his b...more

If you want to know what it’s like to live the life of an alcoholic, read this. In this book, Jack London tells us what it is like to live the life of an alcoholic. There is no substitute for a firsthand account. I have spent the last 10 years working as a Substance Abuse Counselor. This is an am...more

Magnifica risposta alla domanda che mi sono fatta leggendo il libro che precede questo nella lista delle letture di quest'anno (carver) e cioè: non è che l'unico vero protagonista della letteratura americana (scrittori e scritti) sia l'acool?

The modern myth of the alcoholic or drug addict artist has only been with us a short while. Lord Byron the debauched poet drinking and fucking his way through his short life, Coleridge getting more and more addicted to drugs, eventually losing his talent, family, health and mind. From then we hav...more

„Se cred liberi, dar sunt lipsiți de orice libertate, sunt simple jucării ale întâmplării, iar el însuși este la fel ca ei; își dă seama de toate acestea, dar cu o deosebire : el vede, el știe și este conștient de singura sa libertate, aceea de a-și putea grăbi sfârșitul.

Disec această jalnică tra...more

The worlds of analytics and presumptives have shaped their theories, verdicts, case studies and various conclusions about the alcoholics, and only a tippler himself can confirm any of them. Furthermore, it is in this portal of continuous assumptions and misconceptions that the spirit-possessor,...more

Personne n'a jamais aussi bien expliqué l'alcoolisme que Jack London, même Zola. Ce récit presque autobiographique est une sorte de Mémoires d'un alcoolique. Toutes les facettes, les raisons et les conséquences de sa consommation sont développées, mais de façon éloquente sans être ennuyante. Pour...more

Reading “John Barleycorn” has given me a whole new appreciation for London and his writing style. The only other books I’ve read of Jack London’s was when I was a kid, “Call of the Wild” and “White Fang”.
John Barleycorn begins with London’s vote for women’s suffrage in the hopes that women would...more

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