Jack London (1876–1916)
From Jack London: Novels & Stories
In 1905 Jack London purchased “Beauty Ranch” in the Sonoma Valley, north of the San Francisco area. Abutting the property was the California Home for the Care and Training of the Feeble Minded, established in 1891 and still in operation today. London and his wife were regular guests of the home—they knew a number of the staff members and residents there—and out of this familiarity he created one of his stories, “Told in the Drooling Ward.”
The tale was written in 1911, but did not appear in Bookman magazine until June 1914—and London had a hard time placing the story, which was rejected by more than a dozen publishers. Some biographers have claimed that London’s increasing difficulties finding venues for his fiction were due to the experimentalism of stories such as this one, but literary scholar Jonathan Auerbach suggests that, as America’s highest paid writer, London may have simply “priced himself out of the market.” (Bookman paid a mere $100 to publish “Drooling Ward”—far below what London normally received for a story.) Either way, it has become one of the most highly regarded of London’s later stories and we present it as our Story of the Week selection.