Late last week I finished Captains Courageous, a coming-of-age adventure story in which a spoiled brat named Harvey Cheyne falls overboard at sea and is rescued by a fishing boat, whereupon he must work for his living and matures rather nicely. Anthony Esolen mentioned it in his Defense of Boyhood (review on that eventually, I’m going to do either a Esolen week or a Of Boys and Men week), and it sounded so much like one of my favorite Jack London novels, The Sea Wolf, that I had to give it a go. As a boy’s adventure novel, it’s certainly fun enough; Harvey is an absolute git at the beginning, so part of the pleasure is seeing him get his comeuppance. There’s also the satisfaction of watching him grow, though, learning the ropes and skills of the men at sea, and earning their respect and his own — becoming, in the end, a young man his father can be proud of and even like, instead of irresponsibly tolerate and avoid. The Sea Wolf did better with the premise for adult readers, though, in part because of the psychological content, the debates between London’s effete intellectual Humpfrey and the Nietzsche-inspired uberman, Wolf Larsen, and how the reader witnesses Humfrey inner growth. With Harvey, we can witness this change from the outside, by how others treat him, but we don’t get much of a look into his head.
In other news, I am moving along through Victorian London, a large but very readable social history of the titular subject, but have been somewhat distracted by dog-training and hiking, sometimes at the same time. On February 14th I adopted a mixed-lab pup who I named Idgie, and she’s kept me busy, and will soon be teaching me new skills: she’s more or less housebroken now, but will soon be too big to live indoors, so I’m building her a nice big pen under one of my shade trees. I went to the trouble of housebreaking her so she can come inside on occasion, though, especially during the worst bits of summer and winter. We’ve been exploring different places on the weekends, making repeated excursions to Old Cahawba because of the lack of traffic. (It’s a grid of dirt roads in the woods, with meadows where buildings used to be, and the odd crumbling ruin. Very pleasant except in summer!) Pictures to come if she ever sits still for one.
I didn’t take her to the Deadening Alpine Trail Sunday though, because I’ve hiked at Lake Martin before and knew some of the trails could be technical. The Deadening Alpine Trail, which I was scouting to see if it would be good for a group hike, proved much more challenging than expected: according to the signage, it’s one of the most challenging at the lake! The first mile or was pleasant woodland hills, weaving among mountain laurel and the like, but then we hit 3 miles of climbs, crawls, and colorful oaths lobbed at strangers we’d never met, but who designed this trail to torture us. My coworker and I arrived around 3 and escaped the woods only after 7, as the sun was starting its evening slumber. After steak and coffee we managed to make the long drive home without slumbering off ourselves!