Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Image from GoodreadsI had the pleasure of reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane while sitting in my theater seat, waiting for my section to be called to line up for Neil Gaiman’s autograph. The book was great, the experience was great, and by the time I got to him (I was in the last section), Gaiman looked exhausted. But he was still friendly, still smiling, and still thanking people for coming. It was 2:30 in the morning.

Anyway, about the book. I would say it’s pretty standard Gaiman – magical, adventurous, and a little dark. When he was introducing the book on stage, he said he wrote it when he missed his wife, so he wrote it with her in mind. He said he added more “feelings” than usual, and toned down the fantasy aspect that most of his writing has. I opened the book later, expecting to find some crying, some intense discussions about love or life, and very little magic. I can’t say I was disappointed to be wrong.

The book opens with a middle-aged man visiting the town he grew up in. He goes for a stroll down memory lane, literally, and then the adventure begins. I forgot a few times that what I was reading was one long memory, as the majority of the book was the retelling of that period of the character’s life. But Gaiman reminds the reader once in a while by throwing in details about what’s happening around the older man as he remembers his childhood.

A gorgeous illustrated edition is published by William Morrow.

A gorgeous illustrated edition is published by William Morrow.

The memory opens with the suicide of a man at the end of a road. The imbalance of life and death begins an experience that only a child would handle with any kind of grace and understanding. As the quote by Maurice Sendak at the beginning of the book suggests, there are things children know that would scare adults. I don’t think this book would have worked if it was written from the point-of-view of the older man, or one of the adults in the story.

I recall the passive way I almost-observed the world around me as a child, and how I would focus on things I deemed very important that really had nothing to do with the bigger picture. That’s how the memory begins. As the adventure progresses, the boy notices more and more, maturing as these things happen around him that are largely out of his control. He is often acted upon in this story, and there is a distinct moment when you realize that this child has become a dynamic character – that he will take action when the things he loves are in peril (feelings!).

Although this book takes place in the “real world,” there is definitely a fantastical element to it. However, Gaiman handles the distinction elegantly, and does not let the reader forgot which characters are part of the fantastical element, and which characters are not even aware of it. More than a little action and conflict in this story result because of that difference.

GaimanAt the risk of giving away too much to those of you who haven’t read it yet, I’m going to stop there. However, I will say that the title for The Ocean at the End of the Lane is incredibly clever. It is quite literal in an obvious way – the boy’s new friend calls her pond an ocean. But the title is also metaphorical in a few ways. The boy’s life changes because of an event that happened at the end of the road. The adventure and the conflict and his fantastic new friendship all result from that – and began at the end of the lane.

I hope I’ve said enough to interest you, but not so much I’ve spoiled the book. If you get a chance to see Gaiman live, and enjoy him or his writing, take it. Especially if you’re in the U.S., as he is currently on his last U.S. tour. Also, let me know what else I should read by him!

Thanks for reading!

Captain Corelli

I’ve been meaning to read Louis de Bernières’s Corelli’s Mandolin (or Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, if you’re in the UK) for literally years, but it wasn’t until a used copy found its way onto my bookshelf last month that I finally gave it a try. I’ve seen it on several top book lists (including 1001BYMRBYD), so I knew I’d enjoy it—and I did.

In a (very limiting) nutshell, CM centers around Pelagia and her father, Doctor Iannis, who live on the Greek isle of Cephallonia during the Second World War. As their idyllic village is occupied first by Italian soldiers, then Nazis, then their own Greek countrymen as Communist militia, it becomes doubtful whether the peaceful residents of Cephallonia will ever recover from the horrific travesties of war.

