This is another find from my travels around America earlier this summer. Got this for fifty cents at a used book store in California. I have never read Jack London, and thought starting with some short stories would be the way to go- I am not disappointed!
This is a short collection, a little less than a hundred pages. As the title alludes to, there are five short stories– each better than the last. The final short story, by a mile, was my favorite.
What I enjoyed most about London’s style of writing was the depth he creates with his descriptions– this is something that more modern literature abandons in many cases. He provides such rich prose, I can’t imagine how he wrote it– I am envious!
The two stories I liked the best from this collection were “An Odyssey of the North” and “The Mexican”. I also really enjoyed “The Seed of McCoy.”
“An Odyssey of the North” in a nutshell is about an Indian who gets married to a woman (also Indian) who is abducted on the day of their wedding by a white man. The Indian husband spends his entire life sailing around the world looking for them and it takes so long that by the time he finds them, she doesn’t remember him. He joins the couple and helps them navigate around for a while but then he kills the white man. The woman refuses to leave with him, calling him a pig and other mean names, and she lays down to die with the white man she has been with for so long. It is a sad story, but telling.
“The Mexican” is a story of a young boy who wants to join the revolution but is not liked by one of the local groups, the Junta. He asks to join the revolution and ends up cleaning the floors and doing errands instead of more meaningful work. The Junta are running out of money and the boy, Rivera, knows this and somehow keeps bringing money to the group. They still don’t like him, though. They believe he is a spy. However, they are totally out of money and need to buy guns. Rivera tells them he will bring 5000 dollars in three days. They don’t understand how he is doing this, but have no other choice. He has been fighting — boxing — and winning. So, he goes to fight a well known white fighter and is told that there is no way he can win. However, he does, against all odds.
I had a great time reading these short stories– I hope to read some more Jack London after the challenge!
Overall rating: 4.5/5