Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Call of the Wild - book reflections by Robert Steven Mack

Classics can be and are often underestimated. If we do know them it is because they are classics and for no other reasons can we usually say there is a place for that book in our minds. It is even rarer still, that we choose to actually devote our precious free time to sit down and defer all else to read such a book. The more common choice however, is to get some mind nagging project completed, or in others case a video game or (myself included) relax our exhausted minds with a motion picture. And of course, when we do read, as with most things in life, we are always looking for the latest and greatest in stock while sacrificing a new line of enjoyment not to be missed. I know this, for my love for classic movies has confused and baffled many and even turned some against me. Recently, I practically forced "Lassie Come Home" (1943) on a friend of mine two years younger whose advancement had not dismissed a mental "stay away" sign in his head from such forms of entertainment. Though at first confused by its wisdom and intelligence, he loved every minute of it. It was this that led me (an avid reader) to a long unnoticed shelf in the hallway with a forgotten dusty unread unabridged version of Jack London's 1903 classic, “The Call of the Wild” that was perched sadly on the top shelf. Recalling the time my mother had bought it for me, I took it down and turned to the first page.

"The Call of the Wild" takes a time in the midst of the Klondike Gold Rush where dogs and humans alike face the cruel reality of a harsh environment ruled by raging blizzards, ruthless wolves, angry natives and greedy seekers of a substance that can only build or destroy a man's wealth and mental faculties. Meanwhile, a well-built but undeniably spoiled dog named Buck is chilling it out with a lazy sun-kissed California life as the pampered jewel of a rich man's household in the heart of civilization, respected by all who know him. That is, until a certain knuckle-brained servant sells Buck into the Klondike heap-pool. Thrust out of civilization and his lazy sun kissed life of spoiled tardiness, Buck is at first confused and angered to the point of colossal madness. Being brutally threatened and beaten when not delivering what is wanted of him, Buck learns the ever-so-vicious law of club and fang. He too is then forced to join the rat pack, and among his antagonizing fellow sled dogs he learns the inescapable law most important of all: eat or be eaten, a battle of all and which all lives depend on it but in the end only the strongest will survive. He also learns to obey man, a god whose club and whip can inflict pain of enormous degree and therefore must be obeyed. Buck will ultimately be transferred to several different masters, some brutal and of bad character to be obeyed when threatened, and some kind and true to be loved as companions. But in the end, stories of his strength and courage will spread before tragedy befalls the one he loves - and he hears a calling, a calling so ancient and divine: the call of the wild.

The book’s dark and narrative tone kept a moving pace and plenty of musing content to contemplate over. As the book evolves over time, the message begins to blossom from the beginning of Buck’s harsh adventures through to the end. It undergoes many changes and subtle alterations and yet at the end the message is clear, and indeed relevant for our own time. To my view, kids these days have become engulfed in the standardization of video games, and other such expensive devices used to entertain while their schedule is empty. However, there was a time when these devices did not exist, when children experimented and built for their own amusement, when they would wonder through the woods, through ruins and caves ever learning, ever exploring and having a time too good to even think of anything else except maybe the Sunday picture matinee. Now-a-days however, with the emergence of devices so addicting and fancifully looking, inventing and exploring is now replaced by the machines that do it for them. For example, in the by now highly developed motion picture industry, there was a time when technology was not yet developed to the point it is today. Instead, brilliant scripts and crafted actors were required to carry the story. When this was not enough to fulfill the requirement of the script, good old American ingenuity was applied using primitive sets and props decorated with actors clothed in lavish costumes and a willingness to do good. My heart warmed to see my friend at last exposed to the roots of filmmaking without the use of CGI effects or iMovie essentials and nonessentials. This is indeed what Buck experienced. Throughout his lone adventures in the harsh wild, he became further and further away from the grasp of mankind. He began hearing the wild calling to him as he begins his journey back to the wild, back where his darkest, deepest roots lay.

"The Call of the Wild" is a remarkable story of trial, triumph and fury. It is a deeply character-driven story of one dog’s unexpected trip back to the wild where his roots truly lay. When I was finished, I laid the book down gently in peace and satisfaction, happy I had finally read it. Beautifully written, despite the violence and gore in detailed description, this book is not one to be missed.

Copyright 2011 by Robert Steven Mack (all rights reserved!)