My first impression of de Bernières’s writing was its uncanny resemblance to that of Gabriel García Márquez: its sweeping expanse; its all-encompassing narrative; its casual approach to miracles, saints, and other supernatural occurences. CM is written in 73 sections, ranging from omniscient narrative and monologues to letters and propoganda. The first part of the novel—the Greek partying and festivals, the megalomania of Mussolini and his compatriots, the young romance between Pelagia and the fisherman Mandras—seemed fragmented and shallow to me: enjoyable enough to read, but never emotionally reaching below the surface. It wasn’t until Carlos, the giant Italian soldier who harbors a deep and forbidden love for his fellow soldier, began his story that I felt truly compelled to dive deeper into the book. Luckily, the rest of the novel never disappointed.

Once he dove right into my heartstrings, de Bernières never surfaced. The atrocities of the war were described in full detail, pinpointing again and again the tragedy of young men performing horrible acts for a government they didn’t understand. The Greek villagers’ bewilderment at the presence of the Italian Acqui Division, begrudging yet gradual acceptance for the relatively peaceful occupation, then ravagement and utter horror when the Nazis took over was shared at every turn by me as the reader. A self-proclaimed history buff, I had never heard of the Cephallonia massacre, when, after the Italian armistice, German troops slaughtered 5000 Italian soliders from the Acqui Division for refusing to turn against the Greeks with whom they had lived among peacefully for the past two years.

At the heart of the war is Pelagia and Captain Corelli, a fun-loving musician who, despite earning the trust and respect of his men, would prefer to sing operas and play with children than fight in a war. This sounds trite, I’m aware, but the blossoming (and reluctant, and forbidden, and dangerous) love between these two is such a touching outcome of this wartorn backdrop. At once hesitant, scornful, and tender, Pelagia, her father, and Corelli precariously coexist in one house for the duration of the Italian occupation, and only realize the significance of that time in each of their lives when it is too late.

I won’t spoil anything, but the ending was almost the hardest part for me to read. Skipping through several decades in relatively few pages, I felt torn out of my element, having invested so much emotion (and tears?) into the early 1940s stories of Pelagia, Corelli, Mandra, Dr. Iannis, Carlo, and so many others. Still a strong finish, though—and a strong recommendation for admirers of history, romance, and strange small miracles.

Waiter to Writer Rant

What am I doing with my life?

Remember thinking that? I do. I think everyone has a moment like that, whether it lasts for a minute or a few years. Steve Dublanica’s moment lasted for at least six years. After working in the food service industry for quite some time, Dublanica started a blog at WaiterRant.net. After a few years of posting the hilarious, heart-warming, terrifying, and ridiculous experiences he had or witnessed as a manager at “The Bistro,” he was offered a book deal.

Waiter RantI had passed Waiter Rant dozens of times on bookshelves and bestseller tables before I finally broke down and bought a copy. I had been drawn to it because of my experience with food service, but I began reading it knowing I had more experience as a dining customer than as any kind of food server. What I was not expecting was a book that I related to from one page to the next because, above all else, I worked in customer service. Dublanica’s book is part autobiography, part short-story anthology, and part anthropological study.

I have worked in a number of different industries, but from one job to the next, I have always had customers. Most of the time, I went through the motions without incident – I determined their need, met it, and wished them a good day. But there are always those few times when something doesn’t go quite as expected. Waiter Rant is full of those situations, but as a waiter, Dublanica would have to balance an angry customer, a medical emergency, or missing supplies while also balancing a whole section full of hungry tables. In some stories, he handles the situation like a customer service pro. In others, not so much.

One of my favorite aspects of Waiter Rant was the organization of content. In one chapter, Dublanica might begin with a short story from his early years of waiting tables, briefly outline what was going on in his personal life, launch into stories from the “battlefield” while working during the busiest night of the year, and end with some self-exploration of how he had no idea what he was doing with his life. Somewhere along the way, he might inform the reader of the substance abuse patterns of wait staff or why so many waiters come to work sick. His style was easy to read, and one point or story flowed smoothly into the next. There are a few points in the book where he begins a story, only the interrupt it with some self-reflection or facts about restaurant cleanliness, then end the story. The first few times this happened, I hardly noticed. Once I noticed, I decided his fact-listing and story-telling skills were good enough that I didn’t care about the digression.

