“The key to London’s effectiveness is to be found in his complete absorption in the world he evokes. The author is in and committed to his creations to a degree very nearly unparalleled in the composition of fiction. The resulting go-for-broke, event-intoxicated, headlong wild-Irish prose-fury completely overrides a great many stylistic lapses and crudities that would ordinarily cause readers to smile. . . .
“He is an artist of violent action, exemplifying what the American poet Allen Tate meant when he said: ‘I think of my poems as commentaries on those human situations from which there is no escape.’ Once caught in London’s swirling, desperate, life-and-death violence, the reader has no escape either, for it is a vision of exceptional and crucial vitality. London’s most characteristic tales have the graphic power of the best cinema, and I for one hope that the film medium has not exhausted such possibilities as the latest adaptations assayed seem to encourage. Be that as it may, the quintessential Jack London is in the on-rushing compulsiveness of his northern stories. Few men have more convincingly examined the connection between the creative powers of the individual writer and the unconscious drive to breed and to survive, found in the natural world.”
James Dickey, Introduction to The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and Other Stories, 1981.
“The ghostly winter silence had given way to the great spring murmur of awakening life. This murmur arose from all the land, fraught with the joy of living. It came from the things that lived and moved again, things which had been as dead and which had not moved during the long months of frost. The sap was rising in the pines. The willows and aspens were bursting out in young buds. Shrubs and vines were putting on fresh garbs of green. Crickets sang in the nights, and in the days all manner of creeping, crawling things rustled forth into the sun. Partridges and woodpeckers were booming and knocking in the forest. Squirrels were chattering, birds singing, and overhead honked the wild-fowl driving up from the south in cunning wedges that split the air.
“From every hill slope came the trickle of running water, the music of unseen fountains. All things were thawing, bending, snapping. The Yukon was straining to break loose the ice that bound it down. It ate away from beneath; the sun ate from above. Air holes formed, fissures sprang and spread apart, while thin sections of ice fell through bodily into the river. And amid all this bursting, rending, throbbing of awakening life, under the blazing sun and through the soft-sighing breezes, like wayfarers to death, staggered the two men, the woman, and the huskies.”
“‘Never was there such a dog,’ said John Thornton one day, as the partners watched Buck marching out of camp.
“‘When he was made, the mould was broke,’ said Pete.
“‘Py jingo! I t’ink so mineself,’ Hans affirmed.
“They saw him marching out of camp, but they did not see the instant and terrible transformation which took place as soon as he was within the secrecy of the forest. He no longer marched. At once he became a thing of the wild, stealing along softly, cat-footed, a passing shadow that appeared and disappeared among the shadows. He knew how to take advantage of every cover, to crawl on his belly like a snake, and like a snake to leap and strike. He could take a ptarmigan from its nest, kill a rabbit as it slept, and snap in mid air the little chipmunks fleeing a second too late for the trees. Fish, in open pools, were not too quick for him; nor were beaver, mending their dams, too wary. He killed to eat, not from wantonness; but he preferred to eat what he killed himself. So a lurking humor ran through his deeds, and it was his delight to steal upon the squirrels, and, when he all but had them, to let them go, chattering in mortal fear to the treetops.”