#3 – Into The Wild

February 3, 2008

you’re the one who ran in the wild, a virgin to a name, you’re the one who lived off a forsaken landWell, that took a bit longer then expected.  Between all of my assigned readings for school, it’s taken me almost a month to get through this relatively easy read.  It’s probably safe to say that this will be my last entry until I finish class in April; reading books 10 pages at a time over a series of midnights just doesn’t do that much for me.

I’m sure you’ve heard the story of Christopher McCandless, the subject of Jon Krakauer’s Into The Wild.  He’s the guy who hiked into Alaska under the pseudonym Alexander Supertramp and starved to death in an abandoned bus in 1992.  Krakauer’s book was published in ’96, and Sean Penn’s adaptation of that book just came out last year.  I only bring this up because I was surprised, considering how long this information has been out there, how misinformed I was about McCandless when I started reading this.  From what I’d heard, I assumed he was some idiot kid who went up north for an adventure, found himself completely unprepared and died as a result.  And, okay, there’s some truth to that, but that’s only part of the story.

McCandless is a very polarizing figure, as Krakauer takes care to never portray him fully as some tragic hero, nor as a spoiled rich kid from Virginia, though there are elements of both to be found.  As a result, this book gets some of the most diverse reactions I’ve seen from a non-fiction work: one person I know says it’s his favourite book, while the friend who lent me his copy was so annoyed with McCandless that he couldn’t even finish reading it.  I guess I fall somewhere in the middle there.  I didn’t love Into The Wild, but it was very interesting, and I found McCandless a much more sympathetic character than I would have ever expected.

Many of Krakauer’s interviewees for this book say the same thing about McCandless: he was just a guy who was born at the wrong time.  He read the books of Jack London fanatically and wished it was still possible to have an adventure in this day and age, so he gave away all his money and possessions and tried to make one for himself.  And he succeeded, too, to a certain extent.  What I didn’t know before reading Into The Wild is, before heading to Alaska, McCandless spent two fascinating years wandering the United States.  That was by far my favourite part of this book, seeing him drifting from town to town like Kwai Chang Caine and already having a better adventure than most people will ever have in their lives.  It also makes his inevitable death, revealed from the first line in the book’s introduction, seem that much more pointless.

From what I’ve heard about the movie version of Into The Wild, it’s supposed to be very good unless you’ve read the book first, in which case it pales in comparison.  I haven’t seen the movie, and I’m not sure if I’ll bother now, but I did enjoy the book.  It’s a very humanizing portrait of a guy who would have been insufferable if written wrong.  Additionally, Krakauer weaves the stories of a number of similar adventure seekers (himself included) in with McCandless’, making this a book that’s almost more about a state of mind than about one individual man who died alone in the wilderness.  Pretty decent read overall, and it shouldn’t take that long to get through, presuming you’re not in your last term at law school.



  1. Whoa. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across a book blog and found that I know the author! Doubly weird is that it’s the first day in many years that I’ve listened to the Arcade Fire! *insert Twilight Zone music here*

    All of your reading puts this English major to shame. Pure and utter shame.

  2. Today is apparently the day for odd and happy coincidences. Good to hear from you, Nikki! How have you been?

    Don’t get too impressed with the number of books on here, because I haven’t touched any non-law reading since, well, this. Summer can’t come fast enough, one month until I’m done school forever. Hopefully.

  3. Oh, to be done school forever. I’m finally going to graduate in May. I haven’t had a summer off since 2005 (I’ve been taking summer courses), so I’m looking forward to next month. I’ll be doing my MA at Dal next year, and, if I’m mentally able, a PhD might be in my future. I be educated.

    So, will you be a lawyer when you’re done? I have no idea how it works.

  4. A Master’s, that’s pretty hardcore. Do you know yet what you’ll be writing on? Send my regards if you’re up to the Grad Studies office.

    I’m going to be starting as an articling student at a law firm in Moncton this May. I’ll do that for a year, then write the Bar exam, and then I’ll officially be a lawyer. It’s completely ridiculous that my first job which doesn’t have “student” or “cashier” in the title is going to be “lawyer”.

  5. (I moved this conversation over to Facebook :))

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