Thursday, October 29, 2015
My Study Photographs, 3a
Another in a very infrequent series of pieces about the objects hanging on the wall of my study ...
I have a few Jack London-y things hanging around the house. This one I see every day because it's just to my left, high on the wall facing me, next to the front window out of which I stare when I can't think of what to write next. (I do a lot of staring.)
Some of you know that I had a Jack London obsession that ran from, oh, 1982 to about 1997. In 1982, I returned to Harmon Middle School to teach (I'd been gone for four years--had taught in the interim at Lake Forest College, 1978-79; Western Reserve Academy (1979-81), and Kent State University (frosh English, part-time, 1981-82).
When I returned, I learned that the Language Arts Department had adopted a new literature anthology for the 8th graders--Exploring Literature--a volume that contained, at the end, Jack London's 1903 novella, The Call of the Wild. I'd never read it. I had only a vague memory of the Classics Illustrated comic-book version of the story that I'd read in boyhood (quite a few times). I'd read London's autobiographical novel Martin Eden in high school study hall and The Sea-Wolf at Hiram College. That was it.
But The Call of the Wild got to me--in a variety of ways. One was personal. In 1898, my own great-grandfather (Addison Clark Dyer) had gone to the Yukon during the very gold rush that forms the historical core of Wild (the unknown Jack London was there, too, looking for gold; I hope they met). A. C, Dyer had kept a diary (no, he doesn't mention anyone named London), and I eventually acquired it from my uncle, and it now sits on a shelf not far from these framed items.
Well, soon, I was a fanatic. I read all of Jack London's fifty books (written between 1901-16); I visited his former ranch out near Glen Ellen, Calif.; I corresponded (and met) the principal London scholars; I attended, in the summer of 1990, a six-week seminar on London's work, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, out at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, Calif., an experience that led to my researching and publishing (Univ. of Okla. Press, 1995) a fully annotated and illustrated edition of The Call of the Wild. Later, I would write and publish (Scholastic Press, 1997) Jack London: A Biography, a book for YA readers.
Oh, and I went to Alaska and the Yukon twice, once with our son (summer of 1986; he'd just finished taking my 8th grade English class), once (summer of 1993) by myself, hiking over the Chilkoot Trail (which figures prominently in the novel) from the former site of Dyea, Alaska, to the shores of Lake Bennett in the Canadian Yukon. (I've posted a long account of that on this site, in several installments.)
I also started collecting. First editions. Etc. (My plastic cards became smooth with use.) Among my purchases is the item you see above. And since I'm running off at the mouth a bit here, I'll pause and tell that story in Saturday's post. (Annoying, I know.)
To be continued ...