Monday, September 21, 2009

9/21/09 - Into The Wild

Watched Into The Wild over the weekend. I haven't read the book but now I'm basically a ravenous slavering book-craving monster after watching the movie. I thought that the movie had its flaws but the central tragedy is really present throughout.

I immediately put the book on hold at the library, but in the meantime sought out the Outside magazine article that Jon Krakauer originally wrote. In the year after I finished teaching, when I started really getting into non-fiction after a lifetime of exclusively reading fiction, Krakauer was one of the authors that gave me the entryway. He's justly famous for the harrowing Everest disaster account Into Thin Air, but it was his also-heralded followup to that book, the true-crime and Mormons tour de force Under The Banner of Heaven, that really sunk the claws in me. Both books I thought were exceptional, but what Krakauer accomplishes in Under The Banner of Heaven is a riveting mix of social history and individual tragedy.

So it's somewhat surprising I didn't pursue him back to Into The Wild then. I think it's because, having dabbled benignly in outdoor pursuits, the tragedy of McCandless's short life was too painful to look at directly. Even through the fictional prism of the movie I find it a tough pill to swallow. I can only imagine the loved ones in my life had I disappeared only to die inglourious and alone - but then, that's a sharper realization now that I'm older.

As Krakauer observes about his own younger self, regarding a similarly foolhardy Alaskan expedition that he took when he was McCandless's age:

"At the time, death was a concept I understood only in the abstract. I didn't yet appreciate its terrible finality or the havoc it could wreak on those who'd entrusted the deceased with their hearts."

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