Paul Wilder's Reviews > Into the Wild

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
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Aug 29, 07

Recommended for: Those Longing for a Deeper Relationship with Nature
Read in August, 2007

Ah, nature. That lovely, peaceful place where we go for a few minutes or hours during a hike in the mountains or for a day or two during a camping trip. Just driving by the forests on the mountains of Utah, I so long to pull over on the side of the road, leave my car just as Chris McCandless did in Nevada, and journey into the wild.

Uh, yeah.

After reading this book, I realize that I have much to learn. I do believe that nature is gentle and yet the consequences of taking it lightly are predictable and fatal. I have thought much over the past year about leaving behind the painfully stifling existence we have created for ourselves in American cities, corporations, and in our own homes. My first choice would be to live closer to nature, to work in nature, to sustain myself in nature. That is pretty funny when I think about it because I see little chance of surviving as a vegan in nature. Hmmm.

So this book, needless to say, was a real eye-opener for me. Chris McCandless was a fascinating young man in my humble opinion, and I do believe that those who criticized him for what they labelled his "hubris" for believing that he could wonder off on his own and survive in the barren wilds of Alaska are only projecting onto him the repressed longing within their own hearts for a more intimate relationship with the movements of our planet and the ecosystems it so wonderfully supports. Yet, this book was downright creepy to me in that Chris was a man who had excellent survival skills in the outdoors. He had been surviving on the road on his own for several years with brief interludes into town to work to make money for his next foray into the wilderness. He was no novice, and he was very intelligent and instinctual when it came to nature.

Still, he died.

I won't go into what brought about his end because Krakauer, in this narrative at his gripping best, weaves a dramatic piece of nonfiction that takes off running with the reader breathlessly following from one page to the next as we (reader and author) together attempt to comprehend the tragic conclusion of the life (in this form) of Christopher McCandless. But it revealed to me just how much I have to learn and understand about the wilderness if I expect to survive (in this form) out there on my own.

As for the work itself, as I said this is Krakauer at his best. His knack for using history to inform the present and putting together a complex and unflinching rendering of the lives of real people is, in my small experience with nonfiction, unmatched. In fact, before reading his work "Under the Banner of Heaven" last year, I had almost no use for nonfiction. Not anymore. His books are as good and as suspenseful and as real as any fiction I have read. (I know some may call say that phrase "real as any fiction" is oxymoronic, but true lovers of fiction know that it has produced some of the most honest expressions of reality - namely that all reality is subjective - of which humanity is capable.) If you love nonfiction, read this book. If your thing has always been fiction (like me), read this book. It will haunt you and it will inspire you.

For now, I go into the next book.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Yves i read this in preparation for the upcoming sean penn-directed film. it was a good book, and it should make a great film, if done right. a testament to how your own stubbornness can kill you, and how nature is not forgiving.

message 2: by Glenn (new)

Glenn Having not [yet] read the book yet being very aware of the story and circumstances surrounding the late Mr. McCandless, I don't think you'll find ANY professional outdoorsman who would endorse entering the Alaskan wilderness with nothing but a bag of grain and a gun. This fact alone calls into question either a) Mr. McCandless' outdoor "skills" or b) Mr. McCandless' judgment skills. I don't think there's any "projecting" going on here. The dude was just stupid.

Paul Wilder Glenn, I find it interesting that you would make such a statement of your supposed superiority to Mr. McCandless without having read the book. However, the label "stupid" certainly indicates that you are projecting a judgment that is not well-thought out and that is not supported by the facts of the life and death of Chris McCandless. So disregarding the actual circumstances of his death, is it ever stupid to die doing what we love, or does it just appear to be that way to those outside of ourselves who waste their lives doing what they despise? This is an important question to consider when reading the book.

Chris McCandless did have the "intelligence" that you find it so easy to insult, and this is revealed in the story of his life and death. He survived just fine in the Alaskan wilderness for several months, but two small mistakes (and I'm sure a great judge such as yourself has never made any mistakes) - one of which would have fooled probably even the "professional outdoorsman" (to be honest with you, I'm not sure what this is - is there a profession called such?) - brought about his downfall, and these mistakes had nothing to do with being "stupid." But more than that, of course, is that Chris McCandless lived his life to the fullest, and he died pursuing fulfillment in what he loves. Maybe it is the rest of us who make no attempt at such a grand living who could be called "stupid."

If you do actually read the book, then I'm sure you will be able to provide a better-articulated comment than "[t]he dude was just stupid." Yet, I wonder if you can bring yourself to move past the shallow labels you would apply to Chris McCandless to actually comprehend the complexity of a life such as his.

message 4: by Erik (last edited Oct 13, 2010 07:31AM) (new) - added it

Erik i would do just what McCandless did, to expirence the thrill and excitement of being on my own to live and survive for myself seeing through Chris' eyes knowing the joy of being free living with no troubles in the world. i want to expirence IT.

message 5: by Cem/Lucky (new)

Cem/Lucky oh my dear, you are absolutely right. i love this book and Chris is just like me. I love his style of writing and thinking and it's wonderful to identify with this awesome guy. I thank you for your opinion and for me it's also a hero. His reaction of leaving his parents was the right one to found himself. Me and my boyfriend Frodo want to find us also and this book inspired us so much.

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