Call of the Wild, White Fang and To Build a Fire (Modern Library Series) [NOOK Book]

Overview

The Call of the Wild—Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time

'To this day Jack London is the most widely read American writer in the world,' E. L. Doctorow wrote in The New York Times Book Review. Generally considered to be London's greatest achievement, The Call of the Wild brought him international acclaim when it was published in 1903. His story of the dog Buck, who learns to survive in the bleak Yukon ...
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Call of the Wild, White Fang and To Build a Fire (Modern Library Series)

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Overview

The Call of the Wild—Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time

'To this day Jack London is the most widely read American writer in the world,' E. L. Doctorow wrote in The New York Times Book Review. Generally considered to be London's greatest achievement, The Call of the Wild brought him international acclaim when it was published in 1903. His story of the dog Buck, who learns to survive in the bleak Yukon wilderness, is viewed by many as his symbolic autobiography. 'No other popular writer of his time did any better writing than you will find in The Call of the Wild,' said H. L. Mencken. 'Here, indeed, are all the elements of sound fiction.'

White Fang (1906), which London conceived as a 'complete antithesis and companion piece to The Call of the Wild,' is the tale of an abused wolf-dog tamed by exposure to civilization. Also included in this volume is 'To Build a Fire,' a marvelously desolate short story set in the Klondike, but containing all the elements of a classic Greek tragedy.

'The quintessential Jack London is in the on-rushing compulsive-ness of his northern stories,' noted James Dickey. 'Few men have more convincingly examined the connection between the creative powers of the individual writer and the unconscious drive to breed and to survive, found in the natural world. . . . London is in and committed to his creations to a degree very nearly unparalleled in the composition of fiction.'
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679641681
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/1/2000
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 605,801
  • File size: 506 KB

Meet the Author

John Griffith London, the novelist, short story writer, essayist, and journalist whose own life proved as dramatic as his fiction, was born in San Francisco on January 12, 1876. He was the illegitimate son of Flora Wellman, a spiritualist and music teacher, and William Henry Chaney, an astrologer and itinerant lecturer. Renamed for his stepfather, Civil War veteran John London, he endured an impoverished childhood on various California farms and a succession of poorhouses in Oakland, where the family moved in 1886. London left school at the age of fourteen to work in a cannery. After a brief, dangerous stint as an oyster pirate on San Francisco Bay, he became a deputy for the California Fish Patrol, having adventures he later recalled in The Cruise of the Dazzler (1902) and Tales of the Fish Patrol (1905). In 1893 he boarded a sealing schooner headed for the Bering Sea. The seven-month voyage inspired 'Story of a Typhoon Off the Coast of Japan' (1893), which was awarded first prize in a writing contest sponsored by a San Francisco newspaper, and The Sea-Wolf (1904), perhaps his best novel about the struggle of man against nature.

The following year London headed east by rail with other young hobos. He roamed across America as far as Niagara Falls, New York, where he was arrested for vagrancy. 'I have often thought that to this training of my tramp days is due much of my success as a story writer,' he reflected. 'In order to get the food whereby I lived, I was compelled to tell tales that rang true. At the back door, out of inexorable necessity, is developed the convincingness and sincerity laid down by all authorities on the art of the short story.' The Road (1907), a forerunner of the work of Dos Passos and Kerouac, recounts his experiences as a 'road kid.' Upon returning to California, London resumed his education by studying the works of Charles Darwin, Herbert Spencer, and Friedrich Nietzsche. He attended Oakland High School for a year and spent one semester at the University of California at Berkeley. During this time he became interested in Marxism and joined the Socialist Labor Party, gaining notoriety as the 'Boy Socialist' of Oakland. The semi-autobiographical novel Martin Eden (1909) chronicles his dreams of literary fame that date from this period.

In the summer of 1897, London joined the Klondike gold rush, little realizing the wealth of material it would provide him as a writer. 'It was in the Klondike I found myself,' he later attested. 'There you get your perspective. I got mine.' He sold his first story, 'To the Man on the Trail,' to the Overland Monthly in 1899, and the Atlantic Monthly published 'An Odyssey of the North' in January 1900. London's first book, The Son of the Wolf (1900), was a collection of Klondike tales that proved enormously popular. He quickly capitalized on its success with The God of His Fathers (1901) and Children of the Frost (1902). His other volumes of Klondike stories include The Faith of Men (1904), Love of Life and Other Stories (1907), Lost Face (1910), and Smoke Bellew (1912).

