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Article

INTO THE WILD

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INTO THE WILD Jon Krakauer (Villard, $22) When 24-year-old Chris McCandless walked into the Alaskan bush with little more than a 10-pound bag of rice, a pair of borrowed work boots, and a small-caliber rifle, the union electrician who dropped him off figured he was just another young man from the lower 48 drunk on adventure. Four months later, a party of moose hunters discovered what was left of him inside the blue sleeping bag his mother had sewn together from a kit; he had died of apparent starvation. It may be nonfiction, but Into the Wild is a mystery of the highest order. Krakauer retraces the last two years of McCandless’ life. He had donated his $24,000 savings account to Oxfam, the famine relief organization; ended all communication with his frantic family; and embarked on a spectacular cross-country tramp — inspired by the writings of London, Thoreau, and Tolstoy — in which he discarded earthly possessions with joyful abandon, even leaving his car in the Mojave Desert when it no longer suited his needs. Over the two years, McCandless rarely stopped writing in his journal. He also sent postcards to the people who fed him, let him sleep on their sofas, or gave him work. And he took lots of photographs. With a tracker’s zeal, Krakauer uses these artifacts to construct a sometimes day-by-day account of McCandless’ final years. It seems that McCandless was looking for nothing more than total transcendence from the materialism of everyday life. And in the end, he found it. A