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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

Primitive Masculinity In An Anthropomorphic Wrapper

The Call of the Wild - Jack London

Set during the Klondike Gold Rush, The Call Of The Wild is the story of Buck, a much loved dog who is kidnapped in order to be sold as a sled dog. After a series of adventures in which he is passed from one owner to another, Buck finally finds himself free in the frozen Yukon territory where his wild instincts come to the fore and he joins a pack of wolves.

It’s a very masculine book. Only one female character makes an appearance and she is a manipulative, emotionally unstable and thoroughly useless individual. Of course the Gold Rush would have been a predominantly male experience, lived at the extremes of endurance. Nevertheless, London has chosen to glory in that geographical and emotional landscape, creating a paean to the macho values of those who set out to conquer it.

The writing has its own lyricism and that’s certainly very effective. However, this often seems to be not just a story about the exploits of a proud and noble animal, but also a manifesto for primitive masculinity presented in anthropomorphic wrapping paper.