Lissa's Reviews > Into the Wild

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
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Sep 26, 2007

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Read in January, 2007

Into the Wild is an expansion of an article that Jon Krakauer wrote for Outside magazine about a young man named Chris McCandless. McCandless came from a wealthy family in Washington, DC, but had strong ideals about communing with nature, living a life where everything you owned could be fit on your back, and finding one's true self. Therefore, when he finished with college at Emory University, he cut himself off from his parents, donated the remainder of his college money to Oxfam ($24,000), and took to the road. He eventually abandoned his car, and took to hitchhiking and riding freight trains to get around the country. He became one of America's itinerants.

Eventually, in his pursuit to become one with nature and make meaning of his life, he decides to have one "final adventure" in the Alaskan bush. Chris McCandless goes "into the wild" (hence the name of the book) intending to live off the land. What ends up happening is that he starves to death.

This book presents a chronicle of these two years of Chris McCandless's life, from the time he left Emory University until his death. Krakauer has taken the time to find and interview many of the people that McCandless stayed with during that time, and the book is peppered with entries from Chris's journal and passages in books that he underlined and annotated (books by Tolstoy, Thoreau, and others like them).

This book was interesting, but I was left with the feeling that Krakauer didn't really have enough material to make a whole novel out of Chris McCandless's oddessy. There are several chapters that meander off into Krakauer's own life, and a survery of other individuals that felt it necessary to renounce civilization and wander off into the wilderness. These chapters don't really illuminate Chris McCandless's life so much and feel like filler, to make the book over 200 pages.

Krakauer clearly admires this young man. After reading the two chapers about his own youth and ambitions, it is easy to see why. krakauer clearly possesses(ed) some of the same traits as Chris McCandless, including the same reckless streak. I came away from this book with an entirely different view of McCandless.

Throughout the account, Krakauer talks about all of the letters he received in response to his original piece in Outside, and how most of those condemned Chris McCandless for his arrogance. He tried to persuade the reader not to condemn him in the same way. He has failed to persuade me. The impression I get from this book and from McCandless's own words is that he was a arrogant, self-centeredyoung man who never failed at anything in his life. Sure, there is something admirable in his willingness to give up everything to live out his ideals fully. But there is also something supremely stupid about walking into the Alaskan bush with nothing by 10 pounds of rice, and a .22 caliber shotgun. The reality is that a simple MAP would have saved his life, but to carry a map would have been contrary to his ridiculous ideals.

I think my thoughts are closest to those of Nick Jans, who wrote:

Over the past 15 years, I've run into several McCandless types out in the country. Same story: idealistic, energetic young guys who overestimated themselves, underestimated the country, and ended up in trouble. McCandless was hardly unique; there's quite a few of these guys hanging around the state, so much alike they're almost a collective cliche. The only difference is that McCandless ended up dead, with the story of his dumbassedness splashed across the media ...His ignorance, which could have been cured by a USGS quadrant and a Boy Scout manual, is what killed him.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Jamie I won't be writing a review for this book because I share your sentiments exactly...

message 2: by Dan (new)

Dan Grec Anyone reading this book may be interested to read about my hike into the Magic Bus in July of 2009.
Truly an amazing experience.


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