The SFFaudio Podcast #718 – The Sea Wolf by Jack London – read by Nick Bulka. This is a complete and unabridged reading of story (11 hour 39 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants include Jesse, Paul Weimer, Maissa Bessada, Evan Lampe, Will Emmons, and Trish E. Matson.
Talked about on today’s show:
a psychological adventure novel, 3 episodes of Evan’s podcast, first time, a Jack London read-through, so many books, so little time, three famous famous famous novels, The Call With The Wild, White Fang, The Sea Wolf, such a great writer, a very interesting book, similar to Moby Dick, Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling, fry-cook to sea-captain, Humphrey is like a boy, immature in very specific ways, cabin boy, made manifest, the main character is Wolf Larsen, Brewster, the destroyer, social Darwinian cul-de-sac, kill seals and die, a critic, disliked critics, the only creative force, she has a grow-up, changing characters, from a passive person to an active person, the person with the character arc is the protagonist, impressionable, sucked in by Maude, a strong magnetic charge, old voicemails, in the arguments, speaking of what Jack London really believes, a social Darwinian, an atheist, this life is all that there is, the meaning we get out of life, socialism is the only out, Evolution And Ethics by Thomas Huxley, Darwinism is right, a reality of nature, the metaphor is a garden, you’re going to end up with weeds, a gardener to weed the garden, evolutionary ethics, the weaker good things, London is somewhere there, this is the world, gilded age capitalism, The Iron Heel, he’s both characters, as a success as a writer, an article in the Atlantic about Poe, criticism can be art, who’s the most successful artist on this boat?, the hardscrabble guy, no leg up in the world, in a struggle with death, only his manly body and his manly mind, what he happened to have been given, London has read Nietzsche, a guy giving lectures all the time, gentlemen and gentlewomen, real world practical experience, he’s almost like a Conan like force, Robert E. Howard, pull-up your pants mentality, dealing with reality as a man, vital nature, romantic love, not as awesome as Jesse was expecting, falling in love with the lady on the boat, a romantic novel, a philosophical struggle with death, ultimately he goes down, the end of his life, the Charles Bronson / Christopher Reeve adaptation, music tells you how to feel, Humphrey is telling us how to feel, many conversations, presented with a very hard philosophy, wouldn’t it be nice if everybody was nice, tweeting quotes:
“You have eternal life before you. You are a millionaire in immortality, and a millionaire whose fortune cannot be lost, whose fortune is less perishable than the stars and as lasting as space or time. It is impossible for you to diminish your principal. Immortality is a thing without beginning or end. Eternity is eternity, and though you die here and now you will go on living somewhere else and hereafter. And it is all very beautiful, this shaking off of the flesh and soaring of the imprisoned spirit. Cooky cannot hurt you. He can only give you a boost on the path you eternally must tread.
“Or, if you do not wish to be boosted just yet, why not boost Cooky? According to your ideas, he, too, must be an immortal millionaire. You cannot bankrupt him. His paper will always circulate at par. You cannot diminish the length of his living by killing him, for he is without beginning or end. He’s bound to go on living, somewhere, somehow. Then boost him. Stick a knife in him and let his spirit free. As it is, it’s in a nasty prison, and you’ll do him only a kindness by breaking down the door. And who knows?—it may be a very beautiful spirit that will go soaring up into the blue from that ugly carcass. Boost him along, and I’ll promote you to his place, and he’s getting forty-five dollars a month.”