The Call of the Wild brought London international acclaim when it was published in 1903. Viewed by many as his symbolic autobiography, it recounts the story of the dog Buck, who learns to survive in the brutal Yukon wilderness. 'No other popular writer of his time did any better writing than you will find in The Call of the Wild,' noted H. L. Mencken. 'Here, indeed, are all the elements of sound fiction.' White Fang, which was conceived by London as 'a complete antithesis and companion piece to The Call of the Wild,' appeared in 1906. 'The quintessential Jack London is in the on-rushing compulsiveness of his northern stories,' noted James Dickey. 'Few men have more convincingly examined the connection between the creative powers of the individual writer and the unconscious drive to breed and to survive, found in the natural world.'

London next focused on social and political issues. He journeyed to England in 1902 to research The People of the Abyss (1903), a study of the appalling slum conditions in the East End of London. In 1904 he traveled to Korea and Manchuria to report on the Russo-Japanese War for the Hearst newspaper syndicate. The Russian Revolution of 1905 prompted London to give a series of socialist lectures subsequently compiled in War of the Classes (1905) and Revolution and Other Essays (1910). And in The Iron Heel (1908), an astonishing political fantasy judged by Leon Trotsky to be a work of genius, he imagined the rise of fascism in America.

In 1907 London sailed for the South Pacific. The Cruise of the 'Snark' (1911) recounts the writer's grueling two-year journey through the islands of Polynesia and Melanesia in search of untouched civilizations. Forced to abandon his travels in Australia owing to illness, he returned to California in shattered health. Yet London soon produced South Sea Tales (1911), The House of Pride and Other Tales of Hawaii (1912), and A Son of the Sun (1912), works that attempt to reconcile his dream of an unfallen world with the harsh reality of twentieth-century materialism.

By 1913 London was the highest-paid writer in the world. In that year alone he published The Night-Born, a collection of stories; The Valley of the Moon, a novel of California ranch life; The Abysmal Brute, a fictional expose of professional boxing; and John Barleycorn, a memoir about his struggles with alcoholism. In 1914 he traveled to Vera Cruz to cover the Mexican Revolution for Collier's magazine. Jack London's final years were spent at his ranch in the Sonoma Valley, where he died of uremic poisoning on November 22, 1916. His last works of fiction include The Mutiny of the 'Elsinore' (1914), The Strength of the Strong (1914), The Scarlet Plague (1915), The Star Rover (1915), The Little Lady of the Big House (1916), The Turtles of Tasman (1916), The Red One (1918), and Island Tales (1920).

'Jack London was an instinctive artist of a high order,' said H. L. Mencken. 'There was in him a vast delicacy of perception, a high feeling, a sensitiveness to beauty. And there was in him, too, under all his blatancies, a poignant sense of the infinite romance and mystery of human life.' James Dickey wrote: 'The key to London's effectiveness is to be found in his complete absorption in the world he evokes. The author is in and committed to his creations to a degree very nearly unparalleled in the composition of fiction.' As E. L. Doctorow remarked on the front page of The New York Times Book Review: 'To this day Jack London is the most widely read American writer in the world.'
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Read an Excerpt

Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tidewater dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego. Because men, groping in the Arctic darkness, had found a yellow metal, and because steamship and transportation companies were booming the find, thousands of men were rushing into the Northland. These men wanted dogs, and the dogs they wanted were heavy dogs, with strong muscles by which to toil, and furry coats to protect them from the frost.

Buck lived at a big house in the sun-kissed Santa Clara Valley. Judge Miller's place, it was called. It stood back from the road, half hidden among the trees, through which glimpses could be caught of the wide, cool veranda that ran around its four sides. The house was approached by graveled driveways which wound about through wide-spreading lawns and under the interlacing boughs of tall poplars. At the rear things were on even a more spacious scale than at the front. There were great stables, where a dozen grooms and boys held forth, rows of vine-clad servants' cottages, an endless and orderly array of outhouses, long grape arbors, green pastures, orchards, and berry patches. Then there was the pumping plant for the artesian well, and the big cement tank where Judge Miller's boys took their morning plunge and kept cool in the hot afternoon.

