Jack London (1876-1916)

In 1897, gold was discovered in the Klondike, sparking a gold rush. London was poor and had failed thus far as a writer, so he was eagerly lured by the prospect of riches and adventure.

London found no gold in the Yukon, but his experiences there were invaluable as creative inspiration and self-discovery. "It was in the Klondike that I found myself. There, you get your perspective. I got mine." He spent much of his time in the north in a cabin at the mouth of the Stewart River that had become a gathering place. There he absorbed the lore and language of the northland, gathering raw material for his future tales. His first successes were with stories about what he had seen and learned.

In a burst of creative energy, London spent five weeks in the winter of 1903 writing The Call of the Wild. Even though it is a short novel, it is still an impressive achievement. London had always approached his writing with the work ethic of a businessman or tradesman. He didn’t do the same with his finances, and despite his initial success, he was still desperate for money, so he sold the rights to his new novel to Macmillan for a mere $2000.

The novel was serialized in The Saturday Evening Post in June and July 1903, and the book quickly sold out of its first printing. It was a phenomenal success and has never been out of print. Naturally, London didn’t see much money from the novel itself, but the popularity of the book made him a celebrity. He would soon become the highest paid writer in the United States.

The Call of the Wild is centered around Buck, a dog owned by a California judge stolen and sold as a sled-dog in the Klondike gold rush. But Balto this ain’t, it’s a brutal and frank story of life in the wilderness, where characters, dogs and humans, die with unsentimental regularity. The story is of Buck’s transition from civilization to the wild and of the beings who strattle the boundaries between both worlds.

London was influenced by the work of Friedrich Nietzche, and like his characters Martin Eden and Wolf Larsen (The Sea-Wolf), I suspect Buck is a Nietzcheian ubermensch (in this case uberhund, I guess). Buck is both civilized and wild, and is superior to beings in either world because embodies the best elements of each world: the cunning and savagery of the wild, and the intelligence and imagination of civilization.

Chapter 1: Into the Primitive
Chapter 2: The Law of Club and Fang
Chapter 3: The Dominant Primordial Beast
Chapter 4: Who Has Won to Mastership
Chapter 5: The Toil of Trace and Trail
Chapter 6: For the Love of a Man
Chapter 7: The Sounding of the Call

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