very powerful, amazing, airy fairy, following through on the conclusion, we do not like it, some alternative explanation, some outside philosophy, very hard truths, at somebody’s house, not really paying attention, so propagandized, so in their class, what can you do there?, tacit or active support for horror, where is Jack London here?, we’re in a difficult situation, steel manning the enemy argument, he cheats his way out of this book, Goliah, it isn’t an angry book, we did our best for that terrible man, he’s trying to kill them, a hard choice to return good for evil, off together married, a happy ending, convenient death, who kills Wolf Larsen?, Death kills him, Melville’s Moby Dick, a secret crew, a secret hold, a plan to fight death, amazing, I’m going to kill, the Ghost, they escape from the Ghost, seals everywhere in Heaven, sealed their fate, headaches and strokes, status quo ante, admitting to himself he loves this woman, so one sided, worshipping her, all told from one point of view, 1904, he made a good argument, this isn’t a good time for romancing, at his mercy, hey lady, he’s a really decent fellow, dissed in a review, can I choose the weapons, I choose grammar, you lose, an essential good insight into this character, Wolf Larsen’s grammar, wrestling with the works that surround him in his cabin, perfectly human, Wolf Larsen’s enemy is Wolf Larsen, there is no god, his hate is curdling inside him, making himself sick, his circumstances of his life, born to Humphrey’s station, born poor, no education, low on the totem pole, starting half-way up as a half-ass, achieving, the latest failson out of Hunter Biden’s laptop and phone, drive from beneath to succeed, there are these Humphrey Van Wydens, somehow got rich, made him a gentleman standing on deadman’s legs, a morality hidden in Wolf Larsen, for your soul’s sake, he makes a project of him, he likes the conversations, winning the arguments, he wins all of the arguments, the Robert E. Howard – Jack London connection, Conan has two fathers, the psychology behind this stuff, the answer to the riddle of steel, William Smith: not men not women not beasts can you trust in this world, steel you can trust, James Earl Jones, kills his mother, a mission to kill that guy, nailed to a tree, boy you don’t know what you’re talking, come to me my child, a scene right out of Black Seers of Yimsha (The People Of The Black Circle), these two fathers raised the boy Conan, ‘I am your father, boy’, it was steroids, you need to be challenged as a person to flourish, some pruning, you behave yourself, benign pain, become kind of a man, marriage, blow up Washington, DC and bring in a new order, White Fang, Call Of The Wild is the Conan story, a dog that’s soft that becomes hard, a free dog becoming a slave, become a wolf, a transcendence life experience, brought low, muscle, sitting around and being weak again, an island of seals, ship out on any ship in the world, stronger people, instill good values, she’s 27 she better hurry, one of the wealthiest people based on his own ability to write, makes her living based on her writing, marauding around as well as writing, drinking his way across the planet, Charmian London, we did a show on a biography of London, six movie adaptations, the 1941 movie starring Edward G. Robinson, an observing writer, for the better?, interesting, choosing to make her not a lady, some kind of convict or criminal, film is not literary, literary conversations, leaning on Milton, reign in Hell rather than serve in Heaven, less visual things, more timeless, William Shakespeare, Omar Khayiam, Ecclesiastes, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, a rich literary experience, Edgar Allan Poe, deny the connection, individualism against society, capitalist individualism, becoming socialized, interacting with indigenous people, the member of a pack, between Howard and London, Wolf Larsen is an intellectual dead end, the law of the jungle, where Van Wyden and Brewster are going, Hobbes, pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps, a thing that you cannot do, somehow blessed with a good brain and a strong body, the triumph of the Will (Emmons), the very materialistic, our opponent has nothing, an airy fairy liberal feeling, why it feels so one sided, intellectual rigor, I learned a lot from this hard man that is wrong and I take that into the fight against the horrors of this world, taught himself to read, his brain betrayed him, a refutation of the idea that there is or isn’t a soul, so amazing, his brother is Death, Wolf is not his name it’s his nature, what Jack London wanted people to call him, Wolf House, triumvirate of three famous books (are all about wolves), inside Jack London there were two wolves, timely and of its time, somewhat that will date this podcast, that’s what they were thinking back then, this monster of a book, Will loves this book, this romance thing is a sideshow to what the point of what the book ought to be, who is the audience for this book, the Maud and Van Wyden people, to help them digest this difficult philosophical heavy stuff going on, a lot of fiscourse, long monologues, comparing life to yeast:
“I believe that life is a mess,” he answered promptly. “It is like yeast, a ferment, a thing that moves and may move for a minute, an hour, a year, or a hundred years, but that in the end will cease to move. The big eat the little that they may continue to move, the strong eat the weak that they may retain their strength. The lucky eat the most and move the longest, that is all. What do you make of those things?”
