Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Paul from Pittsburgh or Into the Wild

Brendan Wolf
Brendan Wolf 

"Brendan closes his eyes, hugs his worn copy of Into the Wild, the book he loves better than any other. He opens it again, stares at the haunting self-portrait of Christopher McCandless, the handsome and enigmatic young man who had renamed himself Alexander Supertramp before he abandoned society and wandered alone into the Alaskan wilderness. How Brendan fell in love with him during the first breathless read, convinced that if only he had known Alex Supertramp, he could have saved him, and together they's\d live in their northwoods cabin, surrounded by books." (p 5)

When you read about a young man who in his brief life has adopted at least five aliases while attempting to live a life mostly depending on others you wonder what is going on in the mind of this character. The book is a little strange and the title character is a little strange, a little reminiscent of a character out of a Patricia Highsmith novel but without her panache and wit. Brendan Wolf, just one of the aliases of Victor Hall, is a reader, and the book is filled with literary references that remind you of his interest in reading.  References and quotes from Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Jack London, Boris Pasternak, Leo Tolstoy, Willa Cather, and Eudora Welty speak to an obsessional interest in books which he still maintains when everything else in his life is stripped away. His personal hero is the ill-fated wanderer Christopher McCandless who was chronicled by Jon Krakauer in his book, Into the Wild. This reference, reinforced in the second chapter, titled "The Call of the Wild", foreshadows the eventual arc of Brendan's own journey. The book is filled with strange characters none of whom are particularly likable and with few exceptions are also unmemorable. While written in a clear and lucid style I found myself working much too hard to finish the book to give it more than a tepid okay.

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