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John Barleycorn Poche – 26 janvier 2000

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--Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché.
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Chapter I

It all came to me one election day. It was on a warm California afternoon, and I had ridden down into the Valley of the Moon from the ranch to the little village to vote yes and no to a host of proposed amendments to the Constitution of the State of California. Because of the warmth of the day I had had several drinks before casting my ballot, and divers drinks after casting it. Then I had ridden up through the vine-clad hills and rolling pastures of the ranch and arrived at the farmhouse in time for another drink and supper.

“How did you vote on the suffrage amendment?” Charmian asked.

“I voted for it.”

She uttered an exclamation of surprise. For be it known, in my younger days, despite my ardent democracy, I had been opposed to woman suffrage. In my later and more tolerant years I had been unenthusiastic in my acceptance of it as an inevitable social phenomenon.

“Now just why did you vote for it?” Charmian asked.

I answered. I answered at length. I answered indignantly. The more I answered, the more indignant I became. (No; I was not drunk. The horse I had ridden was well-named “The Outlaw.” I ’d like to see any drunken man ride her.)

And yet—how shall I say?—I was lighted up, I was feeling “good,” I was pleasantly jingled.

“When the women get the ballot, they will vote for prohibition,” I said. “It is the wives, and sisters, and mothers, and they only, who will drive the nails into the coffin of John Barleycorn—”

“But I thought you were a friend to John Barleycorn,” Charmian interpolated.

“I am. I was. I am not. I never am. I am never less his friend than when he is with me and when I seem most his friend. He is the king of liars. He is the frankest truth-sayer. He is the august companion with whom one walks with the gods. He is also in league with the Noseless One. His way leads to truth naked, and to death. He gives clear vision, and muddy dreams. He is the enemy of life, and the teacher of wisdom beyond life’s vision. He is a red-handed killer, and he slays youth.”

And Charmian looked at me, and I knew she wondered where I had got it.

I continued to talk. As I say, I was lighted up. In my brain every thought was at home. Every thought, in its little cell, crouched ready-dressed at the door, like prisoners at midnight waiting a jail-break. And every thought was a vision, bright- imaged, sharp-cut, unmistakable. My brain was illuminated by the clear, white light of alcohol. John Barleycorn was on a truth-telling rampage, giving away the choicest secrets on himself. And I was his spokesman. There moved the multitudes of memories of my past life, all orderly arranged like soldiers in some vast review. It was mine to pick and choose. I was a lord of thought, the master of my vocabulary and of the totality of my experience, unerringly capable of selecting my data and building my exposition. For so John Barleycorn tricks and lures, setting the maggots of intelligence gnawing, whispering his fatal intuitions of truth, flinging purple passages into the monotony of one’s days.

I outlined my life to Charmian, and expounded the make-up of my constitution. I was no hereditary alcoholic. I had been born with no organic, chemical predisposition toward alcohol. In this matter I was normal in my generation. Alcohol was an acquired taste. It had been painfully acquired. Alcohol had been a dreadfully repugnant thing—more nauseous than any physic. Even now I did not like the taste of it. I drank it only for its “kick.” And from the age of five to that of twenty-five, I had not learned to care for its kick. Twenty years of unwilling apprenticeship had been required to make my system rebelliously tolerant of alcohol, to make me, in the heart and the deeps of me, desirous of alcohol.

I sketched my first contacts with alcohol, told of my first intoxications and revulsions, and pointed out always the one thing that in the end had won me over—namely, the accessibility of alcohol. Not only had it always been accessible, but every interest of my developing life had drawn me to it. A newsboy on the streets, a sailor, a miner, a wanderer in far lands, always where men came together to exchange ideas, to laugh and boast and dare, to relax, to forget the dull toil of tiresome nights and days, always they came together over alcohol. The saloon was the place of congregation. Men gathered to it as primitive men gathered about the fire of the squatting-place or the fire at the mouth of the cave.

