Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Complete Short Stories of Jack London (Di Lernia Publishers)

Review of the Kindle book, not the hardcover edition
Back in 1993, Earle Labor, a renowned scholar of Jack London’s work, put together a collection of The Complete Short Stories of Jack London which was published in three hardcover volumes. This Kindle edition of The Complete Short Stories of Jack London, from Di Lernia Publishers, is NOT a reissue of that work. This e-book does not contain Labor’s introductory essay or any of the bibliographic information on the publication history of these stories. This file is just the stories; that’s it. I don’t bring that up as a criticism, just a clarification. It’s great that these stories are now all readily available in e-book format, so London fans no longer have to shell out the money for those expensive hardcover volumes.

I already own a few different e-books of “The Complete Works of Jack London,” because it seems none of them is ever truly complete. I bought this edition of the Complete Short Stories for the content that those other collections lacked. London’s short stories were originally published in various periodicals, then reprinted in hardcover collections. Most Complete Works collections organize London’s stories according to the collections in which they appeared, which is as it should be. However, in doing this, most editions omit the Uncollected Stories—stories which never appeared in one of these hardcover collections. This Kindle edition does have these Uncollected Stories, which is the main reason why I bought it. It also has the final six stories of Smoke Bellew, which are often erroneously omitted from many collections. In addition to all the short stories, this collection throws in the novels The Call of the Wild and White Fang as a bonus. It also includes the nonfiction books War of the Classes and Revolution and Other Essays (which does include one fiction piece), as well as about a dozen other short nonfiction pieces in the form of essays, letters, and journalism.

As I’ve already read the vast majority of London’s works in other Kindle files, I only read 42 of the stories included here. From that sampling, however, I did get the impression that the text is not in very good shape. It has many of the typographical errors that arise from scanned texts, and there appears to have been little attempt at editing. These errors are not bad enough to hinder you from reading the stories, just bad enough to be annoying. I also noticed two short stories that are missing. One is an obscure piece called “The ‘Fuzziness’ of Hoockla-Heen.” The other is the 1902 version of “To Build a Fire,” a preliminary draft of the more famous 1908 story of the same title. The earlier version was watered-down for a younger audience and features a different ending, but it’s still considered a story in its own right within the London canon.

I don’t regret purchasing this Kindle book. It served my purposes. However, for those looking for one “definitive” Kindle collection of London’s work, I would recommend the Delphi Classics Complete Works of Jack London. It has the most complete contents of any such collection I’ve seen, and in my experience the Delphi Classics always provide the best edited, cleanest text of any public domain collections on the market.

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1 comment:

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