- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Anchor Books; 1 edition (February 1, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385486804
- ISBN-13: 978-0385486804
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2,880 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #929 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Into the Wild Paperback – January 20, 1997
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"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.
From Publishers Weekly
After graduating from Emory University in Atlanta in 1992, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandoned his possessions, gave his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhiked to Alaska, where he went to live in the wilderness. Four months later, he turned up dead. His diary, letters and two notes found at a remote campsite tell of his desperate effort to survive, apparently stranded by an injury and slowly starving. They also reflect the posturing of a confused young man, raised in affluent Annandale, Va., who self-consciously adopted a Tolstoyan renunciation of wealth and return to nature. Krakauer, a contributing editor to Outside and Men's Journal, retraces McCandless's ill-fated antagonism toward his father, Walt, an eminent aerospace engineer. Krakauer also draws parallels to his own reckless youthful exploit in 1977 when he climbed Devils Thumb, a mountain on the Alaska-British Columbia border, partly as a symbolic act of rebellion against his autocratic father. In a moving narrative, Krakauer probes the mystery of McCandless's death, which he attributes to logistical blunders and to accidental poisoning from eating toxic seed pods. Maps. 35,000 first printing; author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
For the most part, I enjoyed this book. I found it a bit sketchy but nonetheless captivating for its meager content. I appreciate the challenges Mr. Krakauer must have faced in piecing together a picture of those last days and hours, given the remote circumstances of Mr. McCandless' demise. His research was apparently thorough and exhaustive. He did a nice job of imparting the victim's persona and history.
Only a couple minor complaints: The seemingly endless digression where the author described his own mountain climbing adventure. This reader sensed that the author used the vehicle of a story, quite relevant on its own, to insert a bit of personal boasting. Secondly, the essentially irrelevant and changing speculation as to the clinical cause of McCandless' death. Was it, in the larger picture of his fatal ordeal, really worth the many pages devoted thereto? This reader thought not.
Krakauer attempts to salvage the good name of Chris, primarily because he saw much of his subject's characteristics in himself as a young man. The renunciation of a comfortable, secure environment for the aesthetic, ascetic, and the existential does not make sense to some. However, Krakauer admits that these are the same attitudes on which countries capitalize to recruit men into battle. In one of his more eloquent writings, Chris declares that nothing is more destructive to a man's adventurous spirit than a secure future. Some who have always had security--a life without hardship--begin to look at it with contempt; it becomes something shameful. Giving 25,000 dollars to OXFAM and feeding homeless on K Street was just as charitable as it was self-serving. As is most philanthropy. I admit character portrayal does border on romanticization, but ultimately Krakauer is more sober. Understanding McCandless's flaws, Krakauer still manages to upon McCandless with empathy
But, all this is beside the point. It would be unfair to attack or support a book solely on a personal judgment about the characters. Let Chris be scorned, but I think Jon Krakauer told a good story, and attempted to fully understand the motivation, emotion, and conflict among his characters. Krakauer's deviation from the plot to stories of other brash (even psychotic) adventurers and the author's own experiences does not take away from the text. Even Melville interrupted what would be an excellent adventure story of conquest with encyclopedic entries. Into the Wild is no Moby Dick, but Krakauer's literary decisions serve the same purpose; to reconcile the speaker's internal conflict, and to personally comprehend the enigma of human nature. Krakauer tries to show us that the Chris's characteristic thirst for experience--even a bit of danger--are not idiosyncratic. Rather, they are common to all mankind; latent in many (society inherently discourages wandering into the threatening unknown while encouraging the sanctuary of its uniformity).
The story of Chris McCandless serves as medium for contemplation of our will to live, our insatiable desire for risk, and the choices we make. You don't have to agree with the decisions of the character to find fulfillment in understanding. Overall, well-written.
I watched the movie "Into The Wild" a few years back and have always been curious and saddened to think about Chris's journey. This book seemed to clear the story a bit. Sometimes I had a lump in my throat thinking that this is not a "character" in a made up story but a real life that seemed to yearn for a peace that only existed in his heart. Jon Krakauer does a great job of giving us a key hole view of "Alex's" life. The good times even when he had nothing. I personally feel like unfortunately Chris was a troubled individual weather it was mental imbalance or emotional disconnect and after this book I feel so sad for his torment. The movie left me disliking his parents, but this book turned that emotion completely around. And I loved the Epilogue. Thank you Jon Krakauer for that. If the movie intrigued you most definitely read the book.