Saturday, October 2, 2010

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Since the title of this blog is "Shida Book Club," I feel chagrined that this is my first entry regarding a book.  It's about time I guess.  It's not that I haven't been reading, but that the reading material I've been perusing has been abstruse, esoteric and in most cases so ancient and irrelevant to modern society that I found it inappropriate to write about on a shared blog.  This novel by Krakauer, though, both moved me and is relatively contemporary.  It follows the tragic tale of an idealistic youth that graduated from my alma mater, Emory University in Atlanta.  His personal code of ethics and compulsion for communion with nature are all aspects that I highly resonate with.  Hence, after watching the film (2007, directed by Sean Penn) by the same name,  I was committed to reading the book as well.

Chris McCandless a.k.a. Alexander Supertramp has been vilified by numerous Alaskans for his supposed hubris and ignorance and lack of respect for the Great White North, where he perished.  However, I am never one to pass judgment on another and on the contrary, I find his feat not to be a failure but an exultation of the human spirit in spite of apparent appearances.

I end this review with a short excerpt from a letter written by Chris himself to a man, Ronald Franz, who had only known Chris for a short period of time after picking up a lone hitchhiker (Chris) but grew so fond of the boy that he asked Chris for permission to be his adopted father.

"The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure.  the joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.  If you want to get more out of life, Ron, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be a crazy.  But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty."


  1. I haven't read the book, but I saw the movie. I thought it was really good. He's zest for life, desire for adventure, and his unwillingness to let naysayers bring him down are inspiring. I have a friend from college who is sort of like that. He's kind of crazy looking, but a really nice guy. He walked the Appalachian trail for six months, which is apparently a leisure pace, and is now working at a National Park.

  2. He sounds like a swell guy. I'd like to meet him sometime.

    "The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success."
    -Bruce Feirstein

  3. There's actually a few people that do the Appalachian trail and there's this interesting social element to it. A lot of people start out alone and meet up with people on the way, start hanging out together, and maybe part if they are going to do it at different paces. A lot of people hitchhike to town to resupply. I hear one thing that takes a while to get used to is sleeping alone in the middle of freaking now where. Also, apparently you go through shoes really fast.

  4. Hey Kyle,
    I finally got around to watching the film version of the book. I have to say that I don't agree with the concept you called "communion with nature". I agree with Zizek on this point, that the idea of balance or communion with nature is an ideological fallacy for the 21st Century: for the video, or here's a quote from the statesman:

    "Žižek warned of the dangers of "naturalising" nature, positing the natural world as some utopia to which we can return in balanced harmony. Nature, he says, is itself is not a balanced system, insofar as it is a set of contingent systems adapting to survive amidst various catastrophes and changing circumstances. That is not to say that we should disregard the dangers of climate change. On the contrary, despite the fact that the current global climate crisis has been caused by the structure of the particular economic system of one subset of one species, the crisis has the potential to affect the very basis of life on earth for the majority of species. Humans have become, for the first time, a geological force capable of changing the global temperatures that sustain life on Earth."

    Nature is the insidious human killer that has been described in The Heart of Darkness, or The Poisonwood Bible and is untamable and uninhabitable.

    I'm not sure about the book but the film seemed preachy, as if trying to idolize this guy, who, when it comes down to it, was angry and made a stupid mistake.

    I think that the Alaskan scorn of this guy is well deserved. I wasn't sure how much of the movie was reality and how much was fabrication, but he seemed like a very selfish angry guy, in the way he treated his parents.

  5. My cousin thought the film actually painted him in somewhat of a negative light as some bohemian, idealistic lunatic unappreciated by modern society.

    The movie follows the book very closely, which followed reality. I don't think anyone can judge another. He had his reasons for being mad at his father, which the book delves into.

    Also, while I find Zizek to be an interesting modern philosopher; I don't agree with many of his assertions. I, for one, love communion with nature, which is why I gravitated to Boulder, Portland, Seattle, Taiwan, India, etc. Some people might not like it but I feel calm and relaxed in natural environs.

  6. I think Zizek's point is that it's not actually nature, it's just a human rendering of nature.