question about a book, Wild, From Lost to Found

2:37 p.m. on November 13, 2014 (EST)
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has anyone read:

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

i gather it is being made into a movie.  a read a lot, have a pretty meaningful queue, and i'm wondering if this is worthwhile.  (my latest read is a decidedly non-hiking biography of Abbie Hoffman).

thanks. 

4:08 p.m. on November 13, 2014 (EST)
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I have read it, and was at a presentation by the author. I believe the shooting of the movie is complete.

Whether it is worthwhile depends on your personal attitudes about a lot of things. You probably already know that Ms Strayed (the name she goes under these days, signifying how far she "strayed" from the more normal path) was a drug addict, using a variety of drugs including heroin, marijuana, and others, including lots of alcohol. Her trek on the Pacific Crest Trail was her attempt to get her head straightened out. She skipped several large sections in the end and did not get to the northern terminus.

She started out with way too much gear, so much that she had to put the pack on the bed of the motel she started at to get it on. She discarded a lot of the gear along the way.

There is a lot of drugs and sex in the book, and reportedly in the film as well. I found portions of the book pretty hard to read from several aspects (parts are just plain boring, parts dwell a lot on her use of drugs and sex with random other PCTers along the way. But there are some deep truths that come out - such as her discovery early on that "backpacking is not a series of day hikes put back to back", and an epiphany well into the trip about what hiking/backpacking/getting into the woods and hills is really all about. I won't repeat her awakening here, in part because it differs from what a lot of posters on Trailspace have said about their reasons for getting out.

Some people I know who have read Wild found it very good and inspiring. Others have read part way and tossed it. Others found it dull and boring throughout. What you get from it depends on you.

4:33 p.m. on November 13, 2014 (EST)
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Haven't read it myself (maybe a winter read this year), but a good friend recently recommended it to me. He and his wife read it together. Thanks for the insights, Bill S.

8:04 a.m. on November 14, 2014 (EST)
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thanks, Bill.  

8:14 a.m. on November 14, 2014 (EST)
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Tried to get into it...But found it not worth my time..I am actually want to see the Movie maybe it will make it better. I have read alot of Thru hiker books that I found were alot better,..Bill said it best..Depends on what you are looking for..

8:38 a.m. on November 14, 2014 (EST)
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I agree that it depends on what you're looking for. I read it. It did not appeal overly to me, but I felt like I should read it and find out what all the fuss was about. It's been a bestseller and Oprah made it a book club choice, so a lot of people have liked it.

My takeaway was, good for her for doing the long hike at that point in her life. As much as I didn't agree with a lot of her life choices, she did hike the trail on her own and that counts for something.

But, I didn't really care for her as a character in the book. She rubbed me the wrong way for various reasons, not because she was inexperienced (we're all inexperienced at certain points), but more from a personality standpoint.

That said, she's since done a lot to help fundraise and raise awareness for the PCTA. And many people loved the book, and if it turns some of them on to outdoor recreation and conservation that is a good thing.

I'll probably see the movie eventually, but I'm not in a hurry.

10:28 a.m. on November 14, 2014 (EST)
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Alicia,

I thought you were at the Conservation Breakfast where she gave her talk.

That was where I bought her book (and got it autographed). I felt she was a lot more interesting in person during her talk than the book. Back when I finished reading the book, I posted some comments on it. I don't know when that was, or I would post a link.

As you said, the inspiring part is that she made the effort to "come clean" (term that is used by a lot of people and organizations that deal with addictions and other things in their lives that they have messed up), and that she used the outdoors as the venue and mechanism.

2:23 p.m. on November 14, 2014 (EST)
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I missed the talk, Bill (can't recall why). I think she would have been interesting to hear in person since people can come across differently in books versus in person.

While the book itself isn't my personal favorite, I also think it's pretty brave to tell your story with all of your faults for people to read and judge. I'm not sure how many of us would want to share our most troubled times with total strangers for their reading entertainment.

3:53 p.m. on November 14, 2014 (EST)
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I started reading it, and stopped after the first chapter. Like others have said, I didn't like the character she presented. I realize her point was to talk about the transformative experience of the trail, but after four or five uses of the F-word in just the first few pages, I decided I didn't want to take that journey with her.

