If you didn’t know this already, Hopscotch the Globe has an official book club! Each month, avid reader and fellow traveller, Trish McNeill, will be announcing a travel inspired novel chosen by you to read and review. We will be posting updates on Twitter and Facebook for you to follow along and discuss the novel as we all read through it together. Also, if you have a book you’d like to be the HTG book of the month, let us know by reaching out on social media or comment below. We look forward to having you part of the book club! Last month, we read and reviewed The Road To McCarthy by Pete McCarthy, this month we read Into The Wild.
Let’s get this out of the way: Chris McCandless pissed me off.
It’s difficult for me to relate to somebody who shows such little regard for his family and interaction/relationships in general. But just because I couldn’t relate to him doesn’t mean I didn’t come to care about him. Into The Wild, by Jon Krakauer, is a tale that grips your heart and is nearly impossible to set down until you know all there is to know, which explains why Krakauer became so interested and invested in McCandless’ life and death.
Krakauer describes the life of McCandless with raw grit; the only way a story like this can be told. Krakauer forces us to accept how drastically life can change; and how quickly.
Into The Wild came about after Krakauer wrote an article in an edition of Outside titled, “Death of an Innocent”. After this article, Krakauer received many messages and calls. Some people, like myself, couldn’t relate to McCandless and thought he was selfish and ignorant. Other callers and writers were softer and spoke of McCandless as a boy they met on the road who touched their lives and left them missing him, wanting to hear from him, and needing to know more.
Krakauer decided that he needed to expand on his article. He needed to get as close to the truth as anyone could. He followed McCandless’ footsteps, talked to the people McCandless knew, and eventually even stepped foot into the bus where McCandless lived and died.
Back to why McCandless pissed me off. It’s simple. I can’t understand him and things I don’t understand piss me off. How can he hold such a grudge on his parents but stay in touch with people he’s met along the way? How can he seem so anti-social one minute and then treat his new acquaintances with respect; sending them letters and visiting them.
As a traveler, I know the feeling that’s referred to as “wanderlust”. I know what it’s like to want to get out on the road, explore, see new places, and get lost in a new area. I also, however, don’t have the urge to walk into the Alaskan wildnerness with no preparation or supplies and just… see what happens. I guess that’s where we differ.
Perhaps McCandless was trying to replace his family with a new family who didn’t meddle or nag. Perhaps he was lonely and reaching out for love. Perhaps Jon Krakauer, the author of the two most explored written pieces of Chris McCandless, is the only person who came close to understanding why McCandless did the things he did and reading his work is the only way we can trey to understand.