Call of the wild:


Jack London  born in San Francisco (1876).


He went to school through the eighth grade, then spent years working manual labor jobs: he worked in a cannery, pirated for oysters, and a week after his 17th birthday, he signed up as a crew member aboard a seal-hunting expedition to the Bering Sea and Japan. London was thrilled to be out at sea. He enjoyed the work, and he made a point to do more than his share. He said:
“My method was deliberate, and simple, and drastic. In the first place, I resolved to do my work, no matter how hard or dangerous it might be, so well that no man would be called upon to do it for me. Further, I put ginger in my muscles.” His hard work earned him respect from
the veteran sailors, but what really convinced them was when London beat up Red John, a huge Swedish sailor who tried to pick on him. Even Red John was impressed by the feisty teenager. London wrote: “It was my pride that I was taken in as an equal, in spirit as well as in fact. From then on, everything was beautiful, and the voyage promised to be a happy one.” When the ship stopped at ports, London happily drank and danced with his shipmates and sailors from around the world. In the Bering Sea, the sailors hunted seals in small boats that they sailed through ice floes. Clubbing and skinning the seals was brutal work, and the ship was covered in blood and seal hides; years later he used the experience in a novel called The Sea-Wolf (1904).
Off the coast of Japan, the ship hit a typhoon, and all the sailors took turns at the wheel because the effort was so physically exhausting. By the time London was called for his turn, the ship was rocking wildly, he was buffeted by wind and rain and could barely see, and at one point waves crashed over the stern. He wrote:
“At the end of the hour, sweating and played out, I was relieved. But I had done it! With my own hands I had done my trick at the wheel and guided a hundred tons of wood and iron through a few million tons of wind and waves.” A few years before he died, London called that experience at the wheel “possibly the proudest achievement of my life, my moment of highest living.”
The entire trip took less than eight months, and when London docked in San Francisco, he felt like a new man, but his circumstances hadn’t changed all that much. His family was still poor, and he had nothing on the horizon but more grueling manual labor. He headed home to Oakland, gave the money he had earned to his mother, and found a job working long hours in a jute factory.
Two months after London’s return, The San Francisco Call announced a contest for writers under the age of 22. His mother saw the announcement, and since she knew her son was good at telling stories, she figured he could write one, too. She suggested that he write about his recent Pacific adventures. The prize was $25, which seemed like riches compared to the 10 cents an hour he was earning at the jute factory. He wrote all through the night, drinking cups of black coffee that his mother made him, went to work at the factory, and then came home and did it all over again. After three nights he was ready to collapse from exhaustion, but he had a piece: “Story of a Typhoon off the Coast of Japan.” It won first prize, beating out entries written by students at Stanford and Berkeley.
London was so thrilled that he immediately began writing and submitting other essays and stories, but every one was rejected. Over the course of the next few years, he shoveled coal, joined a cross-country march of dissatisfied workers, spent a month in the Erie County Penitentiary for vagrancy, rode the rails, continued his education, and finally made his way to the Klondike for the gold rush. Although he didn’t strike it rich, the Yukon provided the material he needed for his first successful stories. He became famous at the age of 27 when he published The Call of the Wild (1903), a novel about a sled dog in the Yukon. London published more than 50 books before his death at the age of 40. His books include White Fang (1906), South Sea Tales (1911), and John Barleycorn (1913).

from The Writer’s Almanac for Jan 12, 2021

Definition #92 Ecstasy


From Jack London
In The Call of the Wild, he wrote:

“There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise.

And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive.

This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artist, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame;

it comes to the soldier, war-mad in a stricken field and refusing quarter;

and it came to Buck, leading the pack, sounding the old wolf-cry, straining after the food that was alive and that fled swiftly before him through the moonlight.

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