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Jon Krakauer is the author of Eiger Dreams, Into the Wild, Into Thin Air, Under the Banner of Heaven and is editor of the Modern Library Explorer series.
In April 1992, 23-year-old Chris McCandless hiked into the Alaska bush to "live off the land." Four months later, hunters found his emaciated corpse in an abandoned Fairbanks city bus, along with five rolls of film, an SOS note, and a diary written in a field guide to edible plants. Cut off from civilization, McCandless had starved to death. The young man's gruesome demise made headlines and haunted Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer, who saw "vague, unsettling parallels" between McCandless's life and his own. Expanding on his 1993 Outside article, Krakauer traces McCandless's last two years; after his graduation from Emory University, McCandless abandoned his middle-class family, identity, and possessions in favor of the life of "Alexander Supertramp," wandering the American West in search of "raw, transcendent experience." In trying to understand McCandless's behavior and the appeal that risky activities hold for young men, Krakauer examines his own adventurous youth. However, he never satisfactorily answers the question of whether McCandless was a noble, if misguided, idealist or a reckless narcissist who brought pain to his family. For popular outdoor and adventure collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/95.]-Wilda Williams, "Library Journal"
After graduating from Emory University in Atlanta in 1992, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandoned his possessions, gave his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhiked to Alaska, where he went to live in the wilderness. Four months later, he turned up dead. His diary, letters and two notes found at a remote campsite tell of his desperate effort to survive, apparently stranded by an injury and slowly starving. They also reflect the posturing of a confused young man, raised in affluent Annandale, Va., who self-consciously adopted a Tolstoyan renunciation of wealth and return to nature. Krakauer, a contributing editor to Outside and Men's Journal, retraces McCandless's ill-fated antagonism toward his father, Walt, an eminent aerospace engineer. Krakauer also draws parallels to his own reckless youthful exploit in 1977 when he climbed Devils Thumb, a mountain on the Alaska-British Columbia border, partly as a symbolic act of rebellion against his autocratic father. In a moving narrative, Krakauer probes the mystery of McCandless's death, which he attributes to logistical blunders and to accidental poisoning from eating toxic seed pods. Maps. 35,000 first printing; author tour. (Jan.)