Throughout his colorful life–from his teenage years as an oyster pirate to his various incarnations as a well-traveled seaman, Yukon gold prospector, waterfront brawler, unemployed vagrant, impassioned socialist, and celebrated writer–, Jack London retained a predilection for drinking on a prodigious scale. John Barleycorn, his classic "alcoholic memoirs"–the closest thing to an autobiography he ever wrote–are a startlingly honest and vivid account of his life not only as a drinker, but also as a storied adventurer. Richly anecdotal and beautifully written, John Barleycorn stands as the earliest intelligent treatment of alcohol in American literature, and as an intensely moving document of one of America’s finest writers.
When first published in 1913, the novel was celebrated as a sensational indictment against alcoholism. At the same time Jack London holds the alcohol responsible for his romantic adventurousness and credits boozing with an important part in the success of his literary career.