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THE HORRORS OF NATURE

Now don't get me wrong. I don't hate nature. Frankly, I'm glad this country is filled with almost-virgin wilderness, the occasional pristine waterway, and all that kind of stuff. I just have no desire to experience them firsthand. I'm a city boy with a taste for pleasures urban and urbane. My idea of camping involves a cabin with hot running water, a porch, and hopefully ready access to a microwave. I willingly defer the more direct encounters with nature to a another breed, whose mishaps have been chronicled in the books below...


THE DARK SIDE OF WALDEN

INTO THE WILD by Jon Krakauer (1996)

God, I loved this book. It's the story of this clown Chirs McCandless, a suburban brat who graduated from college, changed his name to "Alexander Supertramp" and hit the road in search of "experience." Alas, he'd read WALDEN once to often. His hunt for the elusive beast culminated in 1992, when he gave away his money, abandoned his car, and went marching off into an isolated portion of the Alaska wilderness, armed with a small rifle, a 10-lb. bag of rice, and not much else (especially in the common sense department). They found him dead four months later.

Krakauer really gets into the guts of this story, carefully tracing Mr. Supertramp's pre-wilderness odyessey, and reconstructing as much of the story as possible. Especially good is his applicable-as-hell psycho-history stuff, where JK recounts some of his own numbskull-in-nature antics (in his case, an especially risky solo rock-climbing expedition) from his 20-something years. Perhaps we may not identify with Alex's antics as some of the more granola-inclined types. But damnit, it works fine as straight humor.

JK speculates, with cause, that McCandless was not done in by arrogant ignorance, but a minor goof with fatal consequences. I say if it wasn't one thing, it would have been another. I can hardly wait to pick up INTO THIN AIR, his book on that ill-fated Everest expedition at the local thrift.




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