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Into the Wild Paperback – February 1, 1997
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"Compelling and tragic...Hard to put down."
--San Francisco Chronicle
"Engrossing...with a telling eye for detail, Krakauer has captured the sad saga of a stubborn, idealistic young man."
--Los Angeles Times Book Review
"It may be nonfiction, but Into the Wild is a mystery of the highest order."
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Opinions differ as to his lack of preparedness, his impulsiveness, his sanity. Most Alaskans dismiss him as a greenhorn who got what he deserved. Some allow that he showed considerable courage.
Krakauer identifies with him and even goes so far as to bore us with his own early adventures, which is uncalled for.
In the end we really don’t understand how a rational person, however young, could behave in this way. His actions are not those of a normal person, but rather a person with a character disorder.
And there are grounds for this. His discovery that his father had two families and had lied to him all his life was what set him off. It could be argued that the unconscious motive behind his crazy peregrinations was revenge.
Freud tells us that the ego could ever muster enough hate for itself to commit suicide, but the hate has to be directed outside at someone else and then turned against the self.
In this case his father and the family he abandoned contemptuously. “They’re a bunch of idiots.”
This is one explanation, not the only explanation. McCandless was a complex character, full of contradictions that ultimately cost him his life.
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.
"Into the Wild" is the story of Christopher McCandless and his unique journey into the depths of the Alaskan wilderness. Krakauer makes you really empathize with the troubled young protagonist, and does an excellent job balancing the narrative with his own personal anecdotes. It is abundantly clear that the author is well-versed in both the story and the whole hiking/outdoors culture, and his knowledge helps add to the book. The writing is very direct, but still managed to capture my emotions and keep me engrossed in the story. The story itself would be incredible without all these other elements, but I really felt like Krakauer's talents elevated the book from just an interesting account to a fantastic piece of literature.
Even though the book was suggested to me because of my love of hiking, I found that the human element of "Into the Wild" was what kept me reading and enjoying it. Overall, you'd be hard pressed to find a better piece of nonfiction out there.
Whether you think the subject of this novel died due to his own stupidity and hubris or of a simple mistake while he was making a noble, philosophical pilgrimage, this book is gripping and fascinating.
Top international reviews
- The great GB Shaw opined thus. ‘Into The Wild’ is the tale of a young man on whom youth was wasted. Wasted but not thrown away.
Christopher Walt McCandless was a young man that went into the Alaskan wild, leaving his parents and siblings behind, donating all his savings, abandoning his car, possessions and even burning whatever little money he had in his wallet, thus shaking away the shackles of financial security. He went away from the human civilization not because he was a glum recluse or a misanthropist. He was just one of those innumerable youngsters who feel that the answers to the testing questions of Life can be found only far away from Life and not by being in it on a day-to-day basis.
With evidently little preparation but abundant confidence that is the trademark of Youth, Chris headed into the Alaskan wilderness determined to make a living ‘off the land’, by hunting and eating whatever he could gather there, far away from the nearest human being. Little would he have known that this would be his last venture away from his family, because his lifeless body was found in emaciated state, four months after he went in.
There are so many arguments already about whether Chris was right or wrong, wise or foolish and so on and hence I will cut them all out from my review. What stood out for me from this tale were a few things. Chris wasn’t impudent or headstrong. Ask any youngster about what his idea of a wildest adventure is and he will tell you about living untethered. Having had ideas of traveling across the country myself, alone in my bike, I could vouch for the forces that could have pushed Chris onwards. Add to that the ideals of authors like Henry David Thoreau and Jack London who happened to be the favorites of Chris, the impressionable young mind of McCandless had all the ingredients to leave on the wild seeking.
Of course, Chris had issues with his parents and their ways of life, as any normal teenager would. His father’s being bigamous aggravated things a lot too. But it didn’t make Chris a bitter person. As everyone who met Chris during his self-imposed exile would vouch for, Chris was an intelligent, amiable, ideal and hardworking young man. He wasn’t suicidal, because if he was, he could have simply jumped off a bridge or a cliff. He was just experimental about life in his own way and he wanted to simply relish the freedom of living ‘off the grid’. His notes and the concise journal entries during his last few days of life prove that he never went in there to simply die. As Jon proves beyond doubt, Chris lost his life to food-poisoning and starvation, having been cut off from his return to the safety of civilization by a flooded river.
Jon has done a beautiful job by not completely idolizing Chris. Jon presents the experiences of people who met Chris during his sojourn across North America and none of them have anything negative to tell about Chris. That was not just because he was dead, but because he was indeed good. Jon also shares his own personal experience of being stuck in a cold cliff during his own arrogant attempt to scale a peak, as a result of which he could relate with Chris easily.
This is a simple and beautiful book for anyone that loves questions of an existential nature. You may love Chris or hate him for the waste of a young life, but you cannot deny the fact that each and every one of us has a ‘Chris’ inside. Some of us have managed to smother ‘him’ by heaping our day-to-day responsibilities and concerns atop, but all of us have a Chris straining at the leash, wanting to run far, very far away from all this maddening crowd of life!
Jon Krakauer explores Chris’ McCandless’s life, and death, through his family, Chris’ own notes, photographs and letters, plus the people he met on his travels, most of whom felt a compelling pull towards the young man and came to love him.
