Sunday, December 30, 2007

Book Review: Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer

I'm not really sure what inspired me to read this one. I am not the outdoorsy type (though I can be, with encouragement), I don't have anything in common with the protagonist, and I have no plans to see the movie (a requirement in my world: if there is a book first, read it before you see the movie). But, I do think Jon Krakauer is an excellent writer. I enjoyed Under the Banner of Heaven. The way that Krakauer gets into a subject and explores it from multiple perspectives, including his own personal experience/worldview, really draws me in as a reader.

Anyway. Into the Wild is a story about Christopher McCandless, a young man who walked off into the wild in Alaska and died there. How did this happen? He was very bright, came from a good family, had every privilege. He was also very idealistic, which, when combined with the passions of youth (remember those?), can form a churning and dangerous mass of intensity. In many ways he was naive and ignorant. I like how Krakauer felt a connection with and identified personally with Chris.
I was fascinated by Chris' travels and adventures across America. I was even - strangely enough - envious. Part of me has enough wanderlust to wish I had the guts to live on my wits, footloose and seemingly fancy-free, like Chris. Riding the rails, hitching around, camping out, coming and going as you please, living your interpretation of your ideals - very seductive concepts. But, I would never live this way, could never live this way (being a woman makes some things impossible, no matter how much I would like to think there is equality). I wished, briefly, that I could have these experiences too. Except for the part about dying alone in the wilds of Alaska. So maybe I'm not that different from Chris after all.
Living vicariously through a book? That's good writing.
p.s. In retrospect, another similar book I enjoyed was Through the Great Canadian Wilderness, a Reader's Digest version of Magnetic North by David Halsey. Same idea, but much more succesful expedition.

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