Darius Anderson has a lot of London
Cap: Darius Anderson.jpg Darius relaxes with London memorabilia including first editions, a London typewriter, a Winchester model '92 rifle, and a horn that once belonged to Ernest Hemingway.
Some people collect bottle caps, some people collect stamps, some people collect Ferraris.
Darius Anderson collects Jack London. Lots of Jack London.
Outside of the Huntington Library in San Marino, there may be no institution, and certainly there is no private collector, with more Jack London first editions, more Jack London books and letters, more books and letters about Jack London, more Jack London memorabilia, more just plain Jack London stuff, than Darius Anderson.
"In private hands," he says, without a trace of conceit, "there's nothing that comes close."
To say that Darius is obsessed with Jack London would be to miss the meaning of his collection, which began when he was 10, at the end of a visit with his father to Jack London State Historic Park.
"On the way out of town my dad took me to Russ Kingman's store in Glen Ellen. He bought me my first first edition-War of the Classes-for $125."
It's a bit of a reach to imagine any 10-year-old boy with his nose buried in a turgid political treatise that reads like this: "
As yet, to the average bourgeois mind, socialism is merely a menace, vague and formless. The average member of the capitalist class, when he discusses socialism, is condemned an ignoramus out of his own mouth. He does not know the literature of socialism, its philosophy, nor its politics."
But reading pleasure wasn't the point of the purchase. The book was simply a bridge to the author of adventure stories that would appeal to any red-blooded kid. Stories that start like this:
"Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tidewater dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego. Because men, groping in the Arctic darkness, had found a yellow metal, and because steamship and transportation companies were booming the find, thousands of men were rushing into the Northland. These men wanted dogs..."
It was, "the dog, the Yukon, the panning for gold," Darius explains, that first hooked him on Jack London. And if The Call of the Wild was the limit of his 10-year-old literary horizon, that horizon expanded outward in all directions as he grew.
"Jack London just became more fascinating," says Darius, "the more I opened his books and became more aware of him."
Unlike most childhood enchantments, the London fantasy did not evaporate with age. When he was 13, Darius designed the bookcase he would build when he could have a real London collection and enough money to buy it.
Anderson's family wasn't wealthy-Darius' dad was a cop and a college professor-but through the years he continued acquiring first editions. "I picked up 10 to 25 others randomly, then I became focused on work." That work, in case you don't follow the political and financial press, has made Darius, at 43, one of the top political advisors, fundraisers, and investors in California. He started with a Capitol Hill internship in the office of former Congressman Doug Bosco, matriculated to the Sacramento development offices of soon-to-be Democratic Party Chair Phil Angelides and became, under Angelides, the youngest party finance director ever.
From there Anderson spent five years working for Ron Burkle, the billionaire owner of Ralph's supermarkets and a friend of Bill Clinton's, before leaving to found Platinum Advisors and later Kenwood Investments, which sparked a meteoric rise through political and financial galaxies.
"I started to make money," Anderson says with a certain amount of under-statement, and then the collecting began in earnest. He not only collected things written or owned by Jack London (he now has 300 first editions), he also bought whole London collections. And he bought items that belonged to friends of London, or that referenced London. He built a scaffolding of collectibles that stretched in every direction. A model 92 Winchester 30-30 rifle ("the gun that won the West"), a fur coat worn by Clark Gable in the film version of The Call of the Wild. A bust of John Steinbeck adorning a windowsill in Anderson's London room has another circuitous connection, as does a steer's horn Truman Capote once stole from Ernest Hemingway.
He collects, he says, " both vertically and horizontally, from birth to death," and apparently in every other direction. He acquires three or four items every month, and someone recently gave him a piece of lace from a dress worn by Jack's wife Charmian. Such things come to him now, sometimes as gifts, because he's a different kind of collector.
"A lot of collectors collect for value," Darius explains, "I don't, I never sell. I want to make sure the pieces stay in Sonoma County."
Darius has read all 51 of Jack's books, his favorite is People of the Abyss and, he says, "If I could go back and have dinner with any five people, he'd be number one."
What is it Darius connects with in London? "I love his sense of adventure, to throw everything aside and go for it. Also his ability to challenge the establishment, his involvement with the labor movement." He also loves London's Wolf House and is planning a 14,000-square-foot replica on his Kenwood ranch.
The dark side of Jack London doesn't concern Darius. "He was very human, he wasn't a great father, some would say he was a racist, also a womanizer. But I don't judge Jack. I just revel in his life."
From the winter 2008 issue of SONOMA