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Thread: London and Spencer in the Sea Wolf

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    London and Spencer in the Sea Wolf

    I started reading this, because it filled two criterion: it would be pre-1914 reading, but would not seem like homework (as I was going on holiday). I was not surprised to see that it was written after The People of the Abyss, which was a bit of reportage written during 1902 about living conditions in London's East End. The character of Cookie was evidence of that. I was surprised to learn that Jack London had served on a seal whaler ship in his youth. To me, Wolf Larson seems like an epitome of Jack London's creed. He is a man of action, yet a man of learning. He mentions reading Darwin and Spencer, and I think this is where it gets a bit dodgy. I don't honestly know a lot about Herbert Spencer. He was big in the C19th. I think he extrapolated Darwin's theories on evolution to human evolution, in a way which social scientists of today would disapprove. I don't know, but I suspect his theories were a bit racist and that he approved of Eugenics, and I have read this criticism of Jack London too. Still, it was a subject that a lot of people were thinking about at the time. Jack London was still a unique writer: a lad, an adventurer, yet still a big brain and a talented writer.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User Emil Miller's Avatar
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    I'm not an unreserved reader of American writing although I have read quite a bit of it. Recently I spent a day reading Jack London's
    Martin Eden and was unable to finish it due to the incredible repetition used to excuse the protagonist's behaviour from uncouth sailor to successful writer.
    In reading London, I was reminded of that other American adventurer Ernest Hemingway and how he would have told a more believable story.
    Last edited by Emil Miller; 10-04-2015 at 07:28 PM.
    "L'art de la statistique est de tirer des conclusions erronèes a partir de chiffres exacts." Napoléon Bonaparte.

    "Je crois que beaucoup de gens sont dans cet état d’esprit: au fond, ils ne sentent pas concernés par l’Histoire. Mais pourtant, de temps à autre, l’Histoire pose sa main sur eux." Michel Houellebecq.

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Finished it. I thought it was an interesting yarn, and I have shelved it under seafaring on my GoodReads account. The most extraordinary thing about it for me was the level of detail in the description of working one of those seal hunting schooners. London knew his jibs from his booms and his halyards from his windlasses. I have read all the Aubrey-Maturin series and several Joseph Conrad books, but nothing equaled it for detail (I have not read Moby Dick though).

    I think I may have slurred London in my previous post, if you assume the narrator, Humphrey van Heyden to be more representative of his views than Wolf Larsen. Hump is a humane man while Larson is a psychopath. I was surprised when Hump clubbed those seals. I would find that hard to do.

    *SPOLIER* Something else that appear pretty well described to me was Larson's illness, as my father went the same way. I wondered whether he had the same thing when he started getting the headaches.

    *SPOILER* There is a bit of false tension towards the end. I was worried that Hump might somehow miss his chance with Maud Brewster. I was glad London gave us the ending we wanted. I thought Louis de Bernieres wrote a great book in Captain Corelli's Mandolin, but I did not like the ending. I think sometimes authors strive not to be predictable, but personally I prefer the happy to the clever ending, especially when the story is told. In Nice Work written by David Lodge, there was a bit where a professor reads an old book on writing literature. It said there were three types of ending: happy, sad and neither. He advised that happy endings were the best, then sad and not to attempt a neither ending unless you were a genius.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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