The Wild still lingered in him and the wolf in him merely slept. (Jack London)
In the summer of 1897, Jack London, author of books such as Call of the Wild and White Fang set sail to join the Klondike Gold Rush. He would develop scurvy and lose his front teeth in the harsh conditions, but the experience would also inspire him to write the first of his successful fiction. (Goodreads Quote of the Day for July 25, 2015)
Seeing Jack London highlighted on Goodreads a couple of days ago had me remembering our trip in 2010 to Jack London State Historic Park in Northern California. This park encompasses what London called, Beauty Ranch, and contains the cottage in which the author wrote.
Jack London had a strong work ethic and writing philosophy. He saw his craft as a profitable chore. The products of his lively imagination were a means to an end.
“I write for no other purpose than to add to the beauty that now belongs to me. I write a book for no other reason than to add three or four hundred acres to my magnificent estate.”
I found this quote disconcerting. It seemed such a calculated attitude to take towards the craft of writing. I couldn’t square London’s somewhat utilitarian attitude with my own memories of how his work had moved me. Call of the Wild broke my heart and not just as a youngster. I had the same tear-filled-eyes experience when reading it to students years later.
Once again, I am reminded of Paul Ricoeur’s thoughts on interpretation as the realm of the reader. Whatever impetus brought Jack London to the act of writing matters not when it comes to how his work made me feel.
Andy Warhol said this well.
“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide whether it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”