I reminded Charmian of the canoe-houses from which she had been barred in the South Pacific, where the kinky-haired cannibals escaped from their womenkind and feasted and drank by themselves, the sacred precincts taboo to women under pain of death. As a youth, by way of the saloon I had escaped from the narrowness of women’s influence into the wide free world of men. All ways led to the saloon. The thousand roads of romance and adventure drew together in the saloon, and thence led out and on over the world.

“The point is,” I concluded my sermon, “that it is the accessibility of alcohol that has given me my taste for alcohol. I did not care for it. I used to laugh at it. Yet here I am, at the last, possessed with the drinker’s desire. It took twenty years to implant that desire; and for ten years more that desire has grown. And the effect of satisfying that desire is anything but good. Temperamentally I am wholesome-hearted and merry. Yet when I walk with John Barleycorn I suffer all the damnation of intellectual pessimism.

“—But,” I hastened to add (I always hasten to add), “—John Barleycorn must have his due. He does tell the truth. That is the curse of it. The so-called truths of life are not true. They are the vital lies by which life lives, and John Barleycorn gives them the lie.”

“Which does not make toward life,” Charmian said.

“Very true,” I answered. “And that is the perfectest hell of it. John Barleycorn makes toward death. That is why I voted for the amendment to-day. I read back in my life and saw how the accessibility of alcohol had given me the taste for it. You see, comparatively few alcoholics are born in a generation. And by alcoholic I mean a man whose chemistry craves alcohol and drives him resistlessly to it. The great majority of habitual drinkers are born not only without desire for alcohol but with actual repugnance toward it. Not the first, nor the twentieth, nor the hundredth drink, succeeded in giving them the liking. But they learned, just as men learn to smoke; though it is far easier to learn to smoke than to learn to drink. They learned because alcohol was so accessible. The women know the game. They pay for it—the wives and sisters and mothers. And when they come to vote they will vote for prohibition. And the best of it is that there will be no hardship worked on the coming generation. Not having access to alcohol, not being predisposed toward alcohol, it will never miss alcohol. It will mean life more abundant for the manhood of the young boys born and growing up—ay, and life more abundant for the young girls born and growing up to share the lives of the young men.”

“Why not write all this up for the sake of the young men and women coming?” Charmian asked. “Why not write it so as to help the wives and sisters and mothers to the way they should vote?”

“The ‘Memoirs of an Alcoholic.’ ” I sneered—or, rather, John Barleycorn sneered; for he sat with me there at table in my pleasant, philanthropic jingle, and it is a trick of John Barleycorn to turn the smile to a sneer without an instant’s warning.

“No,” said Charmian, ignoring John Barleycorn’s roughness as so many women have learned to do. “You have shown yourself no alcoholic, no dipsomaniac, but merely an habitual drinker, one who has made John Barleycorn’s acquaintance through long years of rubbing shoulders with him. Write it up and call it ‘Alcoholic Memoirs.’ ” --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

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"Assuredly one of the most useful, as well as one of the most entertaining books ever penned by a man."
--Upton Sinclair --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

