Critical Essay Jack London

The following essay offers a partial genealogy of the critical writings attendant to Jack London’s The Call of the Wild (1903). The essay is limited to the novel’s reception in modern American letters; it concludes with an extensive though by no means comprehensive bibliography of the newspaper reviews, biographical studies, scholarly articles, book-length studies, bibliographical sources, dissertations, and introductory essays relevant to the history of that novel. The Call of the Wild is one of the most widely translated and published books by an American writer, and a proper, comprehensive bibliography of The Call of the Wild would require a tremendous international research effort; the following essay is offered in the absence of such a project as a temporary surrogate for the important literary-historical, critical arguments that have engaged the novel in the one hundred years since it was first published.

William C. Frierson noted in a 1928 PMLA article that "It is well known that a heated controversy took place during the eighteen-nineties over the inclusion of fact, brutal fact, in fiction." But what are the brutal facts that might begin a proper genealogy of The Call of the Wild? For example, The Call of the Wild was published during a period of unprecedented American imperial expansion in the Western hemisphere; but the novel also appeared during a period of intense debate over the influence of French literary Naturalism on English and American fiction. Both the geo-political situation of the United States in 1903 and the literary-critical debates of the era might provide fruitful points of departure; they might even cross paths at several points. But the beginnings of any genealogy are necessarily turbulent and difficult, and we must restrict ourselves in the present introduction to the contentious literary-critical debates that have engaged The Call of the Wild with the understanding that they offer a point of departure for other more detailed inquiries into the novel and its historical milieu.

William Frierson’s aforementioned article offers the occasion to list three notable motives to undertake a study of the critical history of London’s novel. The first is that Frierson’s article is an excellent, brief introduction to the critical debates that were later repeated when Jack London’s writings first achieved success in the United States; it is notable that Frierson’s article was published in late the 1920’s during another resurgence of the Naturalist style in American fiction that was prompted in part by new editions of Jack London’s writings and a resurgence in critical interest in his works. The second reason pertains to the fact that Frierson’s article is not an article about Jack London; the serious, prospective student should not limit the study of Jack London to specialized works but should also study the literary debates and critical histories of the late 19th century and early twentieth centuries. The third reason stems from the fact that Frierson was a scholar of British Literature and his article places the debate over literary Naturalism in an international context; the article is a fine example of a careful engagement with scholarly traditions of other nations and how those have approached Jack London and the debates that are important to any understanding of his writings. The student with a reading knowledge of foreign languages should study the numerous scholarly works available in other languages and literary traditions. A careful, varied, and historically informed approach to The Call of the Wild will enrich the student’s reading of Jack London’s work; it will also provide a fuller understanding of the debates and terms that inform the literary scholarship, book reviews, and varied articles listed below.

The Call of the Wild drew immediate critical attention from popular journalists. This was perhaps due to the fact that the novel had been serialized by The Saturday Evening Post and had therefore been read by reviewers prior to its publication in book form. The student of the book would do well to consult these early reviews of the novel as they provide both a portrait of the period and microcosms of later trends in the study of the book.

29 articles referring directly to The Call of the Wild appeared in newspapers and magazines when the text was first published in 1903. The review in the August 2nd issue of the San Francisco Chronicle, for example, states that "His books are strong meat for the anemic generation that worships at the shrine of Henry James." The comment highlights the literary conflict between "Main Street and Beacon Street" that Sinclair Lewis proposed in 1910 and which Joan Sherman later regarded as a fundamental difference between the literary styles of Jack London and Henry James (Sherman ix). Supplemental readings and comprehensive study of the literary scholarship dedicated to the period in question would amplify the debate and Lewis’ remark for the student, as once-canonical works such as Van Wyck Brooks’ Flowering of New England (1936)and New England: Indian Summer (1940) review the rise and later dispersal of American literary culture from its historical epicenter in New England. As always, the student should read about London’s works as well as scholarship that carefully organize the context and those debates which are fundamental to the understanding of London’s controversial and popular style.

The early articles and reviews of the novel also included important biographical information about its author. Henry Meade Bland, a scholar of Robert Louis Stevenson’s works, was one of the first noted critics of London's work during his life. Bland’s part-biographical article entitled "Jack London" in Overland Monthly (May 1904) is the first to trace the model for Buck in The Call of the Wild to London's friend Louis Bond. Bland's essay inspired a biographical industry around the interpretation of London's writings that continues to the present. These early newspaper writings are available on microfilm in some libraries. They are certainly worth the labor of their recovery, as they provide a glimpse of the newspaper publishing industry that contributed greatly to the novel’s success.

