what I’m reading: into the wild

 

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I’m always late to discover new music, movies or technology and books are no exception. I struggle with contemporary literature because I don’t think anyone will ever be as good as Nabokov or Tolstoy (can you guess to which two specific books I’m referring?). It will take me at least another year before I even start thinking about picking The Help. (I know! I know! It’s wooooonderful.)

Anyway, I picked up Into the Wild about seven months ago. I’m on page 173 of 203, averaging .8 pages a day, if I read every day for seven 30-day months. Pathetic, I know, but I started a new job, moved, etc., etc., etc.. I’ll be better I promise, it’s my birthday resolution to read more.

I had been meaning to pick up Into the Wild for many years now. Not knowing much about the story, I knew it was about a boy who desired a less material life. I liked that idea. I knew that he was looking for an adventure, whether that meant shedding societal expectations or living in the wilderness… I liked those ideas too. So I was excited to see how he did it.

*** DO NOT READ PAST THIS POINT IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS ***

I started reading, quickly realizing that he abandons his family, hitchhikes to live in the Alaskan wilderness, and dies. And people LOVE this guy. They said he wasn’t socially awkward or mean. They said he was intense and hell-bent on getting to Alaska. And he let his family suffer through not knowing where he was or whether he was alive or not. What a bastard.

People I know that read the book and loved it think he was courageous and enlightened, but all I could think about was how selfish I thought he was.

Then I got to page 134 and Krakauer starts writing about his adventure on The Devil’s Thumb. And maybe he does it to show the reader that he understands Chris’ desire for adventure, that he’s been there himself, but it felt like the story of Chris came to a screeching halt so Krakauer could do a little self-promotion. That’s when I put the book down and watched the movie. And the way Emile Hirsch plays Chris… it’s not quite the way I imagined him.

Anyway, I asked Choy how he thought the opinions of the movie would vary between audiences that came from strong family environments (like our immigrant families) and those who didn’t come from strong family environments. And by strong family environments, I mean environments where families are central focuses, not necessarily positive-family environments.

Isn’t that an interesting thing to consider? If you grew up in a family that was closed and cold or maybe just individualistic, would you have been as offended by Chris McCandless as I was?

The one thing I did like, was Krakauer’s point to write that Chris idolized Jack London and all his adventure writing. I liked the irony of it all. It’s sad because Chris was a real guy and London’s fantasy, he wasn’t the man he wrote himself to be, became the reality the Chris sought. Could London’s fantasy really ever exist? Even if it could exist, could it exist the way London wrote it exactly?

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