Image from LATimes.com

Author Steve Dublanica

I also liked how very real Dublanica’s tone felt. Reading his first-person narration, I simultaneously felt like I was living his experiences myself and watching them from the sidelines. I felt sarcastic when he was sarcastic, annoyed when he was arrogant, sad when he was self-doubting, and clueless when he was drunk. I wanted to punch his annoying customers just as much as he did, and I was tired with him at the end of a long shift. In sum, he was a great narrator and a great writer.

More to that point, I felt as if I was watching Dublanica go through the motions of his life chapter to chapter, without knowing where he was heading. I heard his doubts and his fears without confidence that his life was going anywhere. But as a reader, I could see how he was growing and how his experiences and his blog were eventually going to lead to a book deal. I saw the potential in him that he wasn’t seeing for himself. But, as a good writer, I am sure this is exactly what Dublanica wanted me to see.

I appreciated the honesty of the narrator in this book, as his reactions and emotions are what makes the book as great at it is. However, I have to admit I had one major problem with this book. Dublanica comes off as extremely arrogant. I had a hard time not thinking of all the arrogant jerks I’ve met in my life while reading his opinions of co-workers and customers. The reminder of all those people soured my experience while reading his words. But. Dublanica admits it. He spells out, without hesitation, that he can be arrogant and self-serving. The way I read it, though, those qualities are part of what allowed him to live through so many years of waiting tables at a high-end restaurant. So while I occasionally wanted to throw the book across the room for his I-am-always-right attitude, I appreciated that he admitted it. And I read on.

The edition of the (print) book I read had a “P.S.” section at the back of the book with “Insights, Interviews, and More…” If you think you may read Waiter Rant and have the option of reading a version with this “P.S.” section, do. Dublanica’s “The Waiter Who Came In from the Cold” that I found in this section was just as good as the rest of the book, and outlines his whirlwind experience with fame after the book was published. His arrogance is completely kept at bay in this addition.

I am not a frequent reader of non-fiction, so I hope my assessment of Waiter Rant is thorough enough to make you interested to pick up a copy, and not so thorough as to have given away any spoilers. It took me some time to get through this book (I apologize for my lack of Book Blob updates!) but I enjoyed it none-the-less, and I hope that you will too!

Take it all, Robber Bride

I so, so want to like Margaret Atwood. The strong feminist slant, the unflinchingness in the face of reality, the examination of the nature of violence and pain—these are traits I generally admire in a writer (Joyce Carol Oates comes to mind [We Were the Mulvaneys, anyone? Amiright??]). I adore getting all literary about the issues and struggles in real life that I spend a lot of time thinking about, and Atwood is certainly all about them in her novels.

But, but.

Atwood’s The Robber Bride centers on three women—Tony, Roz, and Charis—who share the third-person-limited narration. The three were college classmates, along with Zenia, the eponymous robber bride, a mysterious and sociopathic sadist who “robs” each woman in turn of her male companion. Each man is subsequently dropped by Zenia, who  is finally reported dead—only to appear one day, revealing herself to Tony, Roz, and Charis at their habitual group lunch, and causing each of them to mentally backtrack through their history with her and search for the means of destroying her once and for all.

I’ll say this for Atwood—the book is a well-worked character study. Each of the three women (I’m not counting Zenia here, who, while she dominates much of the action, remains fairly vague as a character) is fully formed and well developed; their early childhood and school years contain their fair share of trauma and strongly affect their later relationships with men and their reaction to Zenia’s seductive influence.

Here’s my issue: The fatal flaws in each of these women don’t garner my sympathy or respect. They don’t even make me pity them. They bore me.

