Monday, January 21, 2008

Into the Wild

I finished reading Into the Wild today. It was a quick read and while it didn't shake me as much as Into Thin Air (also by Jon Krakauer), it was still a very moving story. Into the Wild is the story of Chis McCandless, a young man who turns his back on his family, friends, and society to live simple, nomadic life. His travels take him across the Western United States and finally, into the Alaskan interior, where he meets his demise. While I didn't necessarily identify with McCandless, I felt like I understood enough about where he was coming from and I think that most men (and perhaps most women) will find at least a few things in McCandless' story that will remind them of themselves at a certain age. I certainly shared his fascination with the American West and I too made my own solo trek across the country, albeit in a much more conventional manner. While I never sought out the ascetic lifestyle that he cultivated, I managed to approximate it on several occasions when my frequent moves between work, home, and school made the accumulation of basic home furnishings more trouble than it was worth.

I think that the book is a good read regardless of where you stand on McCandless' lifestyle, beliefs, or how you feel about his aptitude as an outdoorsman. I get upset by people who write angry letters to the editor after a publication does a feature about someone who has either gotten in trouble due to a string of bad decisions or has recently straightened their life back out after a string of bad choices. You have to have an astonishingly simple mind to believe that any writer who fails to condemn a man who has made some obviously bad choices is tacitly endorsing those choices. Furthermore, as Krakauer points out in the book, people take unreasonable risks all of the time, especially out in Alaska. It's only the ones who have the misfortune of dying that face the scrutiny of the public.

If you're illiterate or reading just isn't your thing, a film adaptation of the book came out last year. I haven't seen it yet, but it sounds like it came out pretty well.


Michael David said...

I have neither seen the movie nor read the book, but I sense that both make him out to be a bit more heroic than he was. McCandless doesn't strike me as a bad person, but he doesn't strike me as a particularly admirable person either. Just a weird guy who died alone.

dhodge said...

The book is not an unbiased portrait of McCandless' life, but to his credit, Krakauer is upfront about his personal affinity for McCandless and how it stems from similar experiences in his own young adult life.