August 23rd, 2009

Done Snarking

I posted the last four chapters of Jack London’s Cruise of the Snark today. I will be very pleased if I have introduced someone to this delightful book by posting it here.Jack_London's_Snark_on_Alameda_CA_Estuary

A friend of mine has been exploring the possibilities of writing non-fiction narrative prose. I pointed him toward Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It, which was published as fiction but is frequently cited as autobiographical, and the Philadelphia Inquirer’s “Blackhawk Down”, forgetting that I was in the process of posting the Cruise of the Snark. That was an egregious lapse. Jack London is occasionally described as a pioneer of twentieth century journalism, and I think the Cruise is a wonderful example of his contribution. The scenes of the Cruise are as carefully plotted as those of any novel and London always finds an element of drama to highlight.

I often judge a book by its atmosphere. Some are closed in and stuffy, like business and technical literature that piles cliche on cliche apparently trying to avoid a hint of an original thought. Others, like my old standby, Anatomy of Melancholy, are richer than an over-priced slice of chocolate cake at a pretentious lunch counter.  The Cruise is open, wide open, looking past the horizon, beyond the next port of call, without regrets, without illusions. What an idiot! What a fantasy! What a way to live!

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