Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Book Review: Into the Wild

Tragic Saga of a Spiritually Confused Rebellious American Young Man
Author: Jon Krakauer
Publisher:Anchor Books, New York, 1996, 207 pp.
Attracted by the title and the cover image of a youngster sitting on a bus, I bought this book in an estate sale for $1. This is the work of a journalist turned author who is also into outdoors and adventure sports. The book traces the journey of a rebellious, confused, young man Chris (Alexander) McCandles along the South, West and mid-west parts of North America till his death in Alaska.
The book starts off with a brisk pace with the picture of an optimistic, proud, Alex McCandles seeking a ride to Denali National Park, Alaska. Alex's intentions was to live off the land in the wild away from civilization for some time and discover himself.
What is intriguing about Alex is that he belongs to a fairly affluent family, ha gone to college and could have done whatever he wished. On the contrary he chose to live like a tramp often calling himself "Alexander Supertramp". An excerpt from his diary reveals that Alex "lived on the streets with bums, tramps, and winos for several weeks".
One thing is obvious the author has unnecessarily glorified the exploits and the tragic story of McCandles. In my opinion McCandles was nothing but a confused, high-energy young man with no emotional, and spiritual foundations. He had access to money and hence he could lead a wayward life. He drops his adventures midway when he suffers setbacks and moves to the next item, which makes him a person of weak resolve and scant dedication/ commitment. His story is worthy of telling because it displays the underlying confusion and mental and spiritual weakness of the youth of America. The story of McCandles has also been made into a major motion picture and quite predictably it did not do very well at the box office.
Though in substance the book is not path breaking in any sense. It doesn't offer any insight into life in the wild or the lessons one could learn while alone in the forest etc. But in terms of adventure, what not to do in the wild, and a good read this books scores above most of its peers. After reading the book I have two things to say, one it is a very well written book which makes the reader stick to it to completion; and two Americans especially its youth are in desperate need of true spiritual teaching. This kind of rebellious behavior which often ends up in self destruction like it did for McCandles would greatly reduce if only people are more spiritually aware of their place in the cosmos.

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