Basically, I’m not sure what to think. Here’s a highly academically intelligent young man who had a privileged upbringing, protesting strongly against world hunger and the wastage of food. He was angry at his father who lead a double life for several years, which is understandable. Perhaps it was a combination of these things, coupled with the books he was fond of reading by authors such as Jack London, Tolstoy and Thoreau to name just a few, which fired his imagination and passions for the idea of travel and survival in remote and unforgiving areas, ultimately the wilderness. He believed a person should own nothing apart from whatever they could carry. No longer would he answer to Chris McCandless; he was now Alexander Supertramp, master of his own destiny.
The story begins on April 27th, 1992 as Chris, or Alex as he now calls himself, is hitching from Fairbanks, Alaska and is offered a lift by Jim Gallien. He wants a ride to the edge of Denali National Park so he can just walk into the bush and live off the land for a few months.
Chris’ death was a tragedy which could have been avoided if he’d prepared for his stay in the wilds of Alaska with practicality and learned enough about endurance in such a harsh environment. That he chose not to, shows a lack of common sense, an underestimation of the wilderness and what it takes to survive.
Chris’ idealism and intensity caused a tremendous amount of hurt and suffering. It seems he had no thought of how his lack of communication would affect his parents, Walt and Billie, and Carine, the sister he supposedly loved. I can only imagine how distraught his family must have been during the whole time Chris was missing from their lives. Then, to learn he died in such dreadful circumstances had to have been beyond devastating.
During the course of the narrative Jon Krakauer does an impressive job of delving into the mindset of adventurers drawn to the ‘call of the wild’, including himself. It’s apparent, and understandable, that he feels a fascination for, and identifies with, Chris McCandless, given the parallels between their lives. He doesn’t claim to be an impartial biographer, quite the opposite. I don’t, however, agree with the view that Chris’ mistakes were innocent ones. He deliberately went into the Alaskan wilderness rashly, unprepared and without the basic necessities or any kind of reserve or support should he find himself in an emergency situation, despite all advice to the contrary.
In the end, Chris lived his life the way he wanted to, mostly isolated from people and minus the pointless, as he saw it, trappings of a materialistic society, and paid the ultimate price. It’s still a very sad end to such a short life. I found the recounting of the last few weeks of his life, via the journals he kept, very poignant. Especially since it seems Chris was ready to return to civilisation and, had he possessed the relevant map and knowledge, would more than likely have made it. Jon Krakauer’s theory on the cause of Chris’ death seems the most reasonable explanation and makes a lot of sense. I’ll be checking out more of this author’s work.
After watching the film i was of the mind that Chris McCandless was a total idiot, as apparently were most of the people who heard the basic story of his demise. But was it fair on him to be portrayed in that way? I wanted to know a bit more.
Jon was the reporter who first brought this story to the world in an article he was asked to write for ‘Outdoor Magazine’. But he knew he hadn’t done the story justice in the time constraints that he’d had to get that article written, so he went back over the whole story and wrote this book.
And this book really does put things into context. One thing the film doesn’t cover is the childhood that Chris and his sister suffered under a domineering, controlling, and oft times abusive, father who demanded excellence all the time, and when Chris found out the truth about his father’s excellence — how Chris and his sister came to be born — i think something really snapped inside him. He just wanted to be free of everything his father represented, to get as far away from it as possible — and having been bought up by a father like that who i had to escape from at 15 years old into my own wilderness, i can’t blame Chris whatsoever for being like he was and doing what he did, in fact, i totally understand.
As to the writing, this story is incredibly well thought out and presented and really does put a lot of Chris’ behaviour and attitude into a much broader perspective than a film could ever hope to get to.
So if you have watched the film then please don’t just stop with that view of Chris, i don’t think that’s fair. Take a little while, read this book and get to see a much wider picture of Chris McCandless.
The characterisation of the dead character(Christopher) is sympathetic despite the branding of the lad as naive,foolish, unprepared for his challenge of survival and lacking in common sense.
The story needed to be told, for those who have similar aspirations, for those who would hasten to criticise the dreams of the young man, and for those who underestimate the challenges of survival in the wilds.
well written by someone who was able to sympathetically put together the forces which drove Chris to challenge the wilds and the tragic consequences of his naivety and the power of nature.
I would highly recommend this book, although some parts might be slightly hard going, however these sections are not very long and I wouldn't skip them.
Chris seems to have adopted a pretty black and white view of the world and the people in it.
I was taken with his single-mindedness and drive to experience the things he wanted to.
Not sure I understood the positioning of the comparative accounts of other similar individuals being inserted into the book's structure. Perhaps they might have been better placed as epilogue or prologue material to give the reader some idea of a solitary adventurer's mindset.
It would have benefited from having pictures to supplement the maps too.
Worth reading though.
In fact McCandless had spent a year or more on the road, moving from place to place throughout western and northern USA, holding down some basic jobs for a short time before moving on, seeming to all as though he were just one more drifter passing through. Though the book delicately looks at the young mans travels and examines the thoughts of McCandless as they are relayed through photographs and the accounts of the people he encountered along the way.
We find it so strange to think that somebody could turn their back on the trapping of society and seek to do nothing more than to travel around without the normal worries we all carry. Whilst I started the book knowing this young man starved to death, I could not help but feel that McCandless was doing something that many people do not have the courage for. A wonderful if somewhat sad read.