Jack London Centennial Event


I’ve been in Jack London head-space for months, initially because I was in UTC#61’s adaptation of The Iron Heel but secondarily because that experience spurred me on to read and re-read a lot of his fiction this summer. (Far from all of it, the man was prolific to a fault, and when I say a fault, I mean a fault!) So when I got a notice about an event observing the centennial of London’s death I couldn’t miss it. The intimate event, put on by the Jack London Project, was held yesterday at the Dramatists Guild, in the very same room where we had our first table reading of The Moose Head Over the Mantel several months ago. It consisted of three separate presentations:

  • Excerpts from W. Gregory Nissen’s new musical based on one of my favorite novels Martin Eden (which I blogged about here). I thought the music for this work-in-progress was brilliant, and Nissen, who spoke about London and his own process of adapting the material, seemed like a brilliant guy in general. It seemed to me the material is more promising for an opera than a work of musical theatre, but it will be interesting to see how it progresses.
  • A brief, insightful talk on London’s most widely read and anthologized short story “To Build a Fire” by CUNY professor Barbara Kitai. I first read this story a couple of years ago. Listening to her talk yesterday (although she didn’t say as much) I couldn’t help but draw a connection between the arrogance of its unnamed hero, who disregards and scorns the advice of experts and undertakes a journey that will kill him, with the millions of people who voted for Donald Trump.
  • The premiere of Ben Goldstein’s new documentary Jack London: American Original, a wonderfully complete and detailed educational tool. The film introduced me to much information I didn’t already know, and forced me to look at London in a different light. Like so many “socialists” in the arts in the western world, he was primarily a utopian idealist who made piles of money which he spent on things like yachts and mansions, even as he was making the plights of the poor known to the world. And the film provides a good, plausible theory for the writers’ early death at age 40. The trailer for the film can be viewed here. 

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