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After countless rescues of bus-bound pilgrims, and, this summer, the second drowning death of one of them, I revisited Into the Wild and explored how Jon Krakauer's heroic account of Christopher McCandless is cut from whole cloth.


"Alaskans tend to blame Chris McCandless for the perpetual troubles his disciples have inflicted on themselves and the state. It’s easy to do so. He stumbled into Alaska and up the Stampede Trail wholly unprepared to experience his fever dream of living off the land. He walked a scant few miles beyond civilization and the road system and camped out in a bus. He didn’t have a map. His self-obsession bordered on megalomania. He starved to death — a stupid, senseless, and entirely preventable way to die so close to civilization. Why, we Alaskans ask ourselves, would anyone consider this person to be a hero?

"The answer lies not so much in McCandless himself as in the way his story was presented."

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About

David James is an Alaskan author and literary critic whose work has been published by the Anchorage Daily News, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Anchorage Press, Alaska Dispatch News, and Ester Republic. He is editing a forthcoming anthology of Alaska writing.


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