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Old 12-08-2017, 10:12 AM   #1
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On the Makaloa Mat by Jack London

Also known as Island Tales or On the Makaloa Mat and Other Island Tales

'Published posthumously, this collection of seven short stories and sketches creates a fascinating portrait of life on the picturesque Hawaiian Islands. Brimming with vivid descriptions of the sea and forest, these tales examine the lives of an array of characters and the effect upon them of their contact with Western civilization.'

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This is the MR Literary Club selection for December 2017. Whether you've already read it or would like to, feel free to start or join in the conversation at any time, and guests are always welcome! So, what are your thoughts on it?

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Old 12-09-2017, 11:37 AM   #2
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Being a huge fan of Louis Becke and his Pacific Tales (and other novels and short stories of the islands), I went ahead and got this London title from Feedbooks.

I used Sigil to generate a TOC and just now loaded it into my Kindle.

I'm going to read the first story (after I do the laundry), and will comment later this afternoon or perhaps later tonight.
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Old 12-09-2017, 01:33 PM   #3
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I've been hoping that the club would read Jack London for awhile. My husband loves his book Burning Daylight about Alaska and keeps urging me to read it. To follow up to fantasyfan's earlier post, Jack did have an interesting life filled with adventures all over the globe.

I found this statement from the time of his death.
Quote:
'No writer, unless it were Mark Twain, ever had a more romantic life than Jack London. The untimely death of this most popular of American fictionists has profoundly shocked a world that expected him to live and work for many years longer.' ~Ernest Hopkins, San Francisco Bulletin, December 2, 1916.
I also found this timeline of his life. I like that it has a column for world events to put his life into the context of the time period.
http://www.jack-london.org/timeline.htm
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Old 12-09-2017, 02:21 PM   #4
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I haven't read that much London, but his People of the Abyss, about living in the East End at the turn of the last century, is gripping. There's a photo in the book that encapsulates the narrative; London is standing in the middle of a group of East End men and he absolutely towers over them.
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Old 12-17-2017, 03:01 PM   #5
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This is a very enjoyable work. The tales have all the ambience of a tale being told spontaneously but certainly are actually quite sophisticated. The title story seems to arise very naturally in a conversation of a group of women. But I noticed that in fact it illustrates Frank O’Connor’s dictum that a short story should have a “glowing centre of action” that equally looks to the past, present and future.

I think it’s a wonderful story!
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Old 12-26-2017, 10:58 AM   #6
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Having finished the book, I would have a few reservations about the collection. I still feel that the opening title story is very fine indeed. I don’t think that any of the other works match it; they tend to be “tales” rather than coherent literary short stories. Often they have a tendency to ramble from one idea to another but give a very vivid picture of the society in Hawaii that was undergoing cultural shifts.

Despite any shortcomings in structure the tales still have entertaining moments. “The Bones of Kahekili” and “When Alice Told Her Soul” are comedies, the former being the more successful. “The Water Baby” stands out for its remarkable and rather mystical approach to the clash of the old and new in Hawaiian culture. It was written only a month before London’s death. “Shin Bones”is a rather grotesque piece and “The Tears of Ah Kim” is another story based on the clash of old and new. The final piece, “The Kanaka Surf” has the makings of a fine story but takes too long to get to the point.
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Old 12-27-2017, 07:46 PM   #7
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I was so busy getting ready for the holidays that I didn't start reading these stories until yesterday. I really enjoyed the first story and liked all the detail in the writing style.

These stories have been criticized that his writing style became too mature and that trying to put so much detail and knowledge about Hawaii into the stories helped distract from a tighter plot. By contrast the earlier stories of his career were more of a direct writing style with mass appeal.

I don't know how much he edited his work. Maybe since they were published posthumously that the stories didn't benefit from much effort to improve them. Supposedly his other stories about Hawaii, The House of Pride published in 1912, are better.
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Old 01-01-2018, 02:42 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bookworm_Girl View Post
These stories have been criticized that his style became too mature and that trying to put so much detail and knowledge about Hawaii into the stories helped distract from a tighter plot. By contrast the earlier stories of his career were more of a direct style with mass appeal.
That's very interesting. I'm only two stories in so far but I really enjoy the 'detail' of the stories and think they create a very good atmosphere which I really love. I felt I could strongly and quickly imagine the world he was describing in a very enchanting way, which isn't always the case for me. So it's interesting that he was criticised for it. I've never read any of his other writing yet but that sounds like perhaps he allowed his writing to become more languid later on.
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Old 01-03-2018, 10:19 AM   #9
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Reading a little more, I find it interesting that 'aloha' means 'warm feeling' or 'love' and can be used when discussing any of that. I always thought it simply meant a greeting.

Also, it's interesting to read characters discussing Pearl Harbour with nary a thought of the wartime attack since it hadn't happened yet. I think I've only ever heard it in reference to the attack before. Oh, and it's also interesting that the American author spelt the (at the time territorial) American place name Pearl Harbour with a 'u'.
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Old 01-21-2018, 08:15 PM   #10
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Thoughtful comments, sun surfer. It inspired me to do some research. I did not know that the Aloha Spirit is codified in state law. I found some great information on this tourism website.
https://www.to-hawaii.com/hawaiian-culture.php

I finished the stories today. Overall I enjoyed them, and it was very interesting learning about the culture and history. The first story is still my favorite. I liked Water Baby the next best. I agree with fantasyfan that they seemed a little too long at times.

This article on Chinese immigration was interesting to me. It also mentioned Chinese-Portuguese mixed marriages.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chin...tion_to_Hawaii
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Old 01-21-2018, 10:42 PM   #11
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Reading a little more, I find it interesting that 'aloha' means 'warm feeling' or 'love' and can be used when discussing any of that. I always thought it simply meant a greeting...
It is decades since I read these stories so I cannot comment directly on them. However, my wife speaks a number of the Polynesian languages and a very, very little rubs off on me (just a little smudge so bear with me if I get tangled up ). One of the differences between them is that they use different alphabets so, for example:

In Samoan "aloha" becomes "alofa", there being no "h" in Samoan (and there is no "f" in Hawaiian).

In New Zealand and Cook Island Maori "aloha" becomes "aroha", there being no "l" in Maori (and there is no "r" in Hawaiian).

Tongan drifts away from the differing by consonant trick and love is truncated instead to being just " 'ofa" (Tonga and Samoa are close geographically). Tahitian drifts even further away to a different word.

"Aroha" as a greeting in Hawaii seems to be a Hawaiian thing (and have just checked for sure with my wife on the following) as "alofa" is not used as a greeting in Samoan, a common greeting is very close though as it is "talofa". And in Maori neither "aroha", or anything close to it, is used as a greeting. But they do have the other various meanings of "aroha" along the lines of love, affection, compassion, pity, approval.

In Tahitian a common greeting is "ia orana" but as, similarly to Hawaiian, Tahitian does have "l" and "h" in its alphabet we don't know if orana and aloha have a common root (I suspect not as Polynesia had no written language so a pronunciation comparison between aloha and orana seems fraught to me).

Lots of words like this across Polynesia, similar and tracing the migrations, and all very easy to get mixed up, for me anyway .

Last edited by AnotherCat; 01-21-2018 at 10:58 PM. Reason: Sorting out the mental gymnastics :-)
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