Jon Krakauer

Overall Rating: 6.3
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Author: Jon Krakauer
Title: Into the wild
Time: 1992
Destination: Alaska
Length: 4 months
Type: hitchhiking, walking

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.

1 thought on “Jon Krakauer”

  1. 最初知道超级流浪者的故事还是因为西恩潘的同名电影。当然这已经是在乔恩写《荒野生存》接近十年之后的事了。那些篇章开始的引用和之后的千思万缕联系总是让我很受用。还有他刻在魔力车上话:Two years he walks the earth. No phone, no pool, no pets, no cigarettes. Ultimate freedom. An extremist. An aesthetic voyager whose home is the road. Escaped from Atlanta. Thou shalt not return, ’cause “the West is the best.” And now after two rambling years comes the final and greatest adventure. The climactic battle to kill the false being within and victoriously conclude the spiritual pilgrimage. Ten days and nights of freight trains and hitchhiking bring him to the Great White North. No longer to be poisoned by civilization he flees, and walks alone upon the land to become lost in the wild. Alexander Supertramp May 1992. 不知道如果当时如果用的是他的原话 迷失荒野 的话,会不会是另一种感受。


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