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The sea-wolf by Jack London
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The sea-wolf (original 1904; edition 1961)

by Jack London

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2,673372,224 (3.87)85
Member:RandyStafford
Title:The sea-wolf
Authors:Jack London
Info:Printed for the members of the Limited Editions Club by Connecticut Printers (1961), Hardcover, 354 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
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The Sea Wolf by Jack London (1904)

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English (32)  German (2)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  All (37)
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Fictional tale of a sadistic sea captain ( )
  JackSweeney | Jan 9, 2017 |
“Do you know the only value life has is what life puts upon itself? And it is of course overestimated, for it is of necessity prejudiced in its own favour. Take that man I had aloft. He held on as if he were a precious thing, a treasure beyond diamonds of rubies. To you? No. To me? Not at all. To himself? Yes. But I do not accept his estimate. He sadly overrates himself. There is plenty more life demanding to be born. Had he fallen and dripped his brains upon the deck like honey from the comb, there would have been no loss to the world. The supply is too large.”

I remember watching the tv adaptation of Jack London's The Sea-Wolf with my gran, but all I remember are images of sails and the ocean. I don't remember anything of the story from that time. So, when The Sea-Wolf came up as a buddy read, I jumped right on it.

The story is told by Humphrey van Weyden, a wannabe author and self-professed gentleman, who is shipwrecked and picked up by the crew of The Ghost and their Captain - Wolf Larsen. Contrary to Humphrey's (Hump's) expectations, he is not set ashore but is Shanghaied by Larsen, who is short of crew and short of time.

While on board, Hump transforms from a man of thought into a man of action, while witnessing the brutality of life at sea and especially the brutality of The Sea-Wolf, Captain Larsen.

“Wolf - tis what he is. He's not blackhearted like some men. 'Tis no heart he has at all.”

It's an interesting book in which London explores human motivation and philosophises about the meaning of life and the value that society attaches to one profession over another. It is not always easy to follow, London's train of thought, however, and it is not at all clear whether some of the views are the author's own.
In some ways, I was reminded of Verne's 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, with its anti-hero Captain Nemo, whose disdain for human society somewhat parallels that of Larsen - except that Nemo had reason that are more relatable than those of Larsen.
The Sea-Wolf remains a mystery until the end.

Despite this, tho, the story works - even as just a simple story of adventure.

The only aspect that really grated on me was that London felt it necessary to add an element of romance into the adventure and side Hump with a lady journalist, who he falls in love with. This is not the grating bit. The grating bit is that she's a pretty strong character and her falling for Hump - who is a patronising wimp - is pretty unlikely. It's Hump's interaction with the lady journalist and his description of her as feeble and weak, even though she does more than her fair share of manual labour on the ship, that really made me want to kick him over-board.

“You are one with a crowd of men who have made what they call a government, who are masters of all the other men, and who eat the food the other men get and would like to eat themselves. You wear the warm clothes. They made the clothes, but they shiver in rags and ask you, the lawyer, or business agent who handles your money, for a job.

'But that is beside the matter,' I cried.

Not at all. It is piggishness and it is life. Of what use or sense is an immortality of piggishness? What is the end? What is it all about? You have made no food. Yet the food you have eaten or wasted might have saved the lives of a score of wretches who made the food but did not eat it. What immortal end did you serve? Or did they?”
( )
  BrokenTune | Aug 21, 2016 |
An adventure on the high seas, awash with philosophical questions. In addition to being a straightforward novel of man against nature and man against man, with detailed descriptions of life aboard a seal hunting vessel captained by Wulf Larsen (aka "Lucifer") the dialogue between the main characters explored major themes, including the value of human life, survival of the fittest, and might vs. right. I enjoyed this story very much. The narrator, Humphrey Van Weyden ("Hump") is a great literary character. ( )
  kimberwolf | Jan 16, 2016 |
There were some character difficulties in this book. Maud and Humphrey as romantic partners are annoying, maybe because Maud as a whole has something about her that is not believable, as does Humphrey in relation to her; these characters feel incompletely constructed. Wolf Larsen appears to be more complete. He is constructed well enough that it is even somewhat believable that he is willing to try to engage in personal violence even in his final moments. The reader is led to sympathize with Humphrey's experiences and to root for him even though something feels off.

This book seems to comment on the need for balance between thinking and doing and on the need for an appropriate moral code. I found it boring, to my surprise, in that it contained the expected result of an isolated group of men in an extreme situation. It felt as though I had read this in better versions in other sea tales (Captains Courageous, Moby Dick, Two Years Before the Mast, Master and Commander). It did have moments of creativity in its portrayal of methods of violence, but I didn't particularly enjoy this book or learn anything new from it and can't particularly recommend it. ( )
  karmiel | Aug 21, 2015 |
A real page-turner. The Wolf Larson character was so evil ... on second thought, he was amoral, I suppose. The plot was a little uneven, but the style was fascinating. ( )
  AliceAnna | Oct 24, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jack Londonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Aylward, W.J.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gannett, LewisIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martin, FletcherIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sutherland, JohnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I scarcely know where to begin, though I sometimes facetiously place the cause of it all to Charley Furuseth’s credit. He kept a summer cottage in Mill Valley, under the shadow of Mount Tamalpais, and never occupied it except when he loafed through the winter mouths and read Nietzsche and Schopenhauer to rest his brain.
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“One kiss, dear love,” I whispered. “One kiss more before they come.”

“And rescue us from ourselves,” she completed, with a most adorable smile, whimsical as I had never seen it, for it was whimsical with love.
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This is the unabridged original. Please do not combine with adaptations or abridgements. Please also do not combine with editions containing other works.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0895773384, Hardcover)

In The Sea-Wolf, London's most gripping novel, Humphrey Van Weyden is rescued from the freezing waters of San Francisco Bay by a demonic sea captain and introduced to fates far worse that death. Through this story London recalls his own adventures on a sealing vessel at the age of seventeen. John Sutherland's notes include a history of pelagic seal hunting and an account of the many cinematic versions of this novel.

About the Series: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:49 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

A young art critic is forced to endure the wrath of Wolf Larsen, captain of the sealing schooner which rescues him after a shipwreck.

(summary from another edition)

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