I'm reading Into the Wild, the latest book club selection picked by my friend Andy. I've included his reasons for this choice below. You know, for the sake of fairness and all that.
Background.... If I like a book, Andy generally does not. And vice versa. This started with the first book club selection (mine), continued with the choice of Catcher in the Rye (his), was punctuated by Judy Blume (still sorry), and now arrives at a book written entirely in magazine style.
Now, let me back up here for a moment. I like magazines. I like magazine style. I'm impressed by Krakauer's intense research and his ability to tell the story straight. I'm a little surprised at how straight he chooses to tell the story, mostly because I was ready for a book that would be written in narrative style. I was prepared to be irritated with the writer's salsa dance with facts.
Instead -- and ironically, given my typical complaints -- I'm almost jarred by the author's decision to pause in story-telling in order to tell the reader where he got his information from.
But that is not what's getting me about this book, as I read through it very slowly. What gets me is this kid, this person Krakauer built his whole story around.
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. (p. 23)
Yup. Alexander Supertramp.
This kid reminds me of college guys who take one philosophy course and decide they would like they would like to throw off all the material goods holding their lives together and become homeless. Or go on a worldly adventure with only the items they can carry on their backs. And I think -- yup, this is sexist -- this is a uniquely male idea.
Props, I suppose, to this kid for going through with it. Does it make it "A heart-rending drama of human yearning"? (New York Times) Meh. Or "Compelling and tragic.... Hard to put down"? (San Francisco Chronicle) Huh. I'm definitely with the Los Angeles Times Book Review, though: "With a telling eye for detail, Krakauer has captured the sad saga of a stubborn, idealistic young man."
"I have decided to pick Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer as our book. The book is the story of a young man from a wealthy family on the East Coast of the United States. Who donates his entire life-savings to Oxfam and disappears. He spent several years wandering around the American Southwest before hitch-hiking his way to Alaska. He then decided to hike through the Alaskan wilderness and was eventually found dead.
"(Don't worry that's not a spoiler it is in the first chapter)....
"It was also on the best seller lists for a long time about ten years ago, so I would suspect you could find a copy or two at any of our fine local second-hand establishments.
"Why I am picking it you might ask? I have a number of reasons for picking the book the first of which is that it would, as far as I am aware, be our first foray as a group into non-fiction. I have also been reading off and on a book called The New New Journalism, about literary non-fiction writers and how they approach their craft. Krakauer is interviewed for the book and talks a great deal about how he goes about his writing and I was really intrigued by the way he described his process."