John Barley-Corn

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Author: London, Jack (1876-1916)

Year: 1913

Publisher: Century Company

Place: New York


[6]+343+[1] pages with 7 plates. Small octavo (7 1/2" x 5"). [6]+343+[1] pages with 7 plates. Small octavo (7 1/2" x 5"). bound in original publisher's green cloth with gilt lettering and pictorial barley spike on cover and spine. (BAL 11946) (Sissons & Martens 71) Number of copies unavailable. First edition first issue.

John Barleycorn is an autobiographical novel by Jack London dealing with his enjoyment of drinking and struggles with alcoholism. It was published in 1913. The title is taken from the British folk-song "John Barleycorn". In this memoir, there are the themes of masculinity and male friendship. London discusses various life experiences he has had with alcohol, and at widely different stages in his life. Key stages are his late teen years when he earned money as a sailor and later in life when he was a wealthy, successful writer. The first recorded use of pink elephants as the stereotypical hallucination of the extremely drunk occurs at the beginning of chapter two: "There are, broadly speaking, two types of drinkers. There is the man whom we all know, stupid, unimaginative, whose brain is bitten numbly by numb maggots; who walks generously with wide-spread, tentative legs, falls frequently in the gutter, and who sees, in the extremity of his ecstasy, blue mice and pink elephants. He is the type that gives rise to the jokes in the funny papers." This is contrasted to drinkers such as the narrator, who are possessed of imagination and become drunk more in brain than in body. To them, John Barleycorn sends clear visions of the eventual pointlessness of life and love and struggle.


Slight rubbing to extremities, corners bumped. A Better than very good copy lacking dust jacket.

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