I'm a sucker for this kinda' stuff, but even beyond that this book is excellent.
It's so refreshing to read something earthly and bounded, something with conviction, something that makes an attempt at saying here is a section of the world and here is how it works, measuring its success by the fact that there's a large audience of people who agree. A lot of what I read tends to be critical, nuanced, deconstructing, questioning. The latter kind of stuff feeds and grows my cynicism. London's kind of stuff gives me a, seemingly shared, sense of direction. It makes you feel less alone.
I realize this is a pretty typical and had argument: Realism vs. Postmodernism. But none the less, to see and feel both sides is interesting and relieving. London is a heaping serving of real.
This is my second of his books, the first being White Fang, and I loved both. The way he describes conviction and instinct is so vivid and relatable. The balanced teetering between civility and the law of the wild. You see this divide in Buck, and you can see it in yourself if you've ever spent some time in an office wishing that instead you were hiking the Appalachian Trail. London also isn't too terribly naive in his romance: the woods have dangers, hard work comes at high cost and high reward, life bleeds. And yet suffering, when coupled with purpose -- the purpose of getting there, of surviving both exceptional and universal burdens of all sizes, of fulfilling the instincts inspired by the sophisticated, complicated yet absolute, existing, shared, evolved environment -- it's worth it.
Granted, Jack's time and burdens have passed to a degree. What are our burdens, now? How do we find relief from them? How do we find fulfillment in spite of them, through them? These are the open questions. The modern response is to say that the answer is different for everyone, and leaves it at that, not bothering to say who comprises 'everyone' and what they might need. What are those groups' stories and characters? What of their backgrounds is relevant to The Big Questions, and what does it say of their proposed Answers? Jack London implies that these distinctions exist, even if we're shitty at making them. That gives me hope.
Maybe the reason for that is that, in the past, the burdens were more universal, and thus easier to share. When there's no food, everyone gets hungry. But as time has gone on, the root problems coupled with technology-provided, time-tested solutions have yielded an large breadth of branches, large enough that we mistake it for infinite. But does that mean there's nothing left to say about the world other than, "it's complicated?". I don't think so.
Is it somewhat ironic to dissect a piece of realism? Does a review or reaction count as a sort of meta-fiction itself? Fuck it, back to the subject: the woods, animals, hard work, manifesting destiny, pride in purpose, voluntarily carrying the weight of a job. These are things I have respect for, and Jack London explodes them from singular, general concepts into a beautiful set of colorful descriptions. I don't have the words, but he does. Read the book.