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September 08, 1998 - Image 24

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1998-09-08

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24A - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, September 8, 1998

Into The Wild
Jon Krakauer
Anchor Books
In a fast paced world defined by material-
ism and superficiality, it is often quite diffi-
cult to remain grounded. Perhaps this is espe-
cially so for college students who too easily
become trapped by the spiraling game of
competition. But, for a moment, imagine the
other extreme. Imagine a college student
immediately after graduation donating all of
his savings to charity, divorcing his family
and friends and packing a single backpack to
Bead out into the Alaskan wilderness to live
df the land.
Such is the fascinating story of Chris
MrecCandless. In his non-fiction novel, "Into
the Wild", Jon Krakauer documents the trag-
ic truthful story of one determined teen.
The story of Chris McCandless is frighten-
mg and catastrophic. After graduating form
Emory with honors in 1992, McCandless
donates $25,000, his entire savings, to a
charity. He then abandons his family and all
his possessions, burns the cash in his wallet
and walks into the treacherous Alaskan
wilderness alone.
There, he intends to live a life adhering to
the non-materialistic teachings of Tolstoy. In
addition, he tries to emulate the purity that
Thoreau achieves and documents in his novel
McCandless is quite intelligent and for a
short while achieves the simplicity he so des-
perately desires. He lives off of the edible
plants of the land. Though he is able to sur-
vive for a decent amount of time, one or two
minor mistakes prove disastrous. Four
months after he enters the Alaskan wilder-
Mless, McCandless' decomposed body is
found by a moose hunter.
Krakauer, author of "Into Thin Air: A
Personal Account of the Mt. Everest
Disaster," is no novice to the non-fiction
.ovel. Unfortunately, one would never know.
While the story that he documents is fasci-
nating, his writing style is far less than so.
"-is experience as a journalist is quite appar-
ent, but it seems as though he lost sight of the
fact that his book is just that -- a book, not
at oversized newspaper.
Apparently, the author knows a great deal
of the story and did intense and thorough
research into the case. But he has far from
mastered the art of non-fiction novel writing.
Krakauer's method of writing is not cohc-
.Ksive and therefore does not flow. Within the
first few pages, the story of McCandless is
-old in its entirety. The rest of the novel con-
$st of interviews with those who came in
contract with McCandless during his jour-

writes memoir; star exposes

The interviews and anecdotes, however, do
little to shed light on the story. To further
confuse the reader, Krakauer jumps around
from before McCandless's tragic adventure
to after his death with no transitions.
This is not to say that this book is not
worth reading. The truth and intrigue of the
story are, fortunately for Krakauer, more
than strong enough to sustain the reader's
If not for the intensity of the story, the
reader would surely not get past the second
chapter. The story sheds light on what makes
people tick and how close all men are to slip-
ping into a world of unreality.
Krakauer's intent was to explore "the grip
wilderness has on the American imagination,
the allure high-risk activities hold for young
men of a certain mind, and the complicated,
highly charged bond that exists between
fathers and son." This he
does successfully.
But Krakauer makes
a huge literary mistake.>
He felt that the tale
struck such a personal
note that it made it
impossible for him to>
write the story dispassionately.
Instead of merely weaving his
emotion into this tragedy, he feels
the need to share his own life experi
ences in hopes of shedding light on this
enigma. He fails.
This story is not about Krakauer, and, quite
frankly, no one is interested in how similar he
finds himself to be to McCandless. His
naivete does little to share any insight on
McCandless as they are two completely sep-
arate people whose paths never even crossed.
His need to write about himself only com-
ments on his narcissism and need for a ther-
apist and does little to shed light on the story
of Chris McCandless as he had hoped it
While the story of McCandless will defi-
nitely dissuade people from entering into the
bitter wilderness unprepared, it will perhaps
also persuade people to enter into the wild of
the heart.
- By Corinne Schneider
Tale of a Sky-Blue Dress
Thylias Moss
Bard Publishing
Is "Tale of a Sky-Blue Dress," University
Professor Thylias Moss's recently published
memoir, really about a dress ?

