John Barleycorn Synopsis

John Barleycorn by Jack London was published in 1913 and is named after a Scottish folk-song. The work is a testament to London’s struggles with drinking and alcoholism.

See also: A Daughter of the Snows, Call of the Wild, The Kempton-Wace Letters , and Sea-wolf by Jack London

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In the book London recounts his encounters with alcohol first as a teen who was working on a sailing vessel. Then as a successful author.

The book includes the first recorded use of the word “pink elephants” to describe the hallucinations seen on alcohol.

“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.”


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