Monday, December 28, 2015

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Into the Wild is the true story of Christopher McCandless, a young man from a well-to-do family who left everything behind to live the life of a tramp.  In fact, he renamed himself Alexander Supertramp.  After giving $25,000 from his savings to charity Alex left college to begin traveling throughout the west, carefully arranging things so that his family wouldn't discover he had gone for a few months.  Never staying more than a couple of weeks in any place Alex nevertheless made an impression on many people he met.  He himself was inspired by Jack London, Jon Muir, Thoreau, and other writers who extolled living life to the fullest.  After ten months on the road, Alex decided to hitchhike to Alaska.  Four months later his body was found in an abandoned bus on the edge of Denali where he had starved to death.

I believe I first heard about McCandless from a visiting author who used some of the music from the motion picture about his life as inspiration for a book.  I watched the movie and was left thinking about what an idiot this boy seemed to be, going into the wilderness completely unprepared.  During the two years since then I have heard from more than couple of young-ish people about how they read this book during college and were really inspired by Alex's life so I knew I had to read it for myself.  I can't say that my opinion of Alex has changed after reading Krakauer's book, but I do think I get why others find his story inspirational.  He is something of a modern-day Thoreau in terms of philosophy but one that probably speaks more to young people now.  Still, I remain unimpressed with his decisions and with Krakrauer's writing which is unnecessarily pretentious and full of labored metaphors.  Also, during our trip to Alaska this past summer I asked our Denali tour guide what real Alaskans think of McCandless.  They are not impressed.

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