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Format: Poche
Jack London est le prototype de l'écrivain voyageur. Dans "John Barleycorn", il poursuit cette veine en nous faisant partager tour à tour la vie des pilleurs d'huitres, des marins le long de la côte californienne et ses voyages en Alaska ou dans le Sud Pacifique. Mais cette autobiographie, Jack London la parcourt sous un jour nouveau : toujours un verre à la main. Il retrace son rapport à l'alcool, et comment c'est la sociabilité des hommes (marins ou hommes de lettres) qui le ramène constamment vers ce rite de partage qui lui sera si néfaste à long terme. Le besoin qu'a London de souligner tout au long du livre qu'il n'avait jamais eu de penchant inné ni de goût réel pour l'alcool finit par alourdir un peu le texte mais c'est peut-être là le prix à payer pour son amour propre et pour pouvoir nous donner cet excellent récit d'une vie qui chavire sous le poids de la boisson. A lire!
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Par Un client le 23 janvier 2004
Format: Poche
Je ne connaissais pas l'oeuvre de London, à part les livres enseignés à l'école. Après avoir lu John Barleycorn, on découvre un London poignant et étonnant. Il nous tient en haleine tout au long du livre et sa vie devient passionnante. On en ressort différent. Un livre qui marque.
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Format: Broché
roman autobiographique que je conseille fortement à tous les amateurs de l'immense Jack London et à tous les accros à l'alcool et autres substances destructrices.
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9418c654) étoiles sur 5 59 commentaires
48 internautes sur 50 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x943d0594) étoiles sur 5 It happens even to the greatest, maybe especially to them 30 juillet 2001
Par Kenneth E. Wagner Jr. - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
John Barleycorn is a tremondous book. One of the first things that will impress you about this book is London's life. London was a literal 'super-man' in the Carlyle sense. This book details how London raised himself from incredible child hood poverty and lower class surroundings while still a teen, engaging in rugged, manly adverntures that were simply amazing. This book also relates how London's love of books changed his life, and it will amaze you that his knowledge is so broad (throughout the book London dazzles us with philosophical qoutes and insights).
Most of all though, this book is about alcoholism. As one reviewer correctly notes, London had a strong liking for intoxication. However, one would be wrong to think of this book as pro-drinking, London is fairly fanatical in his dislike of alcohol and what it eventually did to him and other young men of his age. However, the brilliance of these 'alcoholic memoirs' is that he successfully illuminates the thought processes of most intelligent persons that have drinking problems. You will come away from this book understanding why many people, even an almost super-human person like Jack London, can fall prey to this vice. An absorbing read, and the book has a much more reader friendly and 'modern' style than many of London's fiction.
48 internautes sur 54 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x943d06e4) étoiles sur 5 But is it really against alcohol? 9 août 2000
Par Daniel P. Smith - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
It may seem silly to ask this of a book that, at the time of its publication was used by the WCTU for their campaign, and which is recommended today by Alcoholics Anonymous; but ask it I will.
Let me note that "John Barleycorn" is one of Jack London's best books, and the closest thing to an autobiography he ever wrote. Chapters XXXVI and XXXVII, where he describes the "White Logic," contain some the finest, most lyrical, most poetic writing he ever did.
He describes the minuses of alcohol, AND he describes the plusses of alcohol. He describes BOTH the minuses AND plusses vividly, with all the skill of a great writer. He is a man who LOVES alcohol. He is a man who knows he has been damaged by alcohol. He describes both.
He praises saloon-keepers:
"Saloon-keepers are notoriously good fellows. On an average they perform vastly greater generosities than do business men. When I simply had to have ten dollars, desperate, with no place to turn, I went to Johnny Heinhold. Several years had passed since I had been in his place or spent a cent across his bar. And when I went to borrow the ten dollars I didn't buy a drink, either. And Johnny Heinhold let me have the ten dollars without security or interest...."
Of course, he balances this by explaining how this is in saloon-keepers own interest, and says "this is not to exalt saloon-keepers."
He praises the physical strength alcohol provides:
"And here again we come to another side of many-sided John Barleycorn. On the face of it, he gives something for nothing. Where no strength remains he finds new strength. The wearied one rises to greater effort. For the time being there is an actual accession of strength. I remember passing coal on an ocean steamer through eight days of hell, during which time we coal-passers were kept to the job by being fed with whisky. We toiled half drunk all the time. And without the whisky we could not have passed the coal.
This strength John Barleycorn gives is not fictitious strength. It is real strength."
Of course, he balances this by saying "But it is manufactured out of the sources of strength, and it must ultimately be paid for, and with interest."
He makes alcohol sound exciting, dangerous, comradely, glamorous, manly. Alcohol is his adventure, like his other adventures--indeed, as he explains, an integral PART of his other adventures.
And in the end, when he adds it all up, plusses and minuses, where does HE strike the balance? What total does HE come up with?
"And so I pondered my problem. I should not care to revisit all these fair places of the world except in the fashion I visited them before. GLASS IN HAND! There is a magic in the phrase. It means more than all the words in the dictionary can be made to mean. It is a habit of mind to which I have been trained all my life. It is now part of the stuff that composes me. I like the bubbling play of wit, the chesty laughs, the resonant voices of men, when, glass in hand, they shut the grey world outside and prod their brains with the fun and folly of an accelerated pulse.
No, I decided; I shall take my drink on occasion."
I don't drink. John Barleycorn is the only thing I have ever read that has made me feel that maybe I've missed something...
16 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x943d0a20) étoiles sur 5 Pleasantly Jingled 11 janvier 2007
Par P.K. Ryan - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
`John Barleycorn' is the so-called "Alcoholic memoirs" of American literary icon Jack London. John Barleycorn was London's nickname for booze, and his relationship with Mr. Barleycorn is one of love/hate. In spite of the sub-title, London persists throughout this drunken autobiography that he is not an alcoholic. Nevertheless, he eloquently chronicles his tumultuous drinking career with the goal of demonstrating the enormous toll that alcohol can take on the mind, body, and spirit. At times, he glorifies his drinking, but for the most part he seems to resent this seductive destroyer of men, and claims that the only reason he drinks so much is because it is everywhere. He sees drinking as sort of a social obligation, a manly thing to do around other men. Not only does he resent it, but he concludes that prohibition is the only way to stop the destructive force of alcohol.

