Friday, September 05, 2008

I just finished Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer.

We had watched the DVD recently and that made me interested in finding out more, but all I could find in the library was an audiobook. I've never spent much time listening to audiobooks, prefering the act of reading to that of listening, but this one was enjoyable so I may start listening more, particularly on my commute.

Into the Wild, the book, is better than the movie, though it does have its flaws. The greater detail available in the book allows us to get a better feel for Chris McCandless, and for the people he met in his travels. But it is also clearly a streched out magazine article. Krakauer spends a few chapters randomly listing other young men who had at least something in common with McCandless, and a few going over his own foolhardy attemp to solo climb an isolated Alaskan peak named Devils Thumb. Neither of these two sections feel well integrated into the rest of the book. The material about McCandless is always compelling, but the other material is not.

McCandless himself was clearly a Romantic, in the 19th century meaning, as one who rejected society and civilizations in favour of the spiritual aspect of Nature, and it resulted in his death. One of the reasons he is interesting is that we see few people in real life that live consistently by an explicit philosophy, and stick to that philosophy even in the fact of great challenge. Had he survived, it would have been interesting to see if he went on to a more standard lifestyle, or had continued what he was doing and became just another old bum.

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