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The Abysmal Brute

by Jack London on 2018-09-02

The Abysmal Brute is a novel by American writer Jack London, first published in book form in 1913. It is a short novel, and could be regarded as a novelette. It first appeared in September 1911 in Popular Magazine.[1]In the story, a successful boxer, who was brought up in a log cabin and knows little of the real world, begins to realize the corrupt practices in the game of boxing.In 1910, when the story was written, London had become a famous writer but he was worried that he had exhausted his ideas. The Abysmal Brute was based on one of several plot outlines he bought from Sinclair Lewis, an admirer of London who was at the beginning of his career. [2]

Other stories by Jack London about boxing are his novel The Game, published in 1905, his short story "A Piece of Steak" of 1909, and his short story "The Mexican" of 1911.[3][4]

Sam Stubener, a boxing manager in San Francisco, travels to a remote log cabin in northern California on getting a letter from retired boxer Pat Glendon, who lives there with his son, Pat Glendon Jr, a promising young boxer. Pat Jr fights well; otherwise, he knows little of city life; he hunts and fishes in the forest, he reads poetry and avoids women.

Sam brings Pat Jr back to San Francisco. Although Sam and Pat both know he could win a fight with a top boxer, the conventions of boxing require that Pat has to start with a boxer of lower rank. In his first three fights, he knocks out his opponent immediately with one punch. Sam tells Pat to make his fights last longer; since Pat says that he is master of his opponent "at any inch or second of the fight", they agree on which round the knockout will happen.

Pat's career takes off, winning fights worldwide. The newspapers, who interpret his detachment from the real world as unsociability, call him "The Abysmal Brute." Sam protects him from the corruption in boxing. Pat is not aware that Sam is using his knowledge of the timing of the knockout in a betting syndicate.

Pat is interviewed by Maud Sangster, a journalist from a family of millionaires, at the Cliff House, San Francisco. They immediately fall in love. Maud tells him she has heard in which round he will knock out his opponent in his next fight, and Pat wonders how his agreement with Sam became known. He tells her the knockout will be in a later round; this is to be a secret. When his opponent is knocked out in the round originally agreed with Sam, Maud is angry with Pat. He tells her his opponent faked the knockout; he is beginning to realize the corruption in the game, and says he is quitting boxing, although Sam has arranged a fight against top boxer Tom Cannam.

Pat and Maud get married; their honeymoon is spent in the forest and mountains. He decides to return for the fight with Cannam. The event, promoted as an important occasion, starts with speeches from boxing legends to which, unexpectedly, he adds his own, describing the corruption in boxing. This has a sensational effect; he then knocks out Cannam in the first round, and the event ends in uproar.The Abysmal Brute, based on the novel, was made in 1923; it featured Reginald Denny as Pat Glendon Jr, Mabel Julienne Scott as Maud Sangster and Hayden Stevenson as Sam Stubener.[5]

Conflict, is a 1936 film based on the novel and starring John Wayne as Pat Glendon, Jr, Jean Rogers as Maud Sangster and Frank Sheridan as Sam Stubener.[6]


by JACK LONDON on 2018-07-20

Dark spruce forest frowned on either side the frozen waterway.  The trees had been stripped by a recent wind of their white covering of frost, and they seemed to lean towards each other, black and ominous, in the fading light.  A vast silence reigned over the land.  The land itself was a desolation, lifeless, without movement, so lone and cold that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness.  There was a hint in it of laughter, but of a laughter more terrible than any sadness—a laughter that was mirthless as the smile of the sphinx, a laughter cold as the frost and partaking of the grimness of infallibility.  It was the masterful and incommunicable wisdom of eternity laughing at the futility of life and the effort of life.  It was the Wild, the savage, frozen-hearted Northland Wild.
But there was life, abroad in the land and defiant.  Down the frozen waterway toiled a string of wolfish dogs.  Their bristly fur was rimed with frost.  Their breath froze in the air as it left their mouths, spouting forth in spumes of vapour that settled upon the hair of their bodies and formed into crystals of frost.  Leather harness was on the dogs, and leather traces attached them to a sled which dragged along behind.  The sled was without runners.  It was made of stout birch-bark, and its full surface rested on the snow.  The front end of the sled was turned up, like a scroll, in order to force down and under the bore of soft snow that surged like a wave before it.  On the sled, securely lashed, was a long and narrow oblong box.  There were other things on the sled—blankets, an axe, and a coffee-pot and frying-pan; but prominent, occupying most of the space, was the long and narrow oblong box.
In advance of the dogs, on wide snowshoes, toiled a man.  At the rear of the sled toiled a second man.  On the sled, in the box, lay a third man whose toil was over,—a man whom the Wild had conquered and beaten down until he would never move nor struggle again.  It is not the way of the Wild to like movement.  Life is an offence to it, for life is movement; and the Wild aims always to destroy movement.  It freezes the water to prevent it running to the sea; it drives the sap out of the trees till they are frozen to their mighty hearts; and most ferociously and terribly of all does the Wild harry and crush into submission man—man who is the most restless of life, ever in revolt against the dictum that all movement must in the end come to the cessation of movement.
But at front and rear, unawed and indomitable, toiled the two men who were not yet dead.  Their bodies were covered with fur and soft-tanned leather.  Eyelashes and cheeks and lips were so coated with the crystals from their frozen breath that their faces were not discernible.  This gave them the seeming of ghostly masques, undertakers in a spectral world at the funeral of some ghost.  But under it all they were men, penetrating the land of desolation and mockery and silence, puny adventurers bent on colossal adventure, pitting themselves against the might of a world as remote and alien and pulseless as the abysses of space.
They travelled on without speech, saving their breath for the work of their bodies.  On every side was the silence, pressing upon them with a tangible presence.  It affected their minds as the many atmospheres of deep water affect the body of the diver.  It crushed them with the weight of unending vastness and unalterable decree.  It crushed them into the remotest recesses of their own minds, pressing out of them, like juices from the grape, all the false ardours and exaltations and undue self-values of the human soul, until they perceived themselves finite and small, specks and motes, moving with weak cunning and little wisdom amidst the play and...........