And over this great demesne Buck ruled. Here he was born, and here he had lived the four years of his life. It was true, there were other dogs. There could not but be other dogs on so vast a place, but they did not count. They came and went, resided in the populous kennels, or lived obscurely in the recesses of the house after the fashion of Toots, the Japanese pug, or Ysabel, the Mexican hairless--strange creatures that rarely put nose out of doors or set foot to ground. On the other hand, there were the fox terriers, a score of them at least, who yelped fearful promises at Toots and Ysabel looking out of the windows at them and protected by a legion of housemaids armed with brooms and mops.

But Buck was neither house dog nor kennel dog. The whole realm was his. He plunged into the swimming tank or went hunting with the Judge's sons; he escorted Mollie and Alice, the Judge's daughters, on long twilight or early-morning rambles; on wintry nights he lay at the Judge's feet before the roaring library fire; he carried the Judge's grandsons on his back, or rolled them in the grass, and guarded their footsteps through wild adventures down to the fountain in the stable yard, and even beyond, where the padlocks were, and the berry patches. Among the terriers he stalked imperiously, and Toots and Ysabel he utterly ignored, for he was king--king over all creeping, crawling, flying things of Judge Miller's place, humans included.

His father, Elmo, a huge St. Bernard, had been the Judge's inseparable companion, and Buck bid fair to follow in the way of his father. He was not so large--he weighed only one hundred and forty pounds--for his mother, Shep, had been a Scotch shepherd dog. Nevertheless, one hundred and forty pounds, to which was added the dignity that comes of good living and universal respect, enabled him to carry himself in right royal fashion. During the four years since his puppyhood he had lived the life of a sated aristocrat; he had a fine pride in himself, was even a trifle egotistical, as country gentlemen sometimes become because of their insular situation. But he had saved himself by not becoming a mere pampered house dog. Hunting and kindred outdoor delights had kept down the fat and hardened his muscles; and to him, as to the cold-tubbing races, the love of water had been a tonic and a health preserver.

And this was the manner of dog Buck was in the fall of 1897, when the Klondike strike dragged men from all the world into the frozen North. But Buck did not read the newspapers, and he did not know that Manuel, one of the gardener's helpers, was an undesirable acquaintance. Manuel had one besetting sin. He loved to play Chinese lottery. Also, in his gambling, he had one besetting weakness--faith in a system; and this made his damnation certain. For to play a system requires money, while the wages of a gardener's helper do not lap over the needs of a wife and numerous progeny.

The Judge was at a meeting of the Raisin Growers' Association, and the boys were busy organizing an athletic club, on the memorable night of Manuel's treachery. No one saw him and Buck go off through the orchard on what Buck imagined was merely a stroll. And with the exception of a solitary man, no one saw them arrive at the little flag station known as College Park. This man talked with Manuel, and money chinked between them.

'You might wrap up the goods before you deliver 'm,' the stranger said gruffly, and Manuel doubled a piece of stout rope around Buck's neck under the collar.

'Twist it, an' you'll choke 'm plentee,' said Manuel, and the stranger grunted a ready affirmative.

Buck had accepted the rope with quiet dignity. To be sure, it was an unwonted performance: but he had learned to trust in men he knew, and to give them credit for a wisdom that outreached his own. But when the ends of the rope were placed in the stranger's hands, he growled menacingly. He had merely intimated his displeasure, in his pride believing that to intimate was to command. But to his surprise the rope tightened around his neck, shutting off his breath. In quick rage he sprang at the man, who met him halfway, grappled him close by the throat, and with a deft twist threw him over on his back. Then the rope tightened mercilessly, while Buck struggled in a fury, his tongue lolling out of his mouth and his great chest panting futilely. Never in all his life had he been so vilely treated, and never in all his life had he been so angry. But his strength ebbed, his eyes glazed, and he knew nothing when the train was flagged and the two men threw him into the baggage car.

The next he knew, he was dimly aware that his tongue was hurting and that he was being jolted along in some kind of a conveyance. The hoarse shriek of a locomotive whistling a crossing told him where he was. He had traveled too often with the Judge not to know the sensation of riding in a baggage car. He opened his eyes, and into them came the unbridled anger of a kidnaped king. The man sprang for his throat, but Buck was too quick for him. His jaws closed on the hand, nor did they relax till his senses were choked out of him once more.

