|Title:||Into the wild|
the dangers of idolization
[note: I’ve been reading the English original]
The story: This isn’t about Jon Krakauer’s own travels. Instead he writes about a traveler by the name of Christopher McCandless, a young man who ventured out into the wilderness of Alaska in the spring of 1992, stayed there by himself for four months, and eventually died due to malnutrition. In a way this makes this book a bit hard to classify: it isn’t a travelogue in the exact sense of the word. But since it tells the story of a journey, I chose to review it here anyway.
a sense of empathy
Jon Krakauer’s writing is well paced and compact (the book is only around 200 pages), and while it’s clearly based on thorough research, it comes across as a rather emotional piece of journalism. I could feel a sense of sympathy pulsing from Krakauer, a mountaineer himself, towards the young man he is writing about. You might even call it nostalgia. This becomes especially clear every time he weaves in some of his own memories from mountaineering expeditions, somewhat mirroring McCandless’ idealist thoughts and often reckless actions.
I enjoyed this a lot. It made me feel close to both the young McCandless and the elder teller of his story, Jon Krakauer. There was, however, a thought that I found myself wrestling with: to what extent is Krakauer’s nostalgia causing him to romanticize McCandless? To what extent is his sympathy causing him to be apologetic?
nostalgia and fandom
Sadly, humans have a tendency to turn other humans into icons. Ever since the publication of this book, people have been flocking to a seemingly random place deep in the Alaskan woods. It’s the site where McCandless died. People have died trying to get there, and the numbers of visitors have only gone up since Hollywood made a movie out of it.
That’s not to say that this is a bad book, not at all. I can’t say much about the feat, but it’s very well-written, and the story is gripping.
There was one paragraph that I highlighted:
“It is hardly unusual for a young man to be drawn to a pursuit considered reckless by his elders; engaging in risky behavior is a rite of passage in our culture no less than in most others. Danger has always held a certain allure.”
This is true. However, I wish people would read more and idolize less.
who might want to read this
It would be unfair to speak of a feat here. The feat exists, of course, but it’s independent of the book and its author. Krakauer’s storytelling and his writing style are both awesome, though, and the research he has done seems thorough.
If you like to read a good adventure story, or if you feel a lingering nostalgia for your own youth, read this.