17 January 2005

Into the Wild

I recently read Into the Wild by Krakauer. The book chronicles the fatal 1992 journey of Christopher McCandless, a well-educated young idealist from an upper middle-class East Coast family. After nomadic wanderings around the West, McCandless hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. On his journey there, he gave his money ($25,000?) to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, and burned all the cash in his wallet, while inventing a new life for himself (partly inspired by Tolstoy and others). Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter.
Krakauer, who previously wrote an article on McCandless for Outdoor Magazine, painstakingly traces the young man's years on the road as he went through various jobs and adventures. Hearing of McCandless's lack of preparation as he travelled through various deserts and into the Alaskan wilderness, many readers regard the young greenhorn as a naive dare-devil. Having done some lesser versions of McCandless's vision quest in my 20s, I can personally understand the psychology that moved him (And does anyone in their 20s prepare for anything?), particularly the call of the solitary life in nature and the challenge of living off the land.

Since the book reads something like a detective story, I won't spoil the plot by giving the conclusion--suffice it to say that McCandless actually did a pretty good job of living off the land but eventually died--probably due to a few very minor errors. I suppose the lesson to all wilderness lovers and hermit wannabes is that there isn't a great margin for error when your out in the woods alone. I like Krakauer's book. It's nice to read something for once about a person who isn't on the treadmill of success--a unique individual who's able to decide how to live their own life without reference to TV advertisements.

While I'm at it, I'd like to put a plug in for Book Crossing. Although I've never tried it, the site allows people to intentionally "forget" books on park benches so that others can pick them up. It sounds like my sort of thing--a market economy minus bosses and the exchange of money.


dailyread said...

Thanks for putting out the info on Book Crossing. I usually recycle my books at the local used book store, but I am going to give this a try.

I am also anxious to read more about McCandless. He sounds like someone whose story will stimulate the adventurous nature many of us living the safe life.

Your blog is enjoyable reading.

Kiyomi said...

Hi, Karlo!
Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog - I mean, I'm not 100% sure but I think it's you.
Wow, there's so much to read here... I think I'm going to print out your blog and read the postings one by one.
See ya,

Karlo said...

Hi Kiyomi. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog! Happy New Year!

Viking Zen said...

I remember reading Into the Wild a few years ago and being haunted by McCandless, an idealistic, sensitive soul.
I wish he had made it. He almost did.
It's true that when you're that young, you can be somewhat reckless. After all, how can you get through the turmoil of growing up without the temporary, but unquestioned, illusion of immortality?...

Karlo said...

Many people have a hard time making through life without that illusion.