Monday, January 12, 2009

The American Dream

It's Jack London's birthday! I would have never known if it were not for the calendar that our classroom received from Scholastic Books, thank you very much.

One novel that I never tire of reading and re-reading is his The Valley of the Moon, one of those classic stories that chronicle the pursuit of happiness. Because I just love a happy ending. And I have a partiality for authors whose setting is an area that I know well. For most readers, say "Jack London" and they think "Alaska".

But London was a California boy through and through, so this former California girl loves his local settings best--in this case, Sonoma.
And if you've never driven through the lush foggy Sonoma valley, past rounded motherly hills, while grazing Guernsey cows appear and fade like mirages...well, you've missed an experience whose beauty makes my heart sing. And visiting little Glen Ellen where London's ranch is located just makes the experience better. (Oh, and dropping by a winery here and there doesn't hurt either.)

I grew up in northern California and spent Saturday mornings in our Spanish-style library with warm sunlight pouring through narrow windows onto tile floors. A library that, happily, stocked the lesser-known but California-oriented books by some famous authors. Even if an author can make his or her setting come alive in my imagination, it's a bonus when the setting is already part of my experience.

The Valley of the Moon has an autobiographical flavor to it. It's not particularly intense or thought-provoking; just a simple romance--the search for the right partner to live with and the right place to live in. I love Jack's unintentional snapshot of the Bay Area in times past. A tawny California without freeways or dot coms, filled with little farms and ranches. A place that my great-grandparents would have instantly recognized. Hmmm, maybe it's that family connection that makes this story a well-read favorite.

Happy Birthday, Jack. I'm grabbing my book and heading off for a leisurely soak with some well-loved characters.

1 comment:

  1. I have never read The Valley of the Moon. I may have to pick that one up.