Interest in Jack London’s works was rekindled by his premature death in 1916. Two important editions to The Call of the Wild were published following London’s death and each included a critical essay. For example, Theodore C. Mitchell's introduction to the 1917 Macmillan edition discussed the economic details pertinent to "the geographical setting of the novel." Mitchell also extended a line of argument from the early newspaper reviews that compared Jack London to Rudyard Kipling by noting that London lacked Kipling's "'literary restraint" as well as his "breadth of subject and characterization." (Sherman 97).

The resurgent interest in London continued through the inter-war period with a 1926 Macmillan edition of The Call of the Wild and an omnibus edition by the same publisher that included both The Call and The Scarlet Plague (1929). The 1926 Macmillan edition is of particular import; it featured an introduction by Frank L. Mott that was published in the seven Macmillan reprints up until 1946 and which continued to appear in other subsequent editions. Mott's introduction defined London's non-canonical status in U.S. literature: "If we are to value London, we must not apply classical standards to him: it is by his romantic and unchecked flow of thought and story, by his native vigor, and by his inborn gift for sp inning a story that London achieves a place of real importance in recent American literature." Although Mott related the standard biographical information about the text, his introduction is important because it seeks to legitimize London as an American artist by offering a new standard by which his work can be judged. Mott’s engaged approach to London coincides with a period of renewal in the critical discussions of Jack London’s work in book length formats that extended the arguments of previous journalists and essayists; Mott’s own books include histories of American journalism that are indispensable to any scholar trying to understand the American newspaper industry during London’s life.

The interwar period merits extensive study for it is during that period that the criticism of London’s work took its first mature form. The criticism of The Callof the Wild became more diverse in the late 1920’s and 1930’s when it was divided between the biographers, the genteel literary critics who resented London, and the more contemporary critics who incorporated the new paradigmatic and disciplinary techniques of Marxism, American Studies, and psychoanalysis into their work.

The biographies of this period are varied in both method and style. Edward Biron Payne’s The Soul of Jack London (1933) opened an important cycle of biographies that were published in the 1930’s. The work was written by a friend of London’s and provided important biographical information; it was followed by two more works that closed the cycle of inter-war biographies. The first of these was a fictional biography by the popular historical novelist Irving Stone entitled Jack London, Sailor on Horseback (1938). Stone’s book was followed by Joan London’s politically charged Jack London and His Times (1939). All three of the works contain sections pertinent to The Call of the Wild, with Joan London’s book standing as the most rigorous of the three as well as a representative of the political trends in literary criticism during the era in which it was written. The biographical criticism continued through other works of the inter-war period. Carl and Mark Van Doren combined aestheticism with biography when they noted in American and British Literature since 1890 (1925) that London’s novel contained a "a genuine current of poetry" which was due in part to "something biographical" about the novel. This period of biographical criticism also included negative assessments of the consequences of The Call of the Wild for London’s career. Notable among these is the American literary scholar Ernest Leisy's in American Literature: An Interpretive Survey (1929), where Leisy argued that "His reputation once established (by The Call of the Wild), London poured forth with journalistic abandon tale after tale dealing with 'red-blooded' supermen, indulging in fights, and rejoicing in storms."

Critical attention to London’s work persisted in periodicals through the 1930’s with an average of one article published per year until 1939. London’s other writings such as the documentary study The Iron Heel appealed to the literary tastes of the decade, and no less a literary critic than Edmund Wilson noted in 1940 that the popularity and success of another major California author, John Steinbeck, were due in part to his "carrying on from Frank Norris, Jack London, and Upton Sinclair."

