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London Calling: Sharing the Love of Jack London

March 30th, 2011 (05:53 pm)
thirsty

Current Mood: thirsty
Current Song: Cold Case score music

When I was seven years old, I got in trouble for using the word "suicide" in the classroom.

I was in third grade. My class was instructed to write a short biography about an author of our choice. It seemed like a straightforward assignment with simple instructions: we were to include the date and location of the author's birth, the date and location of the author's death, and interesting details about the author's childhood, adult life, and notable works.

I chose Jack London, an author whose books I'd been exposed to from a young age, thanks to my mother. Even though I was a young female cat owner living in a moderate and modern climate, Call of the Wild and White Fang had transported me to a world filled with snow, dogs, and adventure. (To this day, I can't see a Siberian husky without thinking of Jack's books!)

I followed my teacher's instructions and wrote what I thought was a great paper. However, my teacher found the paragraph about his death to be too controversial to discuss in the classroom, since I mentioned that some people thought he might have committed suicide, accidentally or on purpose, due to the amount of pain he was in. Poor Jack. The thought of it made me so sad. When the teacher tried to hush me, I explained that I had done my research, and I stood by my paper.

Years later, the new book series The Secret Journeys of Jack London by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon gives me the opportunity to introduce Jack's works to a new generation of readers. That makes me very happy.

I recently asked some friends and fellow authors two questions. Here are their answers.

What's your favorite Jack London book?
What was the first Jack London book you ever read?

I read Call of the Wild when I was seven, on a flight back to the East Coast with my dad. No one believed I read it myself, but it had dogs in it. I would -- and will -- read anything with dogs in it. A lot of the book was over my head, especially the dialect. But it was the book that turned me into a reader, and I remain a huge Jack London fan to this day.

- Martha Brockenbrough

As a kid I remember hearing that The Call of the Wild had inspired an Idaho Falls resident, Wilson Rawls, to write Where the Red Fern Grows. Now there is a statue at the Idaho Falls Public Library of the boy from Rawls' book and his two dogs and somewhere it says "Dreams Can Come True." I read Call of the Wild in my English class which met in a wood saw shop at my junior high. I sat at the table saw. I'd briefly taken in a stray St. Bernard when I was six and I loved reading about Buck's adventure. The world felt so severe. I loved it.

- Kristen Tracy

To Build a Fire scarred me for life. I remember reading that short story and knowing the guy was going to die and being thoroughly depressed about it. HATED it! Ha!

Right now I'm reading The Road, London's book about traveling cross country and learning tramp ways. I'm finding it very interesting (and basically no one has ever heard of it) so I would say as far as historical writing, this has been a quite worthwhile read. Plus no dogs die, which is something to consider when you pick up a London book! Ha!

- Colleen Mondor

I remember reading Call of the Wild in elementary school and being horrified at some of the cruelty. Even so, I became captivated by the Iditarod and wanted to mush. A few years ago, I did just that in Canada. The exhilaration of heeding my own call of the wild stays with me today...even if my sled overturned. The dogs barked so loudly when I crashed into the snow, and I've often wondered if they were really just laughing at me.

- Justina Chen

Hey, readers! Feel free to tell me your reactions to Jack London's novels in the comments below. What's your favorite Jack London book? Why? What was the first Jack London book you ever read?