“I now walk into the wild” are the last words that Chris McCandless sent his friend Wayne Westerberg before trekking into the Alaskan wilderness. It’s hard not to be touched in some way by McCandless’s story. Yes he was impetuous, naive, and heedless of the dangers he was facing, but he was also an idealist searching for some kind of meaning in life. Like many people before him, John Muir most notably, he was searching for an answer in nature. Being young myself, I can identify a lot with McCandless. Death seems so remote you don’t even consider it. There’s no way anything bad could ever happen to you. You’re young and have everything ahead of you.
I’m sure in some ways this was McCandless’s thought pattern as well. He was so convinced of his own intellect and knew that he could make it. He had never failed at anything he had tried before and had always been praised for his intelligence and unwavering beliefs. He was a self made outcast. He shed society’s layers as best as he could only to realize that “happiness is best when shared.” I’m a firm believer that it’s the people around us that help us lead a full and satisfying life. It’s people that push us to grow and change in ways that we might not left to our own devices.
One of my favorite aspects of this novel was how thoroughly Krakauer looked into the history of travelers like McCandless. I couldn’t believe that so many people have walked into the wild never to walk out again. There are tales of teens disappearing in the desert, a climber vanishing in the mountains of Alaska, and British soldiers from the 1800’s dying in the arctic. I think in some way everyone is interested in what’s out there. That’s why we travel to other places to discover new things, people, and cultures. Most of us just travel from city to city instead of into the wilds. But we’re all bitten by some kind of wanderlust, an interest in things outside of ourselves.
There are many decisions that McCandless made heedlessly, as many before him had done. Yet, he was not one of the lucky ones. He didn’t survive his trek into the wild. The odds were stacked against him. Yet he made an impact on the world through what he left behind. After reading Krakauer’s novel I feel like I got to personally know McCandless and see a bit into his heart.
Rating: 5/5 Such a compelling, albeit tragic, story.
Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015.
Next up in Book Battle 2015 is a novel based on a true story. I was so overwhelmed with all of the available options for this category. I could not make up my mind. It seemed like every day I found another novel that would fit this category and sounded intriguing. I went back and forth, rearranging my list, trying to figure out where to plug in a specific novel and what to take out. I finally decided on Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild. I’ve heard really great things about this novel and Krakauer’s writing. And, best of all, the library had many copies of this book.
From the book jacket, and what I’ve heard, this is a novel about a young man’s search for meaning in his life. He leaves everything he has and has ever known behind and begins his journey. He travels all over the United States and eventually ends up in Denali National Park, where his body is found by fellow travelers.
I can’t wait to read this novel and see what the hype is about. Everyone I’ve mentioned it to has amazing things to say about this novel and Krakauer’s other novels. Stay tuned for the full review of Into the Wild. Happy reading!
Reading through Slouching Towards Bethlehem was like taking a journey through beloved sections of my home state. At times searingly insightful and at others nostalgic, this novel was breathtaking. I want to begin reading it again to find insights and nuance that I missed the first time.
The novel is composed of many articles, some short some long, that Didion wrote for various magazines during the 1960s. While the topics are varied, they all revolve around one centralized point; the chipping away of the glass encasing we put around beloved objects and periods to reveal the heart of the matter, the emotional core. Didion’s writing evokes many emotions in the reader and, in turn, exposes her emotions about the topics she writes. She does not shy away from complex and intense emotion but embraces it. She looks deeply into the movements of her time to show not only a changing America but a changing populace. Those insights into the chancing populace are still pretty darn relevant too. She looks at the Summer of Love in Haight Ashbury in the 1960s from various angles, which for me was incredibly fascinating and a little disturbing. She definitely looked at the less popular viewpoint of the Summer of Love.
My favorite article, however, was one she wrote about her hometown of Sacramento and of the Central Valley. Being from the Central Valley myself, it was incredible to see her describe a Valley I was never able to experience. I am of the generation from the changed Valley. The Valley that has grown into something it can’t quite handle. Not just focused on agriculture anymore but not sure where else to go.
Didion writes with so much pathos and honesty it’s hard not to fall under her spell. You travel right along with her as she hops from the sunny California coast to the busy streets of New York. She cracks the shell of a city and a movement and gets at what’s underneath it all. What propels it forward or has stopped it in it’s tracks. She exposes the truth in a way that’s hard to deny even if it might be hard to accept. It’s easy to see why some have called her the master of prose. She writes with command, poise, and honesty making her instantly relatable. I think that her honesty is what allows her to see into the hearts of various people and look at them in a way that shows who they really are and not just what they are trying to present themselves as.
Stay tuned for the next book in Book Battle 2015. A hint, it’s inspired by a popular TV show.
Happy Reading all!
Next up in Book Battle 2015 is a book set in California. There are so many to choose from it was hard at first to narrow down the options. But eventually I settled on Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem. The novel is a compilation of her essays from the 1960s that describe some of the movements going on at the time as well as relevant news stories and issues. I have to say I’m pretty darn excited to start reading this book. Didion is supposed to be the voice of her generation, and I’m all for that. I love reading about the tumultuous 1960s, the decade that forever changed the landscape of the US.
I’ve never read anything by Joan Didion before and can’t wait to start with the book that many think is her best. Perusing the book a bit, the articles are spread out into three different parts seemingly based on subject matter. Now I did peek and read the prologue and so far I love the way she writes with so much command and style. And she threw a shout out to Yeats which has my inner literary nerd jumping up and down in excitement.
Happy Reading fellow Book Battlers!