Well, yes, partially. A sky-blue dress is
only one of several images that weave their
way through Moss's new book and, as such,
weave through her life from early childhood
through the present.
Everyone has at least one memory of a
childhood event that impacted his or her life.
For Moss, such an event took the form of
pale blue crinoline and taffeta, worn by a
teenage babysitter named Lytta.
Lytta's "reign in the kingdom of Lills," the
street in Ohio where Moss was raised, lasted
several years and was a torturous experience
for the young, intelligent, unendingly opti-
mistic girl. Moss remembered Lytta - vio-
lent, bullying, and unpredictable - and her
secret abuse even as an adult, long after
Lytta's family moved away and disappeared
as a threat in the girl's life.
Moss seems to believe that even though
she never gathered the strength to ask
for help, the beatings and harass-
ment from her babysitter
strengthened her and encour-
aged her own ambition.
SaEvery action eventually
became motivated by one
goal - not to become
like Lytta.
Moss's entire mem-
oir is about the effects
of such early events on
her life. She writes with
bitterness of switching schools in junior
high, and her fruitless attempts to prove her-
sclfto her teachers and classmates. By being
forced into a position of defending her race,
she gained pride in her background.
She then candidly writes of her early sex-
ual experiences and the abusive relation-
ships in which she was involved before
meeting her husband. Moss explains why
she made the choices she made, and why she
stood by those decisions despite the conse-
What is unique about Moss's memoir is
that much of it is not unique. "Tale of a Sky-
Blue Dress" is sympathetic to the trials
everyone endures while growing up. Moss
does not minimize the value of any experi-
ence: she recognizes that every event had a
profound effect on the woman she has
Interspersed throughout the text are paren-
thetical notes and occasional pieces of poet-
ry, allowing "Tale of a Sky-Blue Dress" to
seem more like a diary than formal prose.
By the end of the story, the reader does not
pity Moss, but rather sympathizes with her,
and sees a mirror of the character-shaping
experiences of life.
Due to her recognition of hardship and its
acceptance, "Tale of a Sky-Blue Dress"
grows into a lesson of ambition and hard
work. By sharing the events of her own life,

Moss teaches the irreparable harm of silence
and the importance of confidence in oneself.
--BY Jessica Eaton
Joe Patane
Livin' In Joe's World
Harper Collins
The set-up: A beautiful house in South
Beach, seven roommates selected from an
applicant pool as big as the entire University
population and an opportunity to start a busi-
ness with $50,000 provided by MTV. The
best part? No rent! Such describes the fanta-
sy experience known by MTV as "The Real
According to Joe Patane, a former Miami
cast member of MTV's primetime soap opera
"The Real World," life in the hyped-up house
was not as glamorous as it appeared to the
average viewer. In his recently published
memoir, "Livin' In Joe's World," Patane doc-
uments what really happened behind the
catchy music and extensive film editing.
He provides a revealing and unprecedent-
ed perspective on why this opportunity sacri-
fices so much more than the selling of one's
soul to a corporate giant.
For those that are die-hard fans of the
weekly half-hour documentary, Patane's
account provides anecdotes that were not
exposed on the show, helping to piece togeth-
er confusing story lines presented over the
A prime example is the infamous shower
rendezvous between roommates Mike and
Melissa and a local waitress.
Patane reveals how the roommates tried to
come up with a detailed plan in order to dis-
tract the invasive camera while the threesome
made their way to the shower without being
captured on film.
Of course, a sexual liaison of any sort
between cast members makes for good tele-
vision ratings, and an obedient MTV camera
man must get his job done.
Another surprising anecdote is that of
Sarah, the down to earth comic book editor
from California in a house full of superficial
facades. She manages to keep her boyfriend
of a year totally hidden from the cameras, a
major feat for someone whose phone calls
are all tapped and is under constant surveil-
In these respects, "Livin' In Joe's World"
makes for an informative read for any "Real
World" junkie.
Since the show is geared toward a viewing
audience comprised of teenagers and twenty-

somethings, the book is written in a con-
pletely conversational tone, providing easy
reading with scandalous commentary value.
It gives no deeply moving lesson except that
MTV manipulates camera footage to invent
characters and enthralling story lines.
Patane uses the last 65 pages of the book to
describe how MTV destroyed his own e
and how he eventually worked to rebuild
Patane, however, fails to provide any elab-
oration into the lives of other castmates who
might have suffered from the same fate.
Members who, like Patane, were just as
angry about the tactics MTV uses for enter-
tainment value without regard to human
emotion or the possible catastrophic effects
on personal relationships.
At times it seems that Patane uses his
celebrity status that he claims to despise just
to write an autobiography of his own life
goes into extreme depths about his roma.c
relationship with Nic, their personal battles
and his attempts to make amends with his
bitter Brooklyn family after the show.
As he states in the introduction, his pur-
pose is to put "closure to a part of my life
that I had difficulty facing and accepting,
part of my life I didn't understand or want to
admit to, part of my life that's over and I can
now move on from."
Although functional as an autobiogra-
cal memoir, the book might have wor ed
more effectