Krakauer's Follow-up on "Into the Wild"

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Re: Krakauer's Follow-up on "Into the Wild"

Postby mkrier » Fri Sep 13, 2013 7:58 am

Thanks for the read.

Side note - The soundtrack to Into the Wild by Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam is pretty darn good.
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Re: Krakauer's Follow-up on "Into the Wild"

Postby specmiata37 » Fri Sep 13, 2013 8:04 am

McCandless wasn't the first and won't be the last. Read the story of Everett Ruess who died sometime around 1934 in the Cayonlands of Utah.

Hungry Jack wrote:Great point Dex. In today's age of "modern" psychiatry, I have little doubt that McCandless would have been diagnosed with some form of mental illness, and prescribed drugs to treat it. But this type of behavior has been going on for centuries. As you note, it is just more popularized and sensationalized now through digital media.

I don't think McCandless had interest in fame, and I don't think Krakauer (or the vast majority of feature writers) is motivated by money, because writing is an awful way to make a living, especially a decent one.

You would have to be pretty far out on the spectrum to; 1) disown your family that by all appearances has raised you in a very safe and nurturing environment with opportunity (not everyone can go to Emory University); 2) take the type of physical risks McCandless embraced.

His acts and techniques during the final Alaska episode reveal his ignorance. But is it that much different than a tourists who ventures up Longs Peak with a late start, wearing jeans and a cotton shirt, in the midst of an active monsoon? The stakes were much higher for McCandless, but I am not sure ignorance is necessarily a sign of mental illness.

That ranger article basically concludes that McCandless willfully committed suicide. That is a HUGE leap to a powerful conclusion that lacks any real basis in fact. Was Evil Knieval suicidal because he tried to rocket himself across the gorge? Even the most willful acts of ignorance and negligence can be judged as suicidal without much more evidence of the person's true mental state. We do not know this about McCandless.

I am convinced he was seeking something in Alaska. But I don't think it was death.
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Re: Krakauer's Follow-up on "Into the Wild"

Postby Hungry Jack » Fri Sep 13, 2013 8:14 am

Yup. The Ruess story is fascinating.

I am finishing up Born To Run, which is basically the story of Micah True and his time with the Tarahumara. He is another guy who went into the wild, though his outcome was much better. He was an oddball, but he found a singular passion and tried to use it to unite two different cultures. Pretty noble in a simple way.
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Re: Krakauer's Follow-up on "Into the Wild"

Postby Hungry Jack » Fri Sep 13, 2013 8:17 am

“Chris McCandless from an Alaska Park Ranger’s Perspective,”

One more thing: Based on this guy's standard of suicidal behavior, John Wesley Powell was suicidal for his decision to float the Green/Colorado system through canyon country. You could probably make the same argument about the Corps of Discovery, Jedediah Smith, and many others.
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Re: Krakauer's Follow-up on "Into the Wild"

Postby [climber] » Fri Sep 13, 2013 8:53 am

Thank you for posting this article.

I, like many others, was always drawn to the McCandless story and found myself relating to his drive for adventure.

On a side note, the article mentions a concentration camp in Ukraine during WWII where these seeds were fed to prisoners in a gruesome science experiment. I won't say that it was a main motivator but after reading Into the Wild, I became a Peace Corps Volunteer and was stationed in Ukraine, not far from this concentration camp. I had never heard of Vapniarca until I read this article. It's interesting how experiences in your life can be intertwined without you even knowing.

Thank you,

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Re: Krakauer's Follow-up on "Into the Wild"

Postby Jtjohnso24 » Fri Sep 13, 2013 10:00 am

Very interesting article. Thanks for sharing.
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Re: Krakauer's Follow-up on "Into the Wild"

Postby TallGrass » Fri Sep 13, 2013 10:01 am

Dex wrote:
I think what get me most about the McCandless story is ignoring the possibility of mental illness ...

Everyone loves to play doctor, but few are qualified.

Abandon your family for no reason.
Abandon your family for no reason (for the weekend, but you wish it could be months or more; right Mr. Skurka?).

... to head out in the wilderness.

Ditch your car in the desert.
Ditch your car at a deserted trail head.

Burn or bury your money for reasons unclear.
Burn your money on silly unreasonable gear (UV water light?!).

Stop bathing because it's too much trouble.

There are people just like McCandless living on the streets of Anchorage today.
There are people just like McCandless hiking and summering in the mountains of Colorado today.
... some of who are stranded by rising rivers like he was.

Neither of these meet the "sensibilities" of most "normal" people who then falsely define that lack of meeting (their mentality) an absence of sense and therefor a mental defect. People judging someone going for SUL (survival UL, not much different than our hunter-gatherer ancestors) while they themselves find Class 3-5 unnerving (or chide me on the dangers of motorcycling as they puff on a cigarette). :roll: If one added that he was working on his anthropology doctrate many would likely change stance, not because McCandless's actions were any different, but because it made more sense to the reader.

Let he cast the first stone who hasn't been told their pursuit is a deathwish by family or stranger.
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Re: Krakauer's Follow-up on "Into the Wild"

Postby ivorysandal » Sat Sep 14, 2013 11:28 am

One thing that continues to impress me about Krakauer is he doesn't just write an article or book and move on. He really seems to care about getting it right (no pun intended) with respect to following up on research. As the follow-up article here demonstrates, he was clearly very interested in determining what actually was responsible for this young man's tragic death. He did the same thing with Into Thin Air, where he was rushed to write an article for Outside magazine, and came to some conclusions about how certain people died (particularly one of the guides as I recall) which he later felt were incorrect. With these kind of adventure stories, written under duress or after the fact, talking to people who have their own agendas, it is undoubtedly very difficult to get every fact straight. However, I saw the same kind of meticulous research in his wonderful book about Pat Tillman, Where Men Win Glory, and the cynical article about Greg Mortensen, 3 Cups of Deceit. It's true Krakauer makes a boatload of money from his writing, but I can think of very few other authors (legit or otherwise) who ever go back to correct the record.
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Re: Krakauer's Follow-up on "Into the Wild"

Postby Tortoise1 » Sat Sep 14, 2013 1:08 pm

He is good. I do think he had a bone to pick or score to settle with Dr. Clausen - which is entirely fair under the circumstances.

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