World War Two deadened the critical interest in London's work, with one important exception. Alfred Kazin's chapter on Jack London in On Native Grounds (1942) is one of the landmarks of mid-century London criticism. Kazin's narrative is grounded in a historical study of the larger cultural context in which writers such as London composed their works. In an argument which anticipates Kazin’s subsequent discussions of Steinbeck and Faulkner, Kazin noted that the violence of London's fiction was unique for its time (Kazin 87). Kazin was precise in his explanation of the book's intellectual and historical context, but it was not without controversy; his description of Buck as a "Nietzschean hound" (88) prompted subsequent critics to address the problem of race in London’s works with respect to questions of Social Darwinism (a major question in much of late 19th century U.S. fiction) and the erroneous post-WWII perception of Nietzsche as a philosopher of the Third Reich (a perception that would later be corrected by Walter Kaufmann’s renowned studies of the German philosopher).

The relative quiet surrounding London and The Call of the Wild continued through the early years of the Cold War as a new generation of critics worked to renew the study of London's works. This new generation was distinct from the earlier, more politically informed critical studies of the 1930’s and 1940’s. Articles on The Call of the Wild appeared at the rate of one every two years in the 1950's. Working perhaps under the pressure of McCarthyism, the London scholars of the 1950’s developed new critical approaches that were antithetical to the proletarian legend of Jack London generated by many previous journalists and biographers.

Philip Foner's Jack London: American Rebel (1947) inaugurated the post-World War Two era of political studies of Jack London. It was a study that appeared against many of the current trends in London criticism. Foner, a prolific scholar of American labor and social history, dedicated two pages to The Callof the Wild in the book. Foner’s analysis exemplifies the rare socio-political reading of the text during this troubled political period in U.S. literary history (contemporary reprints of Kazin’s earlier book do not mention London among the authors on the back cover, for example). Foner’s cursory analysis of London’s novel book is written with a clear understanding of the debates that inform its critical history. For example, Foner briefly replies to the question of race in London’s novel by noting that "it is interesting in light of his phobia about mixed breeds that London's brave and dignified dog-hero should be a mongrel."(54). Foner’s reading of the novel rejects biography and the study of aesthetic influences, embracing rather the economic context of the book's publishing history. In doing so, Foner laments the book’s commercial success and concludes that The Call of the Wild was something of a "freak" text among London's works; the conclusion is supported by its publishing history (London received only two thousand dollars in exchange for he publishing rights) which confirms for Foner its status as a "animal story" of little importance to Foner’s pressing political arguments.

Foner’s book stands in sharp contrast to the psychoanalytic interpretations of London’s works that influenced much of the study of The Call of the Wild in the 1950’s. Van Wyck Brooks' The Confident Years (1952) features a chapter entitled "Frank Norris and Jack London" which claims that "The Call of the Wild was written directly from London's unconscious" (Sherman 164). In direct contrast to Foner's under-emphasizing of the role of race in London's work, Maxwell Geismar's Rebels and Ancestors: The American Novel1890-1915 (1953) discusses the novel’s alleged racist sub-text and invokes the theories Freud’s former disciple, Carl Jung (Geismar 150-151). Geismar's review of the novel is as critically unkind to the text as it is dynamic, and represents the incorporation of new ideas from the study of mythology and psychology into the interpretation of the novel. Nonetheless, critical acceptance of London’s work still proved difficult during the 1950’s, and Earle Labor later noted the complete absence of Jack London from the popular Sculley, Bradley, Beatty, and Long textbook American Tradition in Literature (1957).

The slight critical renewal of London Studies during the 1950’s anticipated what Earle Labor described as "the renaissance, or, more precisely, the nascence" of London studies in the 1960's and 1970's. Sherman's bibliography lists a total of 38 articles on The Call of the Wild during between 1960-1974, a quantity of criticism only three articles short of matching the entire critical output between 1904 and 1959.

London’s presence proliferated in the 1960's, and 1960 was a watershed year for The Call of the Wild as many of London’s works were reprinted. These included the American Century Series' Jack London: Short Stories (with introduction by Maxwell Geismar), The Call of the Wild school edition by the Macmillan Literary Heritage Series, and the Dodd Publishing Company’s edition of The Callof the Wild. The Heritage Press edition of The Callof the Wild appeared in 1961. In all, seven new editions of The Call of the Wild were published in the years 1960-1964, including a Bodley head edition of London’s works in Great Britain. These publications were enhanced by a growing professionalism in London studies, the landmark of which was Woodbridge, London, and Tweney’s Jack London: A Bibliography (1966). The growing professionalism in London studies was accompanied by a popular interest in the author’s life and work, and a 1964 biography of Jack London written by the novelist and essayist Richard O’Connor attested to London’s resurgent popularity.