Each of these women are strong in their own way, in ways that I admire and that are clear in the story. Vulnerabilities in themselves are not a dealbreaker for me in terms of character respect—I am not that inhuman. But these particular vulnerabilities—these women’s inability to see or react strongly and decisively as their lives and relationships fell apart around them—did not entice me. They made me mildly irritated, but mostly uninterested.

I previously wrote a post on my personal book blog about Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone. Dolores, that main character, is in many ways a despicable person, often intentionally making poor decisions, often outright cruel to those who care for her. What kept me reading and rooting for her the entire book was that I never lost faith in her. I never doubted that, despite all the s*** she was both working through and creating, things would work out okay for her in the end because of her sheer stubbornness and will.

It is not my intention to compare these two books. I don’t like comparing things with the point of putting one down, and I realize that these are obviously different books with different authors who had different goals. The point I’m trying to make is that I lost faith early on with the three protagonists of TRB, and I never really regained it.

Finally, the last issue I had with this book was the ending. 1001BYMRBYD describes the ending as such:

On the surface, this is a bleak tale that wallows in the destructive side of human emotion—eny, hatred, and retribution—but by the end, a warmer message emerges: the consolation offered by shared companionship and affection.

I agree with the first part of this sentence, and, masochist that I am, I often quite enjoy wallowing in destructive emotion (in fiction, at least). The problem was that by the time I reached the ending, I didn’t quite believe it. The warmer message of consolation was too sudden, too short—it felt far too tacked on for me to take it seriously.

So that’s it. Margaret Atwood, as much as I wanted to like this, TRB just wasn’t for me. Are there any Atwood fans out there who can suggest titles she might redeem herself with?

The Hero Worship Continues – Mostly

Hey, beautiful blobbers! Long time no see. It’s been pretty quiet ’round these parts, I’m sorry to say–life is busy, ya know? Of course you do. Which is why I’m glad you’ve taken the time to pop in here for a bit! Hopefully you’ll find it worth your while.

This year has been off to a decent start for me, literarily speaking (Wow, that’s a real word? Huh. WordPress didn’t call me out on it, so that baby’s staying in). I will admit to supplementing the beginnings of my new 50-book list (well, I hope it gets that large, anyway) with a fair number of graphic novels–including a couple from the Y: The Last Man series, which I learned about thanks to Kait–but I have managed to read a handful of traditional novels, too. I’m happy to say I finally got around to reading Room by Emma Donoghue, which is one I’d been meaning to get to for a good year and a half or so. But Nick already did a stellar job talking about that one, so I’ll leave it be and talk about another of my favorites from this year–namely, Paper Towns by John Green.

Friends, I’m fully aware that there’s a fair bit about John Green and his wondrous words on this blog already, but let’s face it; the man’s a legend, and I can’t seem to stop hero-worshipping him. After reading and loving (and being basically shattered into pieces by) both Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, I found myself wanting more fantastically articulate prose and pithy turns of phrase that make me see ordinary things from new and extraordinary angles. Thus, I went looking for these things in Paper Towns. And found them. Mostly.

 Paper Towns is the chronicle of Quentin Jacobsen, his best friends, and Margo Roth Spiegleman, the wild, enigmatic girl who manages to mystify them all. Quentin, or Q, spends a long and adventurous night with Margo, during which he helps her exact revenge on various of their classmates in diabolically creative ways. After spending a legendary night being enchanted by Margo, Q feels as though his whole outlook on life has changed, and he can’t wait to see the wild places Margo will sweep him off to next. But soon, he finds that Margo has disappeared, leaving only a few strange and almost indecipherable clues in her wake. Those clues are eventually the cause of the most random, hairbrained road trip imaginable, in which Q and company rush across the country via minivan to chase after the elusive Margo. Q has no idea what he’ll find when he reaches the end of the road–he just knows he has to follow it.

