Book Aesthetic

I’m not sure much can be said to add to the high regard that folks have for Jon Jon Krakauer. I haven’t read anything he’s written and thought to myself that it’s “eh”. As far as adventure writers go, he’s got the formula, the spirit, and the talent. I’m convinced that he could write about a trip to the grocery store in which he forgot to buy an artichoke and I would be glued to every page.

The Artichoke Choke, a riveting adventure about a tale as old as time. One man’s quest for homemade spinach and artichoke dip nearly ends in disaster. This book has all the ingredients for for glory, but can a missing item ever truly be a recipe for success?

Yep I’d read that book if it were written by Krakauer for sure!

So, if I’d be willing to read about a mundane trip to the grocery store, how come it has taken me this long to read Into the Wild?

I saw the film a long time ago, and I didn’t like the way it made me feel. The movie is great, the story is great. I just felt bad afterward and I didn’t really want to go through it again while reading the book.

As expected the book was excellent, Krakauer must’ve had an unimaginably difficult time putting this book together, but he seems to have done it in a way that no one could reasonably reject. I of course was left with the same feeling I had from watching the movie, and perhaps even more so. I think that reading offers a level of intimacy that can’t be matched with film.

Putting together the Book Aesthetic wasn’t fun. It mostly made me feel sad, but it also brought me perspective on the risks of adventure, as well as the risks of lacking adventure.

Joe Simpson’s Touching the Void is coming up in May. If you want to read along, here is a link to the book!

20 Replies to “Book Aesthetic”

  1. I would not have chosen this book to include on a list of adventures. I like Krakauer’s writing in general, and think he is at his best when he writes about climbing since he practices the sport. Into the Wild is not about adventure, but rather a young man who makes some foolish decisions. I’d put it in the category of books about disasters. I wonder if the protagonist had been a climber, he would ever have died alone. Climbers and mountaineers are generally pretty good at evaluating risks. The kid in Into the Wild lacked the little experience that could have saved his life as well as the foresight to carry a map and compass. Naïveté kills much more often than overreach.

    What bothered me most about the book was that I finished it without a good sense of who the subject was. The book was a study in psychology but didn’t deliver. I read the book when it first appeared and never saw the movie. Where I taught, it was popular with students, but none of them had wilderness experience.

    In the end, I don’t know what to make of Into the Wild which is titillating but ultimately unsatisfying. It certainly is the story of one person’s self exploration and attempt at personal adventure, but whether it belongs in the category Adventure with a capital A is questionable. There are many other books more deserving and less well known.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Dave…this is a terrific piece of insight. I don’t think I would go as far as to call it a study in psychology, but I think I get the point you are making! Although to deny that this is an adventure story, may be a stretch. The outcome wasn’t ideal, but young people making foolish decisions seems like the start of many adventures both good and bad.

      You have me thinking about whether or not the outcome was a disaster. It’s pretty obvious that Chris McCandless’ family and friends must have seen it that way, but I’m not sure that Chris himself would agree with that assessment? I suppose that if we were going to qualify this story as a tragedy, it may be because we don’t have all the answers that we want.

      Thanks again for the considerate and thought provoking comment!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I agree that it is not so much a disaster, something that affects many, as a tragedy, maybe in a classic sense as divine punishment for hubris, though hubris is a strong term for a young man’s conceit that he had the requisite skills to cope with “wilderness.”

        Happy to contribute something, as I have not been posting much.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. That’s how I feel about McCandless. I want to shake him. Hubris, or a strange unawareness of the kind of attention nature demands, the apprenticeship. There’s another guy like that (in my mind) Grizzly Man. BUT… I kind of wrote about this — not McCandless but the idea of “luck” in surviving risky choices in nature (or life? Is there a difference?). McCandless — besides being kind of dumb, had very bad luck. Here’s a link if you’re curious: https://marthakennedy.blog/2022/04/27/good-luck-bad-luck/

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      3. Martha you wrote “the greater the risk, the greater dependence on luck”. That pretty much explains what was happening in McCandless case. Too much of one and not enough of the other! Thanks for sharing the link…it was a excellent read!

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Not to make light of McAndless’s tragedy, but I think a lot of us desire adventure, whether we’re properly prepared for it or not. And even the best miscalculate. I’m thinking of a book I love called “Bad Trips” or some of Tim Cahill’s stories, or some of my own misadventures, where luck turned unpreparedness into adventure. I once got lost deep in the Darien jungle, and while I survived, I got somewhat better at planning. McAndless might have been over his head, but he seemed to have a lot of passion for the life he wanted to live. Some just don’t get the chance to learn from their mistakes.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. You’re right Bob, I can think of a few times where luck was on my side, it’s not always easy to admit, but I think that is part of what makes an adventure.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s not my favorite book but I thought the story was interesting. Chris McCandless’s sister wrote a book about 5 years ago called “the Wild Truth.” Her writing style is more conversational which makes it nice.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. I know this is about the book and not the movie but the sound track is one of my favorites.
    Be Well

    Liked by 4 people

  5. In a world consumed by capitalism, I think a longing for the wild and social exclusion from such a structure whets a lot of peoples appetites right now. I’ve been working in the corporate kingdom for thirty years now and my tenure there is almost at an end, so the pull of nature feels natural, not unlike McCandless, albeit in a risk-averse way.

    I’ve not read the book, but the movie is one of my all-time favourites, and one I watch probably every year, although as the light at the end of the workplace tunnel approaches, the cadence of watching it increases.

    Eddie Vedder’s soundtrack is incredible, weaved perfectly into every nook of the film.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. This sounds like such an amazing place in life to be. I hope that next adventure is just what the Dr. ordered! I also hope whatever you do next fits well with your own personal Eddie Vedder soundtrack! I think I am inspired to watch the movie again! Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I had similar feelings about the movie as you did. I haven’t read the book and not sure I would since I was left with a hollow feeling after the movie. Like Dave mentioned, I thought Chris made some bad choices that were hard to accept and not feel sad. I like the discussion that your post stimulated. Kudos, Brad.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I agree. The book made me sad, however I empathize with Chris and his choices in life. He wasn’t seeking fame, and like many young men, he went north. Many people from the US are completely unprepared for northern living and have no idea how much of a difference it is from the regular states below Canada.

    Many people criticized Chris, but I found this book to show a different side of Chris and his behavior. While not excusing his actions, they are explained. Would I have been any better? Especially back then with less technology to make adventuring (and rescue!!!) easier? I try not to judge, but instead choose to learn from other’s mistakes.

    Enjoy Touching the Void! It’s an amazing tale that shouldn’t be true but is. Never give up!

    Liked by 2 people

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