but they have dreams, radiant flashing dreams, dreams of grub, read more Jack London, the volume on the original, oh my god it’s the character from Strong Bad: Strong Sad, dim sounding, why is this voice so familiar?, South Park, a better long running series, so of itself, so silly, Cookie, Melville?, the captain character going after God, he wears his philosophy on his sleeve, the thing Will likes, all in drawing rooms, Stranger In A Strange Land, it just becomes Ahab’s story, a mission to kill god, struggling more, avast my brother death I’m coming for your, incentivize the crew, nailing the gold coin to the mast, we’re all going to get rich, what everybody wants: more grub, very Shakespearean and experimental, literature and the meaning of life, whales! let’s talk about them, its very companionable to squeeze your friends while churning sperm, a very different love story, Queequeg would be Maud, no Starbuck here, Jack London doesn’t care about the crew, Melville cares a lot about the crew, he wrote Moby Dick as Jack London, social Darwinian theory is well developed, much more actory, bring more of yourself to Moby Dick, Maissa’s judgement, how civilization softens and ruins you, brought back to the wild to become a worthwhile person, a prison ship, a prisoner of himself, the ship being the Earth, they try to escape the ship to find their own Eden, Adam biting the apple, strange Eden, what makes me courageous is wanting to look courageous in front of my girl, clubbing seals, ready to club Larsen, violence and strength are the more important thing, my spirit will get rewarded in heaven, remaking the world, who intrudes into the garden is the holy Ghost, Lucifer, wolf a symbol for Satan?, goats, a predator danger, baddies control wolves, why wolves are bad guys, To Build A Fire, a good and different, Alaska, sea voyage, rebuilding a boat, almost science fiction space opera detail, very practical, whale geekery in Moby Dick, Trish read it in highschool, he was your Wolf Larsen, far fewer beatings, focus on moral behavior, a classic every week, for moral instruction, adopt this as your life, utterly horrific, would Humphrey survive the book?, breezed through it, coarsened and brutalized by life, from the ropes you’ve been pulling, grew the appropriate fungus on your fingernails, how dare you!, do more Jack London, a good book, one of the best novels, they make students read a lot of bad books, Charlotte’s Web, Animal Farm, Lord Of The Flies, a difficult book for humans, Hobbesian to the core, identifying with poor Piggy, look at the symbolism, his philosophy is all over the page, very implausible, earning up to that point, Buck’s story is Wolf Larsen’s story except they have primitive communism among wolves already, the idea of the lone wolf, in community, studying the differences between dogs and wolves, dogs are human oriented, wolves are pack oriented, they inform on each other, they’re on team human, “Buck did not read the newspapers”, Martin Eden, John Barleycorn, People Of The Abyss, The Road, a memoir of his hobo days, A Thousand Deaths, 1899, science fiction, The Black Cat, a guy in the water off San Fransisco Bay, an invention, revivifying people, an island in the South Pacific, like Tesla or Edison, a force field, he disintegrates the captain, it was his father, the father doesn’t recognize that it’s his son, his daddy issues, “I can kill you, dad”, the man he adopted as his Thulsa Doom father, Edgar Allan Poe’s story, an adopted name, his father Allan, I can be good, and drinks himself to death, potent writers who wrote good books, a little bit commercial, Before Adam, a prehistorical romance, those are science fiction too, racial memories of being an upright ape, almost domesticating a dog, a little bit Flintsonesy, a trace of that, the dog sees himself as a troglodyte, racial memories, on a big Bronson kick (again as usual), he always plays himself, Christopher Reeve playing a weak man, he plays dandies well, Ichabod Crane, an eastern dandy looking fellow, Lee Marvin, Ernst Borgnine, Keith Carradine, The Emperor Of The North Pole (1973), 1907, The Trail Of The Tramp, Coast To Coast, Lee Marvin playing Jack London, Emperor Norton, the hobo experience, 70s hobo movies, A Number One, Lance Henrickson plays an uncredited railroad worker, Humphrey Bogart has a cameo, that pick-pocketing this is just in the movie, a party scene, film steals from film, the writers are doing that, strange new worlds that are just Alien, they did that in Voyager, a Die Hard episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, deriving film from film, things adapted tend to be better, Arena by Fredric Brown, a Lee Marvin / Toshiro Mifune movie Hell In The Pacific (1968), Enemy Mine by Barry Longyear, The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell, Predator (1987), read Jesse’s essay, an episode of 30 Rock, film adaptations, 1913, an unnamed sailor, 1920, 1926, which ship starred as the Ghost, going to luff and jib and jibe, the focsle, The Cruise Of The Snark, a star on his shirt, Tales Of The Fish Police, 40 when he died, 1876-1916, he lived every year, very Wolf, kinda mean when drinking too much, BBC Radio 4 adaptation, The Cruise Of The Dazzler, The Assassination Bureau, Ltd., the movie with Oliver Reed, Evan should record the audiobook of John Barleycorn, Evan is good enough, Evan’s recording of Nudist Camp, all those Orrie Hitt, most of Orrie Hitt is public domain, Brother And Sister is coming out soon, it’s a (wrong) kissing book, cheating together, Sin Doll, sin books, Burlesque Girl, Never Cheat Alone, a writing machine that deserves more love, the white logic, why drunks in the body vs. drunk in the mind, you are just meat, Just Meat, happy going to church (they don’t need to drink, they’re drink on the lord, a Jamesian argument, a lived experience you can no longer enjoy, the noseless face, the skull behind your flesh, a different kind of good.