The new editions of The Call of the Wild also prompted critical revaluations of the novel. Abraham Rothenberg interpreted London as both a "revolutionary" and a "perverse" nihilist in his introduction to the 1963 Bantam edition of the text , and Mordechai Richler denounced London in "Dogs and Wolves" (The Spectator July 1963) as having a "muddled ideology" but at the same time praised the novel. Both critics discussed London’s socialist politics: the latter suggested that London was too extreme and the former argued that London had misinterpreted socialism.

Interest in the atavism of London’s works also continued through the 1960’s. Peter Schmitt's Back To Nature: Arcadian Myths in Urban America claimed that novel is the only work of London's that succeeds in "raising the wilderness theme to serious art." Roderick Nash's The Call of the Wild: 1900-1916 argued that the novel succeeded as a work of escapist literature that appealed to an allegory summons to over-civilized, confused Americans who wished to return to Buck's simple, vigorous, unrestrained life in the North." The most important work of this critical movement was Earle Labor's Jack London (1974), which developed his earlier mythological reading of The Call of the Wild.

The boom years of London studies in the 1960’s also prompted revaluations of the archival methods of research. Franklin's Walker's study Jack London and the Klondike (1966) served to debunk the myths about London’s Yukon ventures and replace them with fact, thus adding an important historiographic corrective to earlier interpretive studies. Dale Walker and James Sisson's The Fiction of Jack London: A Chronological Bibliography (1972) was added to the earlier work by Woodbridge et al. Both works provide important information on original editions of the text as well as secondary materials, and each contributed to the critical excitement over London in the late 1960's to early 1970's. These important bibliographical works were only surpassed by Jack London: A Reference Guide (1977) by Joan Sherman. Sherman, who is a scholar of African-American literature, includes a introductory overview of London’s work in her annotated bibliography, which remains a landmark in studies of the author’s work.

The increase in book-length publications books that included chapters dedicated to Jack London also stimulated the publication of articles on the author’s work. The most important source of scholarly articles on The Call of the Wild from 1967 until recently was the Jack London Newsletter. Edited by London scholar Hensley Woodbridge (who was also a noted scholar of Latin American literature), the JLN was a forum for professional readers of London’s work where new critical approaches to the text were explored by contemporary critics. The first issue featured Earle Labor's "Jack London's Mondo Cane: The Call of the Wild and White Fang," which interpreted the novel as a "projection of the reader's essential mythic self" and as "a redemptive human allegory." Other articles addressed the influence of French literary Naturalism, as well as the folkloric, autobiographical, and psychological dimensions of the novel. Though no longer published, the JLN remains a vital archival source of information for all readers of The Call of the Wild.

The 1980’s witnessed the publication of a series of important comparative studies of London’s novel. Charles N. Watson's The Novels of Jack London: A Reappraisal traced the tale to the influence of the "sentimental animal story" exemplified by Anna Sewell's Black Beauty (1877). Carolyn Johnston's Jack London: An American Radical identified many of London's intellectual influences, and Stoddard Martin's California Writers: Jack London and John Steinbeck - The Tough Guys, outlines the history of many of London's characters. Finally, David M. Hamilton's The Tools of My Trade: Annotated Books in Jack London's Library correlates the reading of certain texts by London with the writing of The Call of the Wild. These studies were accompanied by renewed biographical interest in London’s life and family. Clarice Stasz's American Dreamers: Charmian and Jack London provided biographical information on the connection between the "initiation experiences of London's own life" and The Call of the Wild. As well as important feminist readings of London’s work and life; these readings were elaborated in Stasz’s more recent Jack London’s Women (2001). These critical and biographical works added important inter-disciplinary methods to the field of London studies and the exegesis of The Call of the Wild that continue to the present.

The last two decades of the twentieth century witnessed several important new critical editions of London’s works and letters. The 1981 edition of The Call of the Wild that was edited by London scholar Earl Wilcox features critical essays (most of which were published in the Jack London Newsletter in the 1970's), early reviews, an introduction by Earle Labor, and some of London's letters that relate to the text. Wilcox’s critical efforts extended in this period to a review of the 1981 Penguin edition of The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and other Stories (edited by London biographer Andrew Sinclair), where Wilcox takes particular issue with the fact that The Call of the Wild should be considered a novel and not a "story." The most important publication of event of the 1980’s was the issue of the three-volume Letters of Jack London by Stanford University Press in 1988.The letters are of particular interest to readers of The Call of the Wild, as they include important accounts of the book’s composition, publication, and reception.

