Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Delphi Classics Complete Works of Jack London

The most complete of the “Complete”s
There are several London “Complete Works” ebook files out there, none of which are truly complete, but the Delphi Classics collection is the most complete that I’ve ever seen. I own a few of such collections and have looked through the tables of contents of several competitors. I haven’t read London’s complete works entirely through this one source, but I have probably read (or reread) at least a couple dozen volumes from this Delphi collection. For lovers of classic literature, the Delphi Classics simply makes the best ebooks out there. They are conscientiously edited and well constructed files, with convenient tables of contents and clean, readable text. The files are not entirely error free, but you’re unlikely to come across any more typos than you might find in the original printed editions.

According to the website The World of Jack London, there are 197 short stories in the London canon, and this collection from Delphi has them all. Unfortunately, they are only indexed in alphabetical order. There is no indication of chronology or the collections in which these stories were originally published in book form. This is a big mistake. Those hoping for an education in London’s work would be best served by reading the stories as grouped in their original collections, thus getting an indication of the stages in his career and his development as a writer over time. To lump them all together into one big pile is a rare error in judgment on the part of the Delphi editors.

All of London’s novels are included, with the exception of The Assassination Bureau, Ltd., which was left unfinished at the time of his death and completed by mystery writer Robert L. Fish in 1969. Given that it’s still under copyright, that’s an understandable omission. In addition to London’s fiction and nonfiction, this is one of very few collections I’ve seen that also includes his complete poetry and plays.

As far as London’s nonfiction goes, the Delphi collection has all of London’s books as well as several uncollected essays. All that’s missing from this Complete Works is some of his more obscure essays. For example, his war correspondence from the Mexican Revolution is here, but not his articles from the Japanese-Russian War. If you really want to read London’s complete works, I would suggest you buy this collection from Delphi, then also get your hands on the 1970 collection Jack London Reports, edited by King Hendricks and Irving Shephard, and the 2007 collection Jack London: The Unpublished and Uncollected Articles and Essays, edited by Daniel J. Wichlan. With these three books, you should have in your possession at least 99.9% of the extant work that flowed from London’s prolific pen (not counting his thousands of letters, of course).

As an added bonus, Delphi includes the two-volume biography The Book of Jack London, written by his widow Charmian Kittridge London. Though certainly not the most objective of London biographies, Charmian’s take on London’s life has served as an important source for every biography that’s followed.

Simply put, the Delphi Classics Complete Works of Jack London is not quite perfect, but it’s the best and most inclusive ebook available of this great American author’s work.

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