So I pulled this out yesterday trapped at home in a rainstorm and reread it. I haven't seen the movie, but I did read the recent Men's Journal article that questions the Alexander Supertramp cult. How readers feel about Chris McCandless and his vagabonding tends to divide into three groups: 1) People either revere him as a self-made Thoreau, an "aesthetic adventurer" as he refers to himself (ascetic, too); 2) a rather silly, naive child who starved to death unnecessarily, hurting his family in the process; or 3) people who have mixed feelings about him. I guess I'm in the latter.
There's no doubt that the journey Alex S. undertook in 90/92 is powerfully appealing; it's also a young person's journey and is thus rife with a lot of the selfishness and solipsism of that age. One weird thing is that as I read the dates in CMcC's diary I started pulling out my old dayplanners to see what was going on that same spring/summer of 92. Turns out that on the probably day of AS's death that August 18 I was on my own rite-of-initiation quest in the U.P. of Michigan. Only I had my five-year old son with me. None of that really means anything to anybody but me, but it helped me understand what folks born in the 60s were looking for as they faced their adulthood.
Ultimately, I think the appeal of Into the Wild is Krakaeur's point of view---the way he allows his own unabashed admiration for that journey mingle with his awareness of CMcC's all-too-obvious youth. It's also an impressive piece of reporting, with the author having done an enviable job of recreating two years of travels. In the end I had a few questions I couldn't get past, some of which are resurfacing bc of the movie: 1. Is there a monomanical edge to this type of personality? JK actually uses the word once (and CMcC refers to himself as an Ahab figure) but seems unwilling to consider the psychological aspects of his character beyond cursory mentions of his strong will and fierce independence. 2. Why haven't more of the photos from that journey surfaced? I've only found four, two of which were on the back of the original book jacket and one, the most harrowing, of CMcC with his goodbye note as he prepared to lie down to die. I haven't checked out the new movie tie-in edition, but I haven't heard anything about a new afterword. 3. As I reread this, I couldn't help but think of that other Gen X cult figure, Cobain, especially when JK discusses (all too briefly, I felt) his tensions with his father. I'm convinced that a great story remaining to be told is how Gen X'ers have struggled to grow up after the heyday of the early 90s.