Tuesday, December 14, 2010

And puppies! Lots of puppies!

Current book: The Call of the Wild
Pages read: 1 - 40

Oh, man. This book is awesome. I don't mean to sound too much like a 12-year-old boy here, but come on - the thrilling tale of a courageous dog sent into the harsh wilderness of the frozen Yukon, fighting it out against the men and savage dogs who will destroy him if he gives them half a chance? Excellent.

Buck, our heroic half-St. Bernard, half Scotch-shepherd, lives on a sunny California plantation, but is sold by his master's servant to pay off a gambling debt. He's beaten and shipped cross-country for several days with no food or water, until, finally let out of the crate, he's nearly mad with thirst and rage. His new owner, however, beats him until he at least gives the appearance of obedience, though his heart is still defiant. He learns that the only way to survive is to be constantly on the defensive, but also ready to fight for what he wants and needs. He's sold again, this time to a man who procures dogs for the Canadian government's sled teams, and is broken to the harness and educated in team-driving. Soon he learns that the leader of his team is a dog named Spitz, but the two don't get along. After weeks of fighting and badgering each other, they have it out in the snow, and Buck kills Spitz. Afterward, he becomes the leader of the team, which is passed into the hands of the mail service. Buck is a good team leader, but secretly rejoices more in the fresh outside air and the wilderness than he does in working for men.

There you go, then. Superficially, of course, it's an adventure story, and a fast-paced, exciting one at that. Underneath, however, it's a story about men as much as dogs. Dogs aren't the only ones who have to change the way they behave in survival situations, yes, but more important than that is the fact that men squabble over power, nip at each other until they're driven mad with rage, and eventually fight one another for supremacy at the cost of lives. To his credit, London never overtly says anything of the kind, but it's not hard to find it below the surface.

Books about animals are always actually about people. It's a great literary truth.

1 comment:

  1. So glad you're liking it. I absolutely LOVE that book and it just keeps getting better.



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