It’s hard to quantify this book when considering it in context with John Green’s other works (at least the two others I’m familiar with). It has the same unmistakeable John Green-ness about it, to be sure–resonant thoughts and spectacular dialogue abound, as usual. The characters feel familiar–as in LfA and TFiOS, they are even smarter and funnier than most teens I have had the pleasure of knowing (and the one I had the dubious pleasure of actually being), they’re ridiculously (almost unbelievably) well-read, and though they’re awkward as all get-out, they’re somehow able to impart their own wonderful brand of wisdom.

But though the general atmosphere is the same, Paper Towns felt a little foreign to me when I put it up next to the other two in my mind. There was something that just felt less genuine about it to me. In general, Green has a way of somehow making his characters seem both wholly relatable and wholly extraordinary. Usually, though, they still manage to feel grounded in reality, at least to a certain extent. This seemed less true with the characters in Paper Towns. Several of them felt downright archetypal, as though one or two of their main qualities defined them utterly.

Now, I’m well aware that this is more or less the point of Paper Towns, especially in Margo’s case. Q’s biggest hangup throughout the book is the fact that he sees Margo as a manic pixie dream girl. He has her up on a pedestal and idolizes her blindly, not realizing the depth and pain that are hidden by her wild, carefree exterior. However, it all went back to good ol’ suspension of disbelief for me, as often happens. I’m willing to forgive a pretty wide array of shenanigans with books like this, but in the end, there were a few too many moments where I found myself thinking “In what world would someone ever say/do/think this?” It all started to feel a little surreal after a while, and not always in a good way. And while there were still plenty of slam-on-the-brakes-and-ponder-your-life moments throughout the story, a few of them felt almost preachy, which isn’t a phenomenon I’m terribly accustomed to when it comes to Green’s books and is one I can’t really say I cared for.

With that said, though, even though Paper Towns is my least favorite of the John Green books I’ve read thus far, I really did like the concept of it. Most likely, all of us are guilty of misjudging and mis-imagining just about everybody we’ve known, in some way or another. It’s so easy to distill people down in our minds to two-dimensional shadows of their true selves, so hard to take the time and effort to get to know people for who they really are. The way Q views Margo isn’t just selfish and shallow, it ends up being potentially dangerous, threatening to be the downfall of either or both of them (I’m going to cop out and refrain from telling you how that is–you’ll just have to read the book for yourself!). When all was said and done, I appreciated the reminder that people are endlessly complicated, that they are so much more than just the flimsy paper cutouts we tend to make of them in our minds.

And, okay, hard to swallow as it was, the road trip sequence was awesome. As the self-acclaimed queen of road trips, I can’t begin to tell you how entertained I was by the crazy adventures Q and Co. got themselves into along the way (not to mention the fact that I felt kinda jealous of them…).

So, friends, what do you think? Have any of you had the chance to read Paper Towns? I’d love to hear your take on it! Fire away in the comments below before you jet back off to your busy life of busyness.

Legend: Further Adventures in Dystopia-Land

Happy New Year, blobbers! I hope everyone’s having a lovely 2013 thus far. My days haven’t been taken up by many literary adventures just yet this year, but I do intend to once again aim for the goal of reading 50 books in a year, a goal that I’m proud to say I achieved in 2012!

Unsurprisingly, the tale I’m taking a deeper look at today is one of the last few books I read during the year. I’d been wanting to read Marie Lu’s novel Legend for some time, and during Christmas vacation, I found that the time was finally right to dig in to it.

