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The World of Jack London

Best Dog Story Ever Written: The Call of the Wild

"...a study of one of the most curious and profound motives that play hide-and-seek in the human soul."
-Carl Sandburg
"On January 26, 1903, Jack London submitted the completed manuscript of The Call of the Wild to the Saturday Evening Post. On February 12 the editor agreed to purchase the story if he would cut it by five thousand words, and they asked him to set his price.

Jack agreed to shorten it and set the price at three cents a word. On March 3 he received a check for seven hundred and fifty dollars. Twenty-two days later Macmillan bought the book rights for two thousand dollars with a promise to give it extensive advertising. At the time it seemed a very sensible thing to do. His previous books had not hit the best seller lists, and neither he nor Macmillan New York publisher George Brett had any idea that The Call of the Wild would do much better. If Jack had known at the time that his book would become a classic in American literature, and the royalties from it would have made him wealthy, he would have bargained differently. Yet, without the extensive promotional program, it could have easily become just another dog book. The answer will never be known, but Jack never regretted his decision, feeling that the extra promotion by Macmillan had been a major factor in its success.

The book was a passport to instant world acclaim. It not only became a classic, but it also opened a new era of literature. Mush was out, and courageous, raw red-blooded life was in. The Call of the Wild proved that realism was what the new generation wanted. The reviewers and critics had mixed emotions . . . some called it 'just another dog story,' while others acclaimed it as 'the best dog story ever written.'

The book has never been out of print during the last one hundred years, and critics still rave about it. A few years ago Carl Sandburg said, 'The Call of the Wild is the greatest dog story ever written and is at the same time a study of one of the most curious and profound motives that play hide-and-seek in the human soul.' "

Source:   Kingman, Russ. A Pictorial Life of Jack London. (Crown 1979)  (by permission)

Read London scholar, Dr. Earle Labor's related article:
A Centennial Tribute to America's Greatest World Novel

Answer to the London Trivia Question
What is the name of the dog in The Call of the Wild? The dog's name is Buck; his name appears 313 times in the story.
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