What would possess a gifted young man recently graduated from college to literally walk away from his life? Noted outdoor writer and mountaineer Jon Krakauer tackles that question in his reporting on Chris McCandless, whose emaciated body was found in an abandoned bus in the Alaskan wilderness in 1992.
Described by friends and relatives as smart, literate, compassionate, and funny, did McCandless simply read too much Thoreau and Jack London and lose sight of the dangers of heading into the wilderness alone? Krakauer, whose own adventures have taken him to the perilous heights of Everest, provides some answers by exploring the pull the outdoors, seductive yet often dangerous, has had on his own life.
I've been a fan of Jon Krakauer for a long time and attended a reading of his at a Minneapolis, Minnesota bookstore more than 10 years ago, not long after Into the Wild was first published. At the reading, Krakauer tried to explain what drives people to want to climb mountains or walk across a desert or go off into the wilderness to live off the land--a drive I don't pretend to have or understand--but his enthusiasm for the subject matter was very alluring and I've read everything he's written since then. I don't understand why Chris McCandless would want to chuck everything in his life and head off into the wilderness, but I do admire that at the end, he didn't expect his parents or anyone else to save him, but simply accepted that he'd made the choices that put him in the unenviable situation of dying by starvation, and that's the way it goes. In a day and age when teenagers are killing each other--literally!!--and then expecting mom and dad to bail them out of trouble, it is at least refreshing to know there was one kid who apparently took responsibility for the consequences of his actions. Into the Wild is a mystery that Krakauer tells very well, and Philip Franklin's reading of the book is excellent.