Like many of its brethren, this story is set in a post-apocalyptic United States (in the Legend universe, it’s known as the Republic). Society has been rebuilt, complete with totalitarian government, after a vague and cataclysmic chain of events that took place in the unspecified past. The story is told in dual first-person perspective; the chapters alternate between the point of view of June, a tough and highly intelligent prodigy who has become an important member of the military at the tender age of fifteen, and that of Day, a teenage vigilante (or criminal, according to the government), a boy who is at the top of the country’s Most Wanted list and who has an impressive number of secrets to protect. The two meet when June is sent on an undercover mission to capture the seditious Day; the government wants her to end Day’s rebellious efforts for good, and June has revenge as yet further motivation to capture him–she  believes him to be the murderer of someone close to her. June and Day fall in together shortly after June’s mission begins, and though they find mutual benefit–and eventually attraction–while working as partners, they are careful to keep their true identities hidden from one another. Thus, little does June realize that the young man she has befriended during her search to catch a criminal is the criminal himself. When all is said and done, June must decide who to believe–the government that has taught her everything she knows and secured her position in the world, or the compelling young man with a head full of dangerous ideas and a strength and resolve unlike anything she’s ever seen.

I have to say, there was a lot I liked about this book. Despite the high number of dystopias–especially YA dystopias–I’ve read at this point, I still really enjoy the concept; there’s just something so otherworldly yet at the same time relatable about a re-built and re-imagined world that I find highly appealing, and this story hit all the right notes as far as that aspect was concerned, even if the overall concept was a tad hackneyed.

The main characters were another strong point of the story; both were continually being thrust into situations that would be far beyond the capacity of any real-world teenagers to handle, but they managed to retain their believability throughout the story, almost without exception. Their actions and motivations, while sometimes predictable, held up well to scrutiny and made it easy to care a great deal about what was going to become of the characters themselves.

I also liked the way that reading the story felt a little like watching a movie. It wasn’t just that the pictures the author painted with her words were vivid, though they were; the film-like quality lay mostly in the progression of events, the style that the author chose to employ, and even sometimes in the way the author portrayed the characters’ body language. In short, there were lots of satisfying specimens of “show-don’t-tell” storytelling elements that helped to ground the plot in reality at points when it otherwise might have floated off into the ether.

However, while this book was an enjoyable one, it wasn’t without its failings. It has to be said that, in general, this novel doesn’t have much to offer that we haven’t seen before in any number of YA dystopias. I’ve already mentioned the premise (as cool as Lu’s take on it is, it kind of feels like re-treading old ground); a similar issue has to do with the protagonists. To me, they seemed oddly reminiscent of Peeta and Katniss of Hunger Games fame, in some ways–Day is unfailingly good and compassionate (though he achieves his ends in a rather more rebellious way than Peeta does), and though he’s smart and savvy, he’s also surprisingly naive and even gullible at times. June is rock-solid and more-or-less self-sufficient–at least on the exterior. She’s put into situations that force her to grow up much more quickly than the average 15-year-old girl, and (usually) handles them with aplomb, much like Katniss. Obviously, these are good character models, and I’m sure there are any number of similar protagonists out there, but it can’t be denied that there’s something that feels a little same-song-second-verse about June and Day, much as I like them.

Additionally, I sometimes found that, while the story’s believability held up overall, there were moments that struck me as just plain unlikely. As in any story with a fairly fantastical premise, there was a lot I was willing to accept when it came to unfamiliar elements and situations. However, there were several points in the story when I felt things were being stretched a bit too far. There weren’t enough such moments to make the plot collapse in on itself, but it might have done so had there been very many more such moments than there already were.

In sum, I can’t deny that this book was well worth my time. Though I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as some dystopian novels I’ve read, Legend had enough uniqueness, relatability, and surprising moments within it to keep me well and truly hooked for the duration of the story. Like every dystopian novel seems to be these days, Legend is part of a trilogy, and I’m looking forward to finding out where Lu takes the story next. Will June and Day join the rebel group known as the Patriots? Will the Patriots turn out to be the “good guys,” as it were, or will they be just as corrupt and dictatorial as the Republic (District 13, anyone?)? Will the protagonists set things in motion toward a brighter future, or will the cycle continue? Whatever happens, I know it’ll be an exciting ride toward the series’ conclusion.

Now it’s your turn, dear blobbers! Have you read Legend? What are your thoughts on it? Beyond that, what books have you delved into during these first few days of 2013?

