Celebrating Jack London and “The Call of the Wild”

Reading outside Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon, a historical Jack London hangout in Oakland, to celebrate the release of The Call of The Wild movie. Hard to tell from Linda Brown’s photograph, but I shivered wildly in the cold wind on the waterfront, the perfect scene for arctic remembrance. Also reading were the headliner Dirk Wales, along with Kristen Caven, Henry Hitz, Keith Mark Gaboury, and Karma Bennett, all from the California Writer’s Club, which according to history and legend was founded by Jack London, Joaquin Miller, Ina Coolbrith, and others.

Though I was prepared to dislike the movie based on early reviews, I enjoyed it. I hated the scenes of dog cruelty, but London’s novel and earlier movie adaptations are much more graphic. The prospectors’ desperate climb up the icy mountain from the port at Skagway, Alaska, also appears less harrowing than historical reality. But as a certified dog lover, I found myself identifying with the protagonist Buck, despite his CGI genes.

Some scenes are a bit much, such as when Buck saves a wolf from a raging river and when he pushes the bad guy into a burning building, but those moments might be more Disney than CGI. Though invested in Buck, I also pulled for Harrison Ford. I recommend the movie even if it’s not that true to the novel.

I have a few lingering questions, though, especially when Buck sires a litter of CGI puppies. Sure they’re cute and CGI dogs can apparently breed, but do they poop CGI? What is it like to snuggle a CGI pup? Our dog Pearl wakes me up every morning to take her outside, earlier on days I’d rather sleep, the gentle nudge of a not-so-wild Golden Retriever. Messy, unpredictable, warm.