Monday, December 7, 2009
Jon Krakauer is one of us, and by “us” I mean a generation of outdoor adventurers.
As Vern Tejas once said, “Into Thin Air is a book about a mountain I climbed. Into the Wild is about me.” This isn’t to say that we are all McCandless-types, but that the motives of McCandless resonate with many people, from late Baby Boomers through Gen-X.
My old friend Mark Stoppel called me recently and said, “When I was a kid, I read a lot. Back then, Steinbeck and Mark Twain were my favorites. But now, it’s Krakauer. I bought his latest book and can’t put it down.”
Indeed, Jon Krakauer tells not only “our” stories in Eiger Dreams, Into The Wild, and Into Thin Air, but more recently he informs “us” – the somewhat self-indulgent outdoor adventurer community -- with his less commercially popular but deeper works, Under the Banner of Heaven and Where Men Win Glory. These books explore fundamental topics of humanity, religion and war.
As probably the most successful outdoor writer of our generation, Jon lives modestly in Boulder, CO with his wife and drives a Subaru. He shuns the spotlight and seeks no credit or recognition for the good he does in the mountain, Nepalese, and fundamentalist Mormon communities. He’s virtuous and talented, physically and intellectually, much like the main character of his latest book, Pat Tillman in Where Men Win Glory.
I got the book soon after it was published in September, and knowing my own greed for Krakauer lit, I tried to ration the book and stretched the first third out until Thanksgiving weekend, when I laid into it for real.
Its messages about government manipulation and the cruelest chaos of war, “friendly fire”, inform and sadden. I learned about pro-football and a really good kid who grew into a great man, cut down by too much fire power in inexperienced hands. The background and history of conflict in Afghanistan is something I would not have picked up elsewhere.
No, this isn’t Into the Wild, as the critics will point out. It’s more important than that.