8:56 p.m. on November 14, 2014 (EST)
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I hope that you would not always stop reading a book based on the use of profanity Goose...as there are some really great works of literature that use such language to create perspective and insight into a part of the human experience that not all of us (thankfully) experience:-) Though I would be the first to admit that when profanity (also nudity) are used for "shock" value I yawn deeply and fall asleep cognitively.

Thankfully...in the case of this particular book I do not think you (Goose) missed much. As Alicia said...hats off to the young woman for moving past what a lot of folks struggle with throughout their (often short and difficult) lives...and even more so for sharing her experience with (judgmental) others....but in the end I do not believe her later clarity sheds a lot of light on what was actually going on at that time in her life (the retrospective tale is too neat and follows established Western themes too perfectly). I do not think she is being insincere in her telling (she believes what she is saying)...and she is not alone in her tendencies (all westerners default to this with past events...I think it is linked to Western philosophies of (Whig) History)...but since I do not see this as good evidence of how substance abuse and identity formation take place...her tale is relegated to almost pure literature for me...and as literature I do not believe the book adds a great deal to what has already been written. I know this sounds like harsh treatment (it is critical)...but it really is not...I am sure that this book has and will continue to be an inspiration for those suffering from substance abuse and also those who dedicate their lives to its treatment...the merit and value of the book in these regards is unquestioned...but from the perspective of pure literature...the book is not particularly interesting.

For me the book lost appeal because the author uses commonplace narrative forms that everyone who has read a little of the Bible (always being redeemable) and Thoreau (finding one's "true" self alone in the woods) will be more than familiar with (particularly since every personalized outdoor journey book makes use of Thoreau's mid-nineteenth century creation of discovering your true self outdoors). If you like these themes (also the movie Trainspotting)...then I would highly recommend this book...you will LOVE it! However...if you find the idea of discovering your true self outdoors as unlikely as I do (the idea was literally invented in the mid-nineteenth century)...then you will be put-off a bit by this book and every other outdoor journey book...because not only are these books a big literature yawn...they are in many ways harmful for the environment...because while seeming innocuous (even positive) in their elevation of nature's status...they do at the same time have a pernicious tendency to reproduce the false boundaries we place between people and nature...and it is these boundaries which justify and rationalize so much environmental misuse (nature will always lose if we continue to see it as apart from us).

Should you give this book a good read...well if you like books and themes like those described by myself and others...then yes...this is probably a great book for someone struggling with addiction and who also likes the outdoors...but I personally am waiting for an outdoor journey book where the author goes on a long quiet walk...has an interesting experience...but doesn't find some authentic unpolluted identity. Instead...the author comes back to society (see how I used a false boundary there...it is difficult not to make use of these cultural forms) and in doing so realizes that he or she is not to be found in the middle of nowhere...but is rather the totality of their experiences...and that to lose nature (or society) is to lose a critically important part of who we are. For me this could be just as romantic as a Walden Pond/Walk in the Woods/Wild/etc....and certainly a lot more interesting since such a telling is so uncommon.

9:20 a.m. on November 17, 2014 (EST)
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jrenow said:

I hope that you would not always stop reading a book based on the use of profanity Goose...as there are some really great works of literature that use such language to create perspective and insight into a part of the human experience that not all of us (thankfully) experience:-) Though I would be the first to admit that when profanity (also nudity) are used for "shock" value I yawn deeply and fall asleep cognitively.

No, not at all. But it was too much too soon. It didn't contribute to a dialog or narrative. In the first few pages, she presented herself as a character I would not want to take the journey with.

9:31 a.m. on November 17, 2014 (EST)
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Full disclosure: I am consultant for the PCTA.

Wild opens December 5th in select theaters, and nation-wide during the holidays.  For more information, see: http://www.pcta.org/wild/

For what it's worth, Cheryl really stepped up to the plate and worked constantly with PCTA after publishing the book and during filming. Fox Searchlight films has been super cool to work with too.

10:46 a.m. on November 18, 2014 (EST)
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Haven't read it, but Mrs Stranger has. Seems more a book for people who aren't already backpackers or outdoor adventurers unless you want to laugh about her mistakes.

