Saturday, October 25, 2008

Into the Wild

Maybe ten years back, I read John Krakauer's account of the final months of Chris McCandless, from Annandale, Virginia, who gave his $24,000 savings to Oxfam and left home, travelled around the States for two years under the moniker Alex and died in Alaska while living rough in an abandoned bus. McCandless shared my birth date; he was exactly one year older than I. He graduated at the same age I did, 22. But, at about the time I was married, he was arriving in Alaska. A few weeks later, he was dead. When I heard that Krakauer's book had been made into a film, directed by Sean Penn, I was keen to see it. It's a little difficult to get to the cinema here in the Outer Hebrides, but last night I watched the DVD.

Comparing the film with the book when ten years have passed isn't easy. Krakauer was heavily involved in advising on the film, so it's very close to the book, but Penn doesn't really capture the same mood as Krakauer. I suspect this is because Krakauer, quite soon after the event, investigated the whole story and became personally involved. McCandless' home life was marred by arguments, but he had a comfortable upbringing; he was well-read (Thoreau, Pasternak, Tolstoy), he was angry, he was searching. Krakauer describes McCandless' journey as a spiritual quest. He meets many people and makes an impact on them, with his idealistic quest for authenticity and plans for his great Alaskan Odyssey. It strikes a chord within me; I have long been fascinated with wilderness - that without and that within.
Wilderness appealed to those bored or disgusted with man and his works.
Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind

But we little know until tried how much of the uncontrollable there is in us, urging across glaciers and torrents, and up dangerous heights, let the judgement forbid as it may. John Muir, The Mountains of California

I've brought the book down from the shelf and will perhaps post again on this.