Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Friday, May 30, 2014

Frankenstein Sundae, 15

Jack London Park
Glen Ellen, Calif.

As my Shelley garden effloresced, another once-expansive one—my Jack London garden—was returning to weed and waste. I’d just finished about ten years with London. It began in 1982. That year, I’d returned to Aurora (after an absence of four years) and discovered that the school had adopted a new literature anthology for eighth graders—Interpreting Literature. The final selection in the book was the full text of London’s The Call of the Wild, a novella I’d never read except in its Classics Illustrated version when I was a kid. I soon was ensnared by it all (dogs, the Yukon, the Gold Rush, and all), and before my London garden declined, I’d read all of his fifty books (he wrote them in only fifteen years), taken a six-week summer seminar in London under the auspices of the National Endowment for the Humanities, explored California’s Santa Clara County (where the story begins), hiked thirty miles over the Chilkoot Trail from Dyea, Alaska, to Lake Bennett in the Canadian Yukon (a trail that figures prominently in The Call of the Wild), visited—several times—the Jack London State Historical Park in California (site of his former ranch),[1] read every biography of him, met and corresponded with scholars, researched and published  an annotated edition of Wild (University of Oklahoma Press, 1995) and a biography of Jack London  (Scholastic Press, 1997).
Simultaneously, I’d been pursuing another passion—for Anne Frank. In 1991, the school replaced Interpreting Literature with Explorations in Literature, an anthology that contained The Call of the Wild (yes!) but also Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett’s stage adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank. And before all was over, I’d read widely about the Holocaust, the camps; I’d spent a week in the Netherlands and Germany visiting sites related to Anne and her family (including Bergen-Belsen, the camp where she died in 1945); I’d published a major feature piece in the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Sunday magazine—“Anne Frank: Revisiting the Horror,” 25 October 1992.

And now, as Jack London and Anne Frank were packing up and moving out of my imagination, Mary Shelley was moving in. She would stay for nearly another decade until others eventually eased her out. She would send me out into the world, into libraries and archives, sad hotels, to bookshops and book sales, to a half-dozen European countries, and, of course, to Burg Frankenstein and one spectacular sundae. (Okay, two spectacular sundaes.)

Castle Frankenstein
Darmstadt, Germany

[1] On 13 May 2011, the state of California announced its plans to close the Jack London State Historic Park (state budget woes); it had opened in 1959. However, it was promptly taken over by the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association—and it remains open.

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