Jack London is a famous dead writer. However, he is not famous for having written The Sea Wolf because it is a poorly written book. I took someone’ recommendation and read this recently, even though I should have known better, considering the source.
The Sea Wolf is a salty, homo-erotic adventure aboard a seal-hunting schooner with a chaste, yearning nineteenth-century romance grafted onto the back.
The first chapter promises a rollicking love-hate war between the first-person protagonist, a literary prancer shanghaied off a sinking ferry in the San Francisco Bay, and the captain, a veritable perfection of Man, embodying a veritable parfait of Predatory Animal, although one with an intellectual streak. In noting that this is written in first-person, I stress that the paragraphs and paragraphs devoted to capturing the wild-animal bodily incredibleness of our Captain, Wolf Larsen, is all told to us by our prancing protagonist, Humphrey. Every creamy word.
Captain Wolfy’s aforementioned and self-taught intellectual streak allows the author to pit the two men in constant brain-battle, discussing the nature of man, the existence of the soul, and, well, the value of values. Captain Wolfy interprets all he reads to bolster his theory that life is a big Hill, and the only purpose of it is to play a life-long, full-contact, no pads, knives-and-power-saws-allowed, game of King of the Hill. Humphrey simperingly disagrees.
If you like that, along with some bounding main thrown in, then bully for you, you will have a half of a book of it.
Then, when you are ready for a final throw-down, the ship takes in a shipwrecked lifeboat full of sailors and one tiny, ever-so-womanly woman, and COINCIDENCE of COINCIDENCES, she is known to Humphrey as a fellow writer. And BACK OF DAINTY HAND TO DEWY FOREHEAD! Wolfy attempts to force his perfect self upon her. And does Humphrey save his damsel from a fate worse than death? Well, he tries but in the end, Wolfy gets a headache. REALLY!
So, instead of a throwdown, Humphrey and his chaste, chaste lady escape in a lifeboat, get blown to an uninhabited island and spend the rest of the book plotting and effecting their escape and salvation. Do they get it on? Hell No. Is there a lot of talk about windlasses and halyards, riggings and hoisting tackles? Oh, yes.
Wait, no more Wolfy? Why, yes. COINCIDENCE of COINCIDENCE of COINCIDENCES, the ship wrecks upon the very (up to now) uninhabited cove in which the two lovebirds landed, as the ONLY SURVIVOR. So THEN, do they throw down? No, because Wolfy has a TUMOR. WHAT?
I know. Ridiculous. I think Mr. London gave up half way and finished it because he owed his publisher another book. I’m re-mad just writing this.
Consider this your warning. Read Call of the Wild.