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Into the Wild - Jon Krakauer You can tell, reading Into the Wild, that Jon Krakauer doesn't hold to the opinion the Chris McCandless was just a spoiled kid looking for "adventure" and being dumb about it, that he has a sort of admiration and feels a kinship with McCandless. He admits as much in the beginning of the book.

After reading Chris's story, I have to say I fall a bit into both camps. He does seem spoiled and unaware of what he's got -- but at the same time, he's a kid, and Krakauer relates the story in a way where you can understand how extremely Chris felt everything. If Chris were a different person it might have expressed itself in horrible melodramatic poetry, but for him the answers were found [b:on the road|6288|The Road|Cormac McCarthy||3355573], in self-reliance. (And in underlined passages in "grand adventure"-y books.) He seemed to be pretty good at being self-reliant, too; I didn't want to be impressed by him, but there are some things I just wouldn't be able to do on my own without a lot of anxiety, and he seemed to take everything in stride, from the accounts of people who knew him.

There are bits of Krakauer's own wildness-chasing adventures thrown in, but they are kept in one section of the book, and he makes it clear that he's trying to explain why he doesn't think Chris was just being stupid when he set out for what would be his final adventure. In other words, it's not as self-indulgent as you would think.

After telling Chris's story, and doing his best to determine what went on in the last months of Chris's life given the sparse details Chris left behind, Krakauer talks briefly about how the McCandless family found out about his death, and how they went into the wilderness to see the bus where he died, and that was the hardest part of the book to read.

Chris McCandless did make some dumb mistakes on the Stampede Trail, in his quest to be off the grid and alone, but I find it hard to fault him for that except in an eye-rolling way; God knows he wasn't the first to go somewhere remote, perhaps unwisely, to "find himself," and he won't be the last. At least he had a good run of it.

I wonder if my opinion would change if I read a less sympathetic version of Chris's story than the one Krakauer wrote; I might poke around and see what I can find.

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