'Yep, has fits,' the man said, hiding his mangled hand from the bag gageman, who had been attracted by the sounds of struggle. 'I'm takin' 'm up for the boss to 'Frisco. A crack dog doctor there thinks that he can cure 'm.'

Concerning that night's ride, the man spoke most eloquently for himself, in a little shed back of a saloon on the San Francisco waterfront.

'All I get is fifty for it,' he grumbled; 'an' I wouldn't do it over for a thousand, cold cash.'

His hand was wrapped in a bloody handkerchief, and the right trouser leg was ripped from knee to ankle.

'How much did the other mug get?' the saloonkeeper demanded.

'A hundred,' was the reply. 'Wouldn't take a sou less, so help me.'

'That makes a hundred and fifty,' the saloonkeeper calculated; 'and he's worth it, or I'm a squarehead.'

The kidnaper undid the bloody wrappings and looked at his lacerated hand. 'If I don't get the hydrophoby--'

'It'll be because you was born to hang,' laughed the saloonkeeper. 'Here, lend me a hand before you pull your freight,' he added.

Dazed, suffering intolerable pain from throat and tongue, with the life half throttled out of him, Buck attempted to face his tormentors. But he was thrown down and choked repeatedly, till they succeeded in filing the heavy brass collar from off his neck. Then the rope was removed, and he was flung into a cagelike crate.

There he lay for the remainder of the weary night, nursing his wrath and wounded pride. He could not understand what it all meant. What did they want with him, these strange men? Why were they keeping him pent up in this narrow crate? He did not know why, but he felt oppressed by the vague sense of impending calamity. Several times during the night he sprang to his feet when the shed door rattled open, expecting to see the Judge, or the boys at least. But each time it was the bulging face of the saloonkeeper that peered in at him by the sickly light of a tallow candle. And each time the joyful bark that trembled in Buck's throat was twisted into a savage growl.

But the saloonkeeper let him alone, and in the morning four men entered and picked up the crate. More tormentors, Buck decided, for they were evil-looking creatures, ragged and unkempt; and he stormed and raged at them through the bars. They only laughed and poked sticks at him, which he promptly assailed with his teeth till he realized that that was what they wanted. Whereupon he lay down sullenly and allowed the crate to be lifted into a wagon. Then he, and the crate in which he was imprisoned, began a passage through many hands. Clerks in the express office took charge of him; he was carted about in another wagon; a truck carried him, with an assortment of boxes and parcels, upon a ferry steamer; he was trucked off the steamer into a great railway depot, and finally he was deposited in an express car.

For two days and nights this express car was dragged along at the tail of shrieking locomotives; and for two days and nights Buck neither ate nor drank. In his anger he had met the first advances of the express messengers with growls, and they had retaliated by teasing him. When he flung himself against the bars, quivering and frothing, they laughed at him and taunted him. They growled and barked like detestable dogs, mewed, and flapped their arms and crowed. It was all very silly, he knew; but therefore the more outrage to his dignity, and his anger waxed and waxed. He did not mind the hunger so much, but the lack of water caused him severe suffering and fanned his wrath to fever pitch. For that matter, high-strung and finely sensitive, the ill treatment had flung him into a fever, which was fed by the inflammation of his parched and swollen throat and tongue.
He was glad for one thing: the rope was off his neck. That had given the man unfair advantage; but now that it was off, he would show them. They would never get another rope around his neck. Upon that he was resolved. For two days and nights he neither ate nor drank, and during those two days and nights of torment, he accumulated a fund of wrath that boded ill for whoever first fell foul of him. His eyes turned bloodshot, and he was metamorphosed into a raging fiend. So changed was he that the Judge himself would not have recognized him; and the express messengers breathed with relief when they bundled him off the train at Seattle.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2004

    great novel

    I loved all three short stories beautifully written masterpieces must read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 3, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I love the books,but BN.com's ebook does not work proper!!!

    highlights rearrange themselves ! impossible to highlight!! and "table of contents" don't work ! terrible costumer service !

    Shame on BNoble.. I will be buying my eBooks elsewhere.

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