Several important critical editions of The Call of the Wild have been published over the past decade. Daniel Dyer's 1995 illustrated edition of The Call of the Wild set a new standard in London studies and can be recommended now as the best version of the novel due to its incorporation of maps, photographs, and historical annotations. Since much of the lifestyle and technology of the novel’s era is unfamiliar to today's reader, Dyer's extensive commentary greatly increases comprehension of the novel’s content. Dyer’s work is amplified by the more recent Understanding The Call of the Wild: a student casebook to issues, sources, and historical documents (2000) and Elizabeth and Earl Wilcox’s edition of The Call of the Wild: Complete text with introduction, historical contexts, critical essays (2004).

The demise of the Jack London Newsletter also prompted the publication of the new Jack London Journal, which often featured reviews and articles addressed to contemporary readings and editions of The Call of the Wild (consult the main page of this website for more information on the JLJ). The increased digitization of the profession of literary scholarship has also made certain unpublished, archival, and visual resources more readily available. In the 100 years since it was published, The Call of the Wild has been discussed in many non-academic texts as well as in the doctoral dissertations of young scholars. These sources are often unique and original sources of information. The peak years of dissertation writing on Jack London were 1966-1982, during which time thirty doctoral dissertations were written on his works. Ten more dissertations were written in the years 1983-1992. Although many dissertations are eventually published in some form, some are not, and these may provide excellent resources for London researchers. For more information, check under "Jack London" in the Humanities Volumes of the Comprehensive Dissertation Index. More recent doctoral dissertations may be available on-line in electronic form.

It is a practical rule that the publication of articles on The Call of the Wild in newspapers and scholarly journals has been a reliable indicator of the health of London studies in America since the book was published. The peak years of the study of The Call of the Wild are often reflected by the quantity of articles published in a particular time-frame; quantity should never, however, be confused with quality. For practical purposes, however, some intense resurgence in the published debate over the particular novel is a generally reliable indicator of shifts in critical trends and a more acute engagement or retreat from previous discussions of the novel (articles written about the novel during the 1960’s exemplify all three of the previous points). The prospective student would do well to begin a study of The Call of the Wild with the bibliographies of London’s works, but the bibliographies are never comprehensive. For example, Joan Sherman's bibliography Jack London: A Reference Guide (1977) lists a total of 107 articles or books that mention The Call of the Wild in their titles, the majority of those being articles. Woodbridge, London, and Tweney’s Jack London: A Bibliography (1966) cites only half as many as pertinent to that novel. Dozens of important works about London have been published since Sherman’s bibliography appeared and more may appear and go unnoticed by the researcher who depends to often on bibliographical writings (such as this one) that are infrequently updated, if at all. The prospective student should consult the indices and works cited sections of the most recent publications listed below in order to construct a careful and comprehensive bibliography of writings pertinent to The Call of the Wild.

 

 

 

 

#= recommended basic references

Anon. Novel Notes. Bookman. 24 Sept 1903, 220.

Anon. "Views and Reviews" Comrade. 2 Sept. 1903, 280-281.

Anon. "Recent Fiction" The Nation. 77 (3 Oct.) 1903, 287.

Anon. "Jack London" The Nation. 103 (30 Nov.) 1916, 502.

Anon. "Jack London the Socialist- a Character Study. The New York Times. Jan. 28, 1906, 6.

Anon. "Story of a Dog: Jack London's Newest Book, 'The Call of the Wild.'" New York Times. 25 July 1903, 512.

Abbott, Leonard D. " Jack London's One Great Contribution to American Literature." Current Opinion. 62 (January) 1916, 46-47.

Auerbach, Jonathan. Male Call: Becoming Jack London. Durham, N.C.: Duke UP, 1996.

Belton, George "'The Call of the Wild,' A Plagiarism?" Reedy's Mirror. 16 March 1907, 182-183.

Bland, Henry M. "Jack London" Overland Monthly. 43 (May) 1904, 370-375.

Boynton, H.W. "Books New and Old:2" Atlantic Monthly. 92 (November) 1903, 695-697.

