Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Call of the Wild

The Call of the WildThe Call of the Wild by Jack London
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was our book club read for July 2014 - and we just had a great discussion on it last night.

Let me start by stating that this is actually the second time that I have read this book. And if I were left to my own devices I would not have read it again. Thanks goodness for book club! You see I didn't really like this book the first time I read it. I was reluctant to read it again, but my desire to enjoy the meeting prevailed. Now having read it once I knew going in the best piece of advice I can give London readers - don't rush it. I like to get a book stared and then rush headlong into the pages until I get to the end. Some call it binge reading. This is not a book that you can binge on and enjoy. It is too dense, much too dense. Even though it is 78 pages (in my copy) I took 4 days to read it. I could have read the words in less time but I could not have enjoyed the story.

Let's get to the story. It is essentially the tale of a domesticated dogs return to the wild. The return is in the ancestral sense, the dog himself was born into a human home. The story is told from the third point of view following the dogs experiences which I think was a smart move as hearing "squirrel!" every page or two gets old. White Fang is another book by London which tells the reverse story - so if you enjoyed Call of the Wild you may want to consider Fang further reading.

Call of the Wild is considered by many an allegory for mans struggles - but London has responded that any allegory was unintentional. It certainly makes me wonder how many great books by long dead authors are analyzed in college courses that were intended merely as entertainment and not the deep analysis of human nature that they have become. At any rate, it is hard to read the book without having the personalities of dogs and people recall to the reader past relationships. When the team is led by Hal, Charles and Mercedes I was reminded of past jobs I held and the leadership I was under.

As for female characters there is only the one Mercedes whose role is brief. I do not hold this against the book in any way as Alaska generally has a shortage of female characters. The female characters that one is likely to find in Alaska however I would expect to be much more hearty then the portrayed Mercedes. Mercedes is soft hearted toward the dogs, possessive of material belongings, childish when crossed, and generally a whine butt. London does however take a moment to examine the root of her shortcomings. "She was pretty and soft, and had been chivalrously treated all her days. But the present treatment by her husband and brother was anything save chivalrous. It was her custom to be helpless. They complained." Chivalry sounds like a good thing at the outset - and some complain that the days of chivalry are dead - but how much nicer it is to have people expect strength over weakness, and self-reliance over dependence. It's a self-fulfilling prophesy.

In a nutshell I definitely recommend it, I will read more by London, and I may even read this again. I think this would be a good read out loud book, so I will have to remember it for future car rides.

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