23 February 2011


To celebrate or commemorate or simply in recognition of my twenty-fourth birthday, I decided to read Into the Wild, the biography of Christopher J. McCandless, by Jon Krakauer. I'm 24. He was 24. It just felt right.

Due to the brevity of Chistopher's life and the very way in which he travelled and lived, he did not exactly leave an extravagant amount of personal information for a biographer to work with in order to reconstruct a life story. I do think Krakauer did the best he could with interviews, letters, photos and Christopher's sparse diary entries. Fortunately, Chistopher (or, "Alex") made quite an impression on quite a few folk.

Into the Wild is a short 203 pages and Krakauer takes many opportunities to compare and contrast Christopher's motivation and experience to other adventurers... Gene Rosellini, John Waterman, Carl McCunn, Everett Ruess as well as the author himself. I think the author is trying to do two things here: somehow reinforce through the retelling of the daring exploits of others that Christopher was not insane, stupid or arrogant, and also to flesh out the book a little since the second-party description of Christopher's young life can feel a bit barren at times when much must have been happening but little was recorded.

All in all, a quick and interesting read.

"Driving west out of Atlanta, he intended to invent an utterly new life for himself, one in which he would be free to wallow in unfiltered experience. To symbolize the complete severance from his previous life, he even adopted a new name. No longer would he answer to Chris McCandless; he was now Alexander Supertramp, master of his own destiny."

"The prevailing Alaska wisdom held that McCandless was simply one more dreamy half-cocked greenhorn who went into the country expecting to find answers to all his problems and instead found only mosquitoes and a lonely death. Dozens of marginal characters have marched off into the Alaska wilds over the years, never to reappear."

"McCandless didn't conform particularly well to the bush-casualty stereotype. Although he was rash, untutored in the ways of the backcountry, and incautious to the point of foolhardiness, he wasn't incompetent - he wouldn't have lasted 113 days if he were. And he wasn't a nutcase, he wasn't a sociopath, he wasn't an outcast. McCandless was something else - although precisely what is hard to say. A pilgrim, perhaps."

"Nuance, strategy, and anything beyond the rudimentaries of technique were wasted on Chris. The only way he cared to tackle a challenge was head-on, right now, applying the full brunt of his extraordinary energy. And he was often frustrated as a consequence."

"I am reborn. This is my dawn. Real life has just begun.
Deliberate Living: Conscious attention to the basics of life, and a constant attention to your immediate environment and its concerns, example -> A job, a task, a book; anything requiring efficient concentration (Circumstance has no value. It is how one relates to a situation that has value. all true meaning resides in the personal relationship to a phenomenon, what it means to you).
The Great Holiness of FOOD, the Vital Heat.
Positivism, the Insurpassable Joy if the Life Aesthetic.
Absolute Truth and Honesty.
Finality - Stability - Consistency."

"Billie and Walt wander in and out of the bus for the next two hours. Walt installs a memorial just inside the door, a simple brass plaque inscribed with a few words. Beneath it Billie arranges a bouquet of fireweed, monkshood, yarrow, and spruce boughs. Under the bed at the rear of the bus, she leaves a suitcase stocked with a first-aid kit, canned food [and] other survival supplies."

Quotes from Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. New York: Anchor Books, 1996. Photo from Google Images.

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