Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Jack London

The Call of the Wild: it's one of those classic titles, one of those quintessential American novels. And yet, little did I know: it's told from the perspective of a dog. 

But what a dog that Buck is! 

In its own way, Call of the Wild is perfect little novel: compact, clear, and knowing. Jack London writes with a refreshing confidence. He is attuned to plot and character, but equally, I think, to emotion. There were several moments in Call of the Wild when I truly felt for the dogs. 

That, I suppose, is the magic of London's novel: the degree to which dogs and animals assume human qualities. We feel for them because they are described as a person might be. There is pathos and empathy and connection. And yet, there is not a childish quality to this dynamic: London's animals are rough and rugged, and their travails gradually become our own. 

The "call" to which London -- and Buck -- increasingly refer amounts to a sort of primordial impulse, a longing to return to what's natural and fundamental. London makes a convincing case that Buck is motivated by this call, but he implies that people are, too. Not many of us seek a primal existence, but we do, I think, feel some call toward truth and honesty, toward a more natural condition distanced from technology, politics, and competition. 

We don't feel this all the time, but when we do, we heed the same call Buck does, and that London captures so effectively in his novel. 

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