Brooke, Mary C. "The Call of the Wild" San Francisco Bulletin, Sunday Magazine. 23 Aug. 1903, 6.

Brooks, Van Wyck. Frank Norris and Jack London: The Confident Years, 1885-1915. New York: Dutton 227-37.

Clayton, Lawrence "The Ghost Dog, a Motif in The Call of the Wild." Jack London Newsletter. 5:1, 158.

Cooper, James G. "The Womb of Time: Archetypal Patterns in the Novels of Jack London." Jack London Newsletter. 12:1 (1979) 12-19.

Dodson, Mary K. "Naturalism in the Works of Jack London." Jack London Newsletter. 4:1, 130-139.

#Dyer, Daniel. See London below.

Fitch, George H. "New Books: Best Work of Jack London. The California Writer Produces a Great Book in 'The Call of the Wild.'" San Francisco Chronicle. 2 Aug. 1904, 32.

Fitch, George H. "Noteworthy New Novels." San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday Supplement. 13 Nov. 1904, 8.

Flink, Andrew. "'Call of the Wild'-Parental Metaphor" Jack London Newsletter 7:2 (1974) 58-61.

Frey, Charles. "Contradiction in ‘The Call of the Wild." Jack London Newsletter. 12:1 (1979) 35-38.

Foner, Philip S. Jack London: American Rebel. New York: Citadel Press, 1947.

Geismar, Maxwell. Rebels and Ancestors: The American Novel 1890-1915. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1953.

Giles, James. "Thematic Significance of the Jim Hall episode in White Fang." Jack London Newsletter. 2:2 49-50.

Grattan, C. Hartley. "Jack London." Bookman. 68 (Feb.) 1929, 667-71.

Hervey, John L. "Jack London and O.Henry: A Parallel." Reedy's Mirror. 2 March 1917, 134-136.

Johnson, Claudia Durst. Understanding The Call of the Wild : a student casebook to issues, sources, and historical documents. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2000.

Johnston, Carolyn. Jack London: An American Radical? Greenwood Press, 1984.

Kazin, Alfred. On Native Grounds. New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Co., 1942.

Kennnedy, Annebelle. "Maxim Gorky and Jack London: A Comparative Study." Life and Letters. 2:4 (Nov.) 1923 3-6.

Kumin, Michael. "The Call of the Wild: London's Seven Stages of Allegory." Jack London Newsletter. 21:1 (1988) 86-91.

Labor, Earle. "Jack London's Mondo Cane: The Call of the Wild and White Fang." Jack London Newsletter. 1:2 (1967) 2-13.

…. Jack London. New York: Twayne, 1974.

…. "The Call of the Wild: A Review." Jack London Newsletter. 14:3 (1981) 119-121.

…. "Afterword." Rereading Jack London. Ed. Leonard Cassuto and Jeanne Campbell Reesman. Stanford, Ca.: Stanford UP, 1996.

Leisy, Ernest. American Literature: An Interpretive Survey. New York: Thomas Crowell Company, 1929.

Loggins, Vernon. I Hear America: Literature in the United States Since 1900. New York: Thomas Crowell Company, 1937, 253-263.

# London, Jack. The Call of the Wild with an Illustrated Reader's Companion. Ed. Daniel Dyer. University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.

…. The Call of the Wild : Complete text with introduction, historical contexts, critical essays. Ed. Wilcox, Elizabeth and Earl. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004.

Malcomsen, Scott L. "The Inevitable White Man: Jack London's Endless Journey." The Village Voice Literary Supplement. Feb. 1994: 10-12.

Martin, Stoddard. California Writers: Jack London and John Steinbeck. New York: Macmillan, 1983.

Mitchell, Theodore C. "Introduction." The Call of the Wild. New York: Macmillan, 1917.

Mott, Frank L. Introduction. The Call of the Wild and other stories by Jack London.,New York: Macmillan, 1926.

Mott, Frank L. Golden Multitudes. New York: Macmillan 1947, 234-35.

Nash, Roderick. ‘The Call of the Wild (1900-1916).’ American Culture Series. Braziller 1-2.

Naso, Anthony. "Jack London and Herbert Spencer." Jack London Newsletter. 14:1 (1981) 13-20.

