February 26, 1996
What other books do you recommend? How do I get published?
His hubris and narcissism are inexcusable; you romanticize idiocy
Q: I just finished re-reading Jon Krakauer's original article on the life and death of Chris McCandless, as well as some of the letters to the editor that followed its publication. I live in Alaska, and I can well understand the disdain with which Alaskans viewed the last adventure of Chris McCandless.
Many people up here (and in other parts of the world) actually live the kind of life at which McCandless was play-acting. The real tragedy behind this story is what he left behind: grieving, bewildered family and friends. I realize that mistakes happen and McCandless likely had no death wish, but that's not really the point.
The hubris and narcissism with which he blindly launched into the wilderness are not things we can excuse. Although I liked some parts of Krakauer's tale, I think it is irresponsible to romanticize a stupid act by a guy who by all indications should have known better.
A: Obviously, we differ in our assessment of Chris McCandless. I know you aren't the only Alaskan who believes that McCandless was a jerk, and likewise believes that I'm a jerk for writing about him as I did. With all due respect, however, I don't think you really understand McCandless. Nor, I would venture, do you really comprehend the main
thrust of Into the Wild. I have to bear most of the responsibility for that. As the book's author, it was my job to make McCandless understandable to the reader. And in your case, at least, I apparently failed.