`John Barleycorn' is not only a story about the effects of alcohol on one man's life, but it is also an adventurous tale of one of America's first celebrities rise from rags to riches. The narrative begins with London's poverty-stricken childhood in San Francisco, continues through his teenage years as a brawling oyster pirate, and on into his adult years as a celebrated writer and passionate socialist. The prose is magnificent, and although `John Barleycorn" was highly entertaining, there is also a sense of sadness for me because I know first-hand how agonizing this type of life can be. With that said, this is a fantastic piece of American literature.
19 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x943d054c) étoiles sur 5 I'll drink to this one 30 janvier 2000
Par Tom Bruce - Publié sur Amazon.com
Achat vérifié
Reading Jack London's "John Barleycorn" is like attending an AA meeting almost 50 years before they were instituted. London herein gives his story of life with alcohol, and it is much like those you hear in the rooms. Beginning with denial, then the drinking becomes a morning thing, then on the sly, the progression is classic alcoholism. Along the way, London includes enough autobiographical information that this is more than just a booze tale. Interestingly, London -- a devout socialist -- constantly harps on the need for prohibition in this country as a way to end the danger of alcoholism. And we all know how that worked out. I'm, an alcoholic, so I appreciated the book on one level. London is my favorite author, and this is one of his good efforts. It's not a depressing tale but one that is uplifting. I recommend it.(Review by Tom Bruce)
12 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x943d0c0c) étoiles sur 5 beautiful prose 4 mai 2007
Par E. Cetin - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Jack London is the author that I admire the most among the American authors and this memoir, like his other works I read, gave me great reading pleasure. His life started in poverty, he lived a life of struggle and adventure, alcohol was always present as he grew up, and he felt obliged to drink to fit in the macho social environment, eventually developing a heavy drinking habit. In John Barleycorn he tells his story honestly, he describes the surroundings and characters around him beautifully, and especially his psychological descriptions are superb. In one part, while he was drunk and going by himself on a sloop at night, he falls in the water and he describes how all of a sudden he found himself thinking about committing suicide:

"Thoughts of suicide had never entered my head. And now that they entered, I thought it fine, a splendid culmination, a perfect rounding off of my short but exciting career. I, who had never known a girl's love, nor woman's love, nor the love of children; who had never played in the wide joy-fields of art, nor climbed the star-cool heights of philosophy, nor seen with my eyes more than a pin-point's surface of the gorgeous world; I decided that this was all, that I had seen all, lived all, been all, that was worth while, and that now was the time to cease.....The water was delicious. It was a man's way to die. It was a hero's death, and by the hero's own hand and will."

Such is the depth of his character descriptions, such is the way he reflects the mood beautifully. A "must read".
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