The book has already inspired a lot of folks to hit the trails so I can only assume the movie will do the same. As always it will be interesting to hear the stories as the NOBOs launch next spring :p

5:30 p.m. on November 18, 2014 (EST)
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I didn't mean anything snotty Goose...just wanted to mention that a lot of great books use terrible language and imagery (gritty/noir/etc.) as tools to immerse us in their tale. I hate the N-word...I mean I hate it...but Uncle Tom's Cabin is one of those books you come away changed from (it would also make a robot cry)...and I think the author used the N-word on every page of the book (maybe not...but it seemed that way).

I also want to be clear that I have nothing against the author or the book itself...true I find that the author relies upon very familiar means to describe both addiction and the outdoor experience...so what!...that's just me telling other folks like me that this is not a book where you will gain a profoundly different understanding of either addiction and the outdoors...unless you're not particularly familiar with them at present. As far as a person...Cheryl sounds amazing...her efforts and volunteerism makes me think I would like her a lot. All of that aside...many people fail to overcome their demons...so anytime a fellow person does...it is worth celebrating...at least a little bit.

8:24 p.m. on November 18, 2014 (EST)
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there's heaps of stray-likes (and sound underground writers)

out there with an equally empowering story to share.

oh, what we do for green paper!

 

 

 

 

 

10:36 a.m. on November 19, 2014 (EST)
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I don't think I intended to provoke this deep of a discussion, so I apologize.  Or, you're welcome, depending on your point of view.

I will probably read the book.  I spent a great deal of time, years ago, representing clients who often struggled with addiction and a broad range of associated high-risk behavior.  no graphic descriptions about drug use and its byproducts in the book would surprise me.  addiction can drive people to do unbelievably destructive things, both to themselves and everyone around them.  hard to read, and it has little to do with being outside or hiking, but it's a reality that too many people face. 

 

3:27 p.m. on November 19, 2014 (EST)
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if nothing else, early reviews suggest Reese Witherspoon did a fine job in the movie version of this. 

6:41 a.m. on November 20, 2014 (EST)
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leadbelly2550 said:

I don't think I intended to provoke this deep of a discussion, so I apologize.  Or, you're welcome, depending on your point of view. 

I think it's an interesting topic, so, thank you!

I'd be curious to hear what you think of the book once you do read it. I wouldn't dissuade anyone from reading it. It has a lot of fans and obviously much to bring to a discussion.

11:50 a.m. on December 14, 2014 (EST)
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Julie (ms leadbelly?) And I saw the movie Friday night. I will probably read the book eventually. Part hiking, part catharsis. Reese witherspoon did a fine acting job, though it often looked like the hip belt on her pack was riding pretty low. :)

For entertainment value, keep track of the hiking gear product placements.

It inspired me to hike both mornings this weekend after a 6 week hiatus to heal a soft tissue injury in one of my feet.

8:24 a.m. on December 15, 2014 (EST)
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leadbelly2550 said:

Julie (ms leadbelly?) And I saw the movie Friday night. I will probably read the book eventually. Part hiking, part catharsis. Reese witherspoon did a fine acting job, though it often looked like the hip belt on her pack was riding pretty low. :)

Ha ha!

Thanks for the update, leadbelly. I expect I'll watch the movie on demand sometime in the future.

Glad to hear it inspired you to go out on a hike.

10:53 a.m. on December 15, 2014 (EST)
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I would really enjoy seeing backpacking put out there for public consumption. Hollywood has a long history of taking outdoor adventures and over-dramatizing them.

It has been a common theme for people with their own demons to try long solo trips as a form of catharsis. My neighbor did the Tahoe Rim Trail by herself to reconcile her own drug use. Many young people today are what I call "edgy". They swear a lot, like to party, and talk about sex in a very detached off-hand sort of way. Growing up in the 60s and 70s we  were much the same way. Going to an event like Burning Man for years, made me more comfortable around edgy people.

It sounds like the kind of story that would be suitable for an English class and some discussion.

I have always felt that my own outdoor adventures have been much more than outdoor re-creation and more of a mental health plan.

 

8:05 a.m. on December 16, 2014 (EST)
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They've finally announced that "A Walk in the Woods," starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte, will premiere at Sundance in January.

I'm even more excited about this one.

http://www.sundance.org/projects/a-walk-in-the-woods

http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2014/12/15/2015-sundance-film-festival-adds-10-new-works/

December 10, 2019
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