Monday, October 20, 2008

Two books about boys.

Recently I partially read (meaning skipped around and skimmed a lot) two books about dudes and their conquests. One was Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer and the other was Women by Charles Bukowski.

Into the Wild is a biography of Chris Mccandless, a guy who hated money and modern society so he wandered off into the wilderness, and then was found starved to death. Most of the information in the book is culled from diaries and interviews, and really, theres only enough of an actual story here for an article (which is what this book started out as) and the rest of the 200 or so pages is filled out with information about the regions and towns mccandless traveled through and accounts of other young men who have done similar things, including a personal account of the writers own Alaskan adventures. I expected that the book would paint the parents as snotty rich folk, but they are actually portrayed as blue collar people who worked their up to what they had. Basically, Mccandless was inspired to travel the country through authors such as Jack London, Ernest Hemingway or Henry David Thoreau. On one of his first trips he went to visit some extended family in Southern California only to find out from them that after he was born his father had carried on with his ex-wife and had another child by her. This is the turning point at which Mccandless decided that he hated his parents and after college he would cut them out of his life and go to live of the land, and that's basically what he did.

Women on the other hand is basically a book about an ageing poet that has sex with a lot of young female fans. Literally. What I read of it, every chapter was the same plot line applied to a different girl. It was just kind of gross and boring.

I mention these two books at the same time because Chris Mccandless lived and died following the words of authors that wrote about living off the land, and while Bukowski is writing about a very different set of male fantasies, his status as a writer that boys emulate is kind of the same. I am in no way an expert or even fan of any of these writers, I just find the idea of idolizing writers who were known to either be not such great people in real life, or never having really lived the stories they write interesting. And in the case of Mccandless, he demonized his parents lives over something that the authors he loved did too, and instead of living the life of one womanizer (his father) he decided instead to follow the fantasies of another.


CO said...

even as a boy these authors never really appealed to me. i read a few bukowski books in high school. i thought the one about his childhood was good, but the others were all the same. And his poetry is awful.

i think its even weirder that they are romantic figures to emulate. it reminds me of the time i was waiting in line to get gary snyder to sign a book for my mom and the people behind were talking about how they were just like the beats because they drank jugs of carlo rossi.

the weirdest of example of this is tom waits cuz i think hes a family man who plays this sort of drunken bohemian barfly in his songs which confuses- or maybe gives- college boys an excuse to drink lots of whisky and be borish even tho the supposed "real" figure they are emulating is totally made up.
but i guess this kinda thing is as old as thoureau only now its in late postmodern capitalism.

Tobi Vail said...

hi marissa
I read "My life with Madonna" by Christopher Ciccone on Friday and have been meaning to post a review. It relates to your post, because when Madonna was married to Sean Penn, Charles Bukowski had free reign at their Hollywood house and it was driving her crazy. According to the book, he would just walk in drunk, puking, shooting off guns at all hours of the day. This was happening as Madonna was rising to super stardom so she would fly to her NYC pad just to get away.
More soon!