O'Brien, Edward. The Advance of the American Short Story. New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1931: 187-197, 302.

O’Connor, Richard. Jack London: A Biography. Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1964.

Pattee, Fred L. The Development of the American Short Story: A Historical Survey. New York: Harper, London, and Brothers, 1923: 316-373.

Pattee, Fred L. "The Prophet of the Last Frontier." Sidelights on American Literature.New York: Century, 98-160.

Reed, A. Paul. "Running with the Pack: Jack London's The Call of the Wild and Jesse Stuart's Mongrel Mettle." Jack London Newsletter. 18:3 (1985) 96-98.

Richler, Mordechai. "Dogs and Wolves." Spectator. 211 (July) 1963, 28.

Schmitt, Peter J. Back to Nature: The Arcadian Myth in Urban America. New York: Oxford UP, 1970, 127-37.

Scoville, Samuel. "Boys and Books." Saturday Review. 4 (12 Nov.) 1928, 304.

# Sherman, Joan. Jack London: A Reference Guide. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1977.

Shivers, Alfred S. "The Romantic in Jack London:Far Away Frozen Wilderness." Alaska Review. 1:1 1964, 38-47.

Simpson, Claude M. "Jack London: Proletarian or Plutocrat." Stanford Today. 1:13 1965, 2-6.

Sinclair, Upton. "The Call of the Wild. Jack London Put an "If" on the Condemned Constitution." New York Times. 15 Feb. 1907, 8.

Spinner, Jonathan H. "A Syllabus for the Twentieth Century." Jack London Newsletter. 7:2 (1974) 73-78.

Stasz, Clarice American Dreamers: Charmian and Jack London. New York: St.Martin's Press, 1988; Lexikos, 1996.

…. Jack London’s Women. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001.

#Travernier-Courbin, Jacqueline. The Call of the Wild: A Naturalistic Romance. Twayne, 1994.

Van Doren, Carl and Mark. American and British Literature Since 1890. New York: Century, 1926.

Walcutt, Charles C. "Naturalism and the Superman in the Novels of Jack London." Papers of Michigan Academy of Arts, Science, and Letters. 24 1938, 89- 107.

Walcutt, Charles C. Jack London. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 1966, 48.

Walker, Dale and Sisson, James. The Fiction of Jack London: A Chronological Bibliography. El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1972.

#Walker, Franklin. Jack London and the Klondike: The Genesis of an American Writer. London, U.K.: The Bodley Head Ltd., 1966.

Watson Jr., Charles N. The Novels of Jack London. Madison,Wi.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1983.

Whittemore, Reed. Six Literary Lives: the shared impiety of Adams, London, Sinclair, Williams, Dos Passos, and Tate. Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri Press, 1993.

Wilcox, Earl "Le Milieau, Le moment, La race: Literary Naturalism in Jack London's White Fang." Jack London Newsletter. 3:2 (1970) 42-55.

…. "Jack London's Naturalism: The Example of The Call of the Wild." Jack London Newsletter. 2:3 (1970) 91-101.

…. "The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and other stories" Jack London Newsletter 15:1 (1982) 41.

#Woodbridge, Hensley C., John London, and George Tweney. Jack London: A Bibliography. Kraus Reprint, 1973.

Woodbridge, Hensley "London in Library of America." Jack London Newsletter. 16:1 (1983) 45.

 

Notes

If I were trying to name America's greatest novel, my choice would be "Moby-Dick." I know that some favor "Huck Finn" or nowadays maybe "The Great Gatsby," but Melville's masterwork still awes me every time I read it. Yet I can't rightly call it our "Greatest World Novel." I haven't counted the number of foreign translations of any of these three, but I'm reasonably sure that none can match the near-one-hundred for "The Call of the Wild." Nor the thousands of editions of London's classic that have appeared here and abroad during the past century. I have several dozen of these in my own library, and our Jack London Museum and Research Center at Centenary College in Shreveport houses another score or so.

Looking at the bookcase in my study, I see four long shelves filled with various editions of Jack's most famous work. I also spot a number of books about "The Call of the Wild." Particularly worth noting are Jacqueline Tavernier-Courbin's study of the novel as a naturalistic romance alongside the two collections of critical essays edited by Earl and Elizabeth Wilcox. And for those readers and scholars who might want to know about the geographical and linguistic sources of London's narrative, there's Daniel Dyer's handsome, definitive and annotated edition. On a shelf above that stands a hefty doctoral dissertation I refereed a while back, written by a grad student in India: a sophisticated structural analysis of the novel. Next to that is a collection of critical essays, edited by China's most prominent London scholar, and a literary history of the United States published in Albania, featuring Jack London on the cover.

