The Big Read Blog (Archive)

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October 16, 2008
Washington, DC

I was heading to the flea market with my stepfather this weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina, when he mentioned that Charlotte once upon a time was a gold boomtown and -- until the Civil War -- home to a federal mint that's now an art museum. A quick Google search revealed that "North Carolina was the nation's only gold-producing state from 1803 until 1828..." By the middle of the 19th century, however, East Coast prospectors had packed up their gear and headed west, first to California and then up north to the Yukon

This inescapabale siren call of the more abundant shiny stuff to be found on the left coast figures prominently in The Call of the Wild by writer (and adventurer) Jack London. What I find most compelling about The Call of the Wild is that London sketches the wide range of human experience during the heady and harrowing western gold rush not through the eyes of a man, but through the keen eyes of man's best friend. Here, in the opening paragraph of London's novel, we meet his unlikely hero, Buck, and get a glimpse of what's waiting for Buck just a few pages away.

"Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing not alone for himself, but for every tide-water dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego. Because men, groping in the Arctic darkness, had found a yellow metal, and because steamship and transportation companies were booming the find, thousands of men were rushing into the Northland. These men wanted dogs, and the dogs they wanted were heavy dogs, with strong muscles by which to toll and furry coats to protect them from the frost."

Find out more about events around The Call of the Wild or North Carolina's new "reading" rush at neabigread.org/events.php.