"God, he was a smart kid..." So why did Christopher McCandless trade a bright future--a college education, material comfort, uncommon ability and charm--for death by starvation in an abandoned bus in the woods of Alaska? This is the question that Jon Krakauer's
book tries to answer. While it doesn'tcannotanswer the question with certainty, Into the Wild
does shed considerable light along the way. Not only about McCandless's "Alaskan odyssey," but also the forces that drive people to drop out of society and test themselves in other ways. Krakauer quotes Wallace Stegner's
writing on a young man who similarly disappeared in the Utah desert in the 1930s: "At 18, in a dream, he saw himself ... wandering through the romantic waste places of the world. No man with any of the juices of boyhood in him has forgotten those dreams." Into the Wild
shows that McCandless, while extreme, was hardly unique; the author makes the hermit into one of us, something McCandless himself could never pull off. By book's end, McCandless isn't merely a newspaper clipping, but a sympathetic, oddly magnetic personality. Whether he was "a courageous idealist, or a reckless idiot," you won't soon forget Christopher McCandless.
In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild
Immediately after graduating from college in 1991, McCandless had roamed through the West and Southwest on a vision quest like those made by his heroes Jack London and John Muir. In the Mojave Desert he abandoned his car, stripped it of its license plates, and burned all of his cash. He would give himself a new name, Alexander Supertramp, and , unencumbered by money and belongings, he would be free to wallow in the raw, unfiltered experiences that nature presented. Craving a blank spot on the map, McCandless simply threw the maps away. Leaving behind his desperate parents and sister, he vanished into the wild.
Jon Krakauer constructs a clarifying prism through which he reassembles the disquieting facts of McCandless's short life. Admitting an interst that borders on obsession, he searches for the clues to the dries and desires that propelled McCandless. Digging deeply, he takes an inherently compelling mystery and unravels the larger riddles it holds: the profound pull of the American wilderness on our imagination; the allure of high-risk activities to young men of a certain cast of mind; the complex, charged bond between fathers and sons.
When McCandless's innocent mistakes turn out to be irreversible and fatal, he becomes the stuff of tabloid headlines and is dismissed for his naiveté, pretensions, and hubris. He is said to have had a death wish but wanting to die is a very different thing from being compelled to look over the edge. Krakauer brings McCandless's uncompromising pilgrimage out of the shadows, and the peril, adversity , and renunciation sought by this enigmatic young man are illuminated with a rare understanding--and not an ounce of sentimentality. Mesmerizing, heartbreaking, Into the Wild
is a tour de force
. The power and luminosity of Jon Krakauer's stoytelling blaze through every page.