OK, pseudo-intellectuals, it’s time to curl up around a campfire for a good, but not a happy, story, one of sacrifice, arrogance and starvation.
Chris McCandless, who fashioned himself a real intellectual, thought he knew it all. But his ignorance and misfortune cost him his life, leaving others to ponder his self-destructive alienation from the real world.
Was he just a kid with wanderlust who took himself far too seriously and his mortality not seriously enough? Was he an egotistical dope trying to address personal problems by putting his life foolishly at risk?
Jon Krakauer, the author of the best-seller “Into Thin Air,” tries to answer those questions in “Into the Wild,” the story of a young man who tempted fate by trying to live on his own in the Alaska wilds during the summer of 1992 and starved to death. Krakauer wrote the initial story for Outside magazine, and he got such a strong response from readers that he turned it into a good book, but not one with out flaws. More recently, McCandless’ story was made into a movie.
McCandless was a mysterious character with delusions of grandeur. Raised in a wealthy family, he was a good student who seemed to be well liked. But after graduating from Emery University, he gave away his money, cut off all ties with his parents, renamed himself “Alex Supertramp” and struck out on his own. He lived where he wanted and fended for himself, taking jobs only when he needed cash and making friends but keeping them at a distance.
His dream was to live on his own in the wilderness and forage for food, challenges obviously not for the faint of heart. But McCandless raises more questions than he answers, and his decisions were infuriating.
Still, it’s an interesting story, if only because Krakauer reveals that McCandless is just one of number of vagabonds who marched to the tune of their own drummers, embraced foolish independence for no apparent reason and paid with their lives.
The reader will obviously wonder why, what’s the point, how could he do that to those who loved him? His exploits are grimly fascinating, but there’s no real answer.
One more thing, I checked out a recorded copy of “Into the Wild” from the Champaign Public Library. Those who drive long distances, work out on a treadmill or take long walks with the family dog might find it beneficial to use that time by listening to a book on tape.
Here are previous recommendations from Jim’s Pseudo-Intellectual Book Club.
[-] “Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission” by Hampton Sides.
[-] “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt” by Edmund Morris.
[-] “A Night to Remember” by Walter Lord.
[-] “April 1865: The Month That Saved America” by Jay Winik.
[-] “Seabiscuit: An American Legend” by Laura Hillenbrand.
[-] “Lindbergh” by A. Scott Berg.
[-] “The Kennedy Men: 1901-1963” by Laurence Leamer.
[-] “The Brother: The Untold Story of the Rosenberg Case” by Sam Roberts.
[-] “Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy” by Jane Leavy.
[-] “Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions” by Ben Mezrich.
[-] “Harry & Ike: The Partnership That Remade the Post-War World” by Steve Neal.
[-] “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” by Michael Lewis.
[-] “Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley & Livingstone” by Martin Dugard.
[-] “In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors” by Doug Stanton.
[-] “Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34.” by Bryan Burrough.
[-] “Flags of our Fathers,” by James Bradley.
[-] “Cary Grant: A Biography” by Marc Elliot.
[-] “Three Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager” by Buzz Bissinger.
[-] “Boss Tweed: The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York” by Kenneth Ackerman.
[-] “They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967” by David Maraniss.
[-] “Flashman” (a novel) by George MacDonald Fraser.
[-] “Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling and A World on the Brink” by David Margolick.
[-] “Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics and the Battle for the Soul of a City” by Jonathan Mahler.
[-] “Five Families: the Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires” by Selwyn Raab.
[-] “The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and the Golden Age of Basketball.” by John Taylor.
[-] “American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies” by Michael Kauffman.
[[-] “The Looming Tower: al-Qaida and the Road to 9/11” by Lawrence Wright.
[- ) “A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood’s Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports” by Brad Snyder.
[-] “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game” by Michael Lewis.
[-] “The Education of a Coach” by David Halberstam.
[-] “Arc of Justice: A Sage of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age” by Kevin Boyle
[-] “The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived The Great American Dust Bowl” by Timothy Egan.
[-] “The Wrong Man: The Final Verdict on the Dr. Sam Sheppard Murder Case” by James Neff.
[-] The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House” by John Harris.
[–] “FDR” by Jean Edward Smith
(-) The Unlikely Spy (a novel) by Daniel Silva.
(-) “Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love and Betrayal” by Ben Macintyre
(-) The Interpretation of Murder (a novel) by Jed Rubenfeld
(-) The Teapot Dome Scandal: How Big Oil Bought the Harding White House and Tried to Steal the Country by Laton McCartney.
(-) The Last Great Fight: The Extraordinary Tale of Two Men and How One Fight Changes Their Lives Forever”
by Joe Layden.
(-) The Best Game Ever: Giants vs. Colts, 1958 and the Birth of the Modern NFL” by Mark Bowden.
(—) Making Jack Falcone: An Undercover FBI Agent Takes Down a Mafia Family” by Joaquin “Jack” Garcia.