88. The Call of the Wild by Jack London

The Call of the Wild (Aladdin Classics)Year Published: 1903
Pages: 137

First sentence: 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.

So this is the first review of a book that I've already read (excluding Jane Eyre, obviously). My first experience with The Call of the Wild wasn't a very good one. I borrowed it (that time and this one) from my sister's box set of "Children's Classics" (e.g. Black Beauty, The Wind in the Willows, The Secret Garden, White Fang, etc.). Actually I think I bought the set as a gift for her, and I've read all the books, but she hasn't. Anyway, I don't think I was more than 14 years old or so the first time I read this book, and I hated it. As a child and cat person, I couldn't appreciate a book with a dog as the main character, no matter how good the execution.

Which brings us to the present, but first I'll tell you what the book is about. Like I said, the protagonist is a dog. I have a pretty strong suspicion that that that makes the book unique in The List. Buck is a St. Bernard/Shepherd cross living in luxury on some rambling estate in California or somewhere. That is until sturdy dogs like him become a precious commodity to be shipped up north during the Yukon gold rush. So off he goes, and he's brilliant and wonderful, and gradually starts to hear THE CALL OF THE WILD.

Sounds pretty lame.


I was totally ready to hate this book again, but it very pleasantly surprised me (take that, Ironweed!). Though pretty weak in the plot department, that's not at all what the important thing is here. What happens to Buck is what matters. The so-called Call of the Wild is a beckoning to the primitive time before our ancestors tamed his, and it's oddly affecting. And even though I'm still a cat person and believe the one lounging on the rug in front of me right now hears the Call of the Wild at all times and simply ignores it in favour of a life of ease, Jack London somehow convinced me that dogs are capable of being kind of cool sometimes, too. I've also developed an even more urgent desire to go to the Yukon.

To be completely honest, though, the main impression I got from this book had very little to do with the book itself, and is basically that Jack London must've been a fucking cool dude. Someone please direct me to a good biography. This is the first dead author crush I've had since the first and only (so far!) time I read Vonnegut, back in 2006. Seriously though, Jack London: too bad he died before any of my grandparents were even born.

With the aurora borealis flaming coldly overhead, or the stars leaping in the frost dance, and the land numb and frozen under its pall of snow, this song of the huskies might have been the defiance of life, only it was pitched in minor key, with long-drawn wailings and half-sobs, and was more the pleading of life, the articulate travail of existence. It was an old song, old as the breed itself—one of the first songs of the younger world in a day when songs were sad.

Rating: 3/3 (read it!)

1 comment:

  1. I asked Juniper as he rather likes Jack London, but the best he could do was a short biography in a collection of short stories - which he doesn't remember the title of. (And it's in storage in Calgary, so he can't just loan it to you.)