11 June 2009

Jack London: Various Works

Perusing the lamentably slim pickings in the classics section of my local library the other day I came to several conclusions:

1. Library staff who classify Salman Rushdie as a classics author are morons.
2. Libraries who do not possess ONE SINGLE COPY of The Portrait of Dorian Gray are naught but an ode to the socially bureaucratic inefficiencies that this country is riddled with.
3. I ought to read some Jack London.

And thus to a triumphant fanfare I introduce my latest review... Batard and The Call of the Wild. The book had several more stories in it, including White Fang, but at the end of The Call of the Wild I felt that I had delved sufficiently into the mind of London and thus closed the book.

There is little doubt in my mind that London is a talented writer. Batard in particular is a masterpiece of literary wrangling... 18 pages have seldom yielded so potent or powerful a story. London's writing is akin to that of McCarthy and Steinbeck, whose stories of rough and terrible lives are spotlighted by brief moments of humane feeling that could come from any point on the infinite spectrum of human emotion.

NOTE: I said HUMAN emotion. HUMAN. This is where I think London falls down, attributing dogs with the ability to think as people. Batard, the angry and bitter dog of the first story, plots the death of his master for years before finally exacting revenge for the cruel and barbaric existence he has been subjected to. Buck in The Call of the Wild is similarly intuitive and emotional, his journey from privileged pet to wild wolf penned brilliantly by London, apart from the fact that Buck, AS A DOG, does not have the mental acumen that London bequeaths him with.

However, for all this I could suspend disbelief if I had found myself enjoying the stories anyway. But I did not. I reject violence on all levels and I don't even like reading about two fully grown men having a fight. But when said violence is turned against children (see here) or animals, my stomach turns. Page after page London describes dogs being beaten by humans, dogs tearing each other apart, dogs being shot/hung/starved/dragged in the snow. ARGH. Trying to flick ahead to skip the violence ultimately meant reaching the back cover and not having read a thing.

Thus, I could forgive London endowing canines with impressive minds but cannot get on board with the whole incessant physical abuse thing. Have moved onto Lady Chatterley's Lover and this is proving far more enjoyable.

Rating: 3/10.

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