Revisiting the Classics: The Call of the Wild

call-wild-jack-london-paperback-cover-artAfter passing the classics section dozens of times at my local Barnes & Noble, I finally decided to grab a book, largely at random, and crack open its cover. I was confronted with The Call of the Wild by Jack London. Somehow it took me a month to finish, regardless of its meager 134 page count. Between that and my half-successful attempt at NaNoWriMo, it’s been a while since I last dropped by Book Blob. It’s good to be back!

I immediately understood why The Call of the Wild has never been out of print since its first publication. The story involves all of the major conflict types of good literature: man vs. man, man vs. nature, and man vs. beast. However, The Call of the Wild is not from the point of view of man, but of beast. The main character of the book is Buck, a very large Shepard/Saint Bernard cross. The reader meets Buck at his comfortable, loving home in California. But Buck is blessed, or perhaps cursed, with intense size and strength and is soon stolen away to be forced into a life of intense labor. He is tied to sledge after sledge and made to pull man and his wares across the frozen Yukon. Buck is passed from man to man, some kind and some cruel.

1997 adaption by Peter Svatek

There have been many movie adaptions of The Call of the Wild.

The treatment Buck receives from his various owners was incredibly varied, and made me consider how animals view my treatment of them, and if simple petting and feeding are enough to win over the affection of my friends’ pets. The narration style gave Buck a very human-like voice, although all his thoughts were in the form of impressions, sights, and smells. He quickly learns the “law of club and fang” after he is beaten by his first cruel owner: if man holds a club, do not bare fang. Buck’s experiences with beatings become an experience of the reader, and the man with the club becomes not a human, but a monster. Alternatively, Buck’s attitude and actions toward his kind masters helped me to understand where the saying “mans best friend” originated. Buck not only loves his kind owners, he fights for their success and their survival. Their fights become his.

Along with Buck’s experiences with beast vs. man, Buck also experiences beast vs. beast. London turned the idea of “alpha dog” into something personal for Buck. Most of the dogs Buck encounters are unconcerned with becoming the head of the pack. The few dogs that are interested in the position fight passionately for it, occasionally to the death. I found it interesting that while the dogs fight out their disagreement, the men who own them allow the fights to occur and risk the loss of a dog, which could mean the failure of reaching a delivery deadline. Many of the men in The Call of the Wild understand that the laws of nature that exist between beasts are more powerful and deadly than those exist between man and beast. The men who do not understand that, or do not respect it, suffer.

The theme that most interested me throughout my reading of The Call of the Wild was beast vs. nature, or perhaps more accurately, beast remembers nature. Buck’s removal from domesticated life and his integration into life in the Yukon awakens in him memories from his ancestors in “primordial” times. Nature and his instinctual response to it consume him at times. He finds himself running across fields and through woodlands without an understanding as to why, only that the action and the land call to him. Buck is a dynamic character in many ways, but his responses to the land around him reflect his growth and change the most by the end of the book.

Picture from wardogwall.com

Buck’s story is fiction, but is presently so matter-of-factly that I often forgot that while reading. Even after turning the last page, I still imagine a gigantic and beautiful specimen of dog roaming about somewhere in the Yukon. I can most closely relate the tone of the book to Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, although the narration and explanation are rolled into one, and the book ends on a less sad note. While much of the book was like a journey into the wilderness, the actions of the men toward the dogs and the many man-made locations Buck encounters are a reminder of how much man has changed the world, and not necessarily for the better.

The Call of the Wild was a fascinating read. Although the writing style did not cause me to become lost in the story, Buck’s journey did call to me between readings. I wanted to know what else he would encounter, and what else would call to him inexplicably through the wilderness. The Call of the Wild was a fantastic introduction to Jack London, and I plan to read more of his works in the future.

Have you read The Call of the Wild? What did you think? How does it compare to other works that address man or breast vs. nature?