Speaking of Jack's worldwide appeal, I'd like to mention one of my most memorable experiences related to the author. During the 90s, I directed four summer seminars for teachers funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. My first seminar on "The World of Jack London" elicited nearly 400 inquiries, from which I could select fifteen of the finest teachers in the country. A teacher's dream! I was also privileged to accept one teacher from overseas, the first was a woman from Germany who applied soon after The Berlin Wall had fallen. The second was a woman from the Philippines. The third was a young teacher from Albania, who gave me the literary history I mentioned above. Granting my familiarity with London's overseas reputation, I could never have guessed the participant in my fourth seminar: a young man from the Congo. He told our group a remarkable personal story:

"I was born in a jungle village. My father was killed when I was a boy, and I migrated into Brazzaville. There I learned French and read 'The Call of the Wild.' That book inspired me to survive."

How to account for such widespread appeal? Like Mark Twain, Jack wrote for the people--the common readers--not for the literary critics and English professors. As Katherine Mansfield observed, "He is one of those writers who win the affection of their readers--who are, in themselves, the favourite book." Because London wrote so clearly, his fiction takes the bread off the critics' table, threatening their very livelihood--which is one reason they consigned him to the dead-letter dustbin.

This essential clarity accounts in considerable measure for Jack's universal appeal: Novels like The Call of the Wild can be easily translated into any language. Imagine the challenge of translating Henry James's later novels, not to mention James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake. (You'll note, by the way, how easily I refer to London as "Jack." It would never cross my mind to refer to Henry James as "Henry," much less as "Hank." Nor to mention James Joyce as "James," much less as "Jim" or "Jimmy.")

But clarity alone does not account for universal appeal. Explaining the difference between writing fiction and sociological tracts, Jack admonished his friend Cloudesley Johns, "Don't you tell your reader... But have your characters tell it by their deeds and actions... and get the atmosphere... then, and not till then, are you writing fiction."

London was a consummate literary craftsman. Witness, for example, the following passage from the concluding chapter of "The Call of the Wild":

The months came and went, and back and forth they twisted through the uncharted vastness, where no men were and yet where men had been if the Lost Cabin were true... In the fall of the year they penetrated a weird lake country, sad and silent, where wild-fowl had been, but where there was no life nor sign of life--only the blowing of chill winds, the forming of ice in sheltered places, and the melancholy rippling of waves on lonely beaches.

But clarity and superb craftsmanship, impressive as they may be, do not guarantee universal appeal. If they did, I might well consider Ernest Hemingway as the author of "America's Greatest World Novel." "The Sun Also Rises" is beautifully crafted, and so is "The Old Man and the Sea"; but neither compares with the tremendous international audience captured by Jack's masterpiece. For that, we seek a deeper level, where we encounter what C. G. Jung terms the "collective unconscious," that dark "hinterland" of the human mind deeper than the individual conscious or unconscious mind. This is the mysterious world of myth and universal symbols called archetypes. When London read Jung's newly translated "Psychology of the Unconscious" a few months before his death in 1916, he exclaimed to his wife, Charmian, "I tell you I'm standing on the edge of a world so new, so terrible, so wonderful, that I am almost afraid to look over into it."

What he didn't realize was he had been unconsciously drawn into the wonderful world throughout his career--and much of his finest work is informed by images from that world. The Call of the Wild is only one outstanding example. "I thought I was just writing a very good dog story," he said. The four-thousand-word narrative he had planned "got away from me before I could call a halt." His daughter Joan says that as far as her father was concerned, his masterpiece was "a purely fortuitous piece of work, a lucky shot in the dark that had unexpectedly found its mark." When reviewers enthusiastically interpreted the novel as a brilliant allegory, he seemed surprised: "I feel guilty, but I was unconscious of it at the time. I did not mean to do it."

That lucky shot in the dark found its mark in my heart more than seventy years ago, and its charm hasn't diminished since then. If anything, it's more potent now than ever.

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