John Barleycorn or Alcoholic Memoirs by Jack London (1876 - 1916)


  • Chapter 36

Chapter 36

Thursday 1st January 1970

Explore the life of Jack London and his struggles with alcoholism through the eyes of John Barleycorn in this thought-provoking podcast episode transcription. Listen on
23 minutes

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John Barleycorn or Alcoholic Memoirs by Jack London (1876 - 1916)
Navigating Alcohol Dependency
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The Life of Jack London Through the Eyes of John Barleycorn

I am aware that within the disintegrating body which has been dying since I was born, I carry a skeleton that, under the rind of flesh which is called my face is a bony, noseless death's head.
In the chapter 36 of John Barleycorn, Jack London's autobiographical work, he provides a brutally honest account of his struggles with alcoholism. Through the eyes of John Barleycorn, London reflects on the impact of addiction on his life and the lives of those around him. He questions the role of rational civilization in addiction and reflects on mortality and human existence. London's reflections on the demons and gods of John Barleycorn are both haunting and thought-provoking.
He describes his addiction as a skeleton that he carries within his disintegrating body. The white logic of the world makes one sneer at all the phantasmagoria of living. London's work was ahead of its time and still resonates with readers today. It serves as a warning about the dangers of excess and indulgence.
The chapter ends with a poignant question: 'Would you then shut the books and exchange places with this thing that is only an appetite and a desire, a marionette of the belly and the loins?' Listen to this episode now here on and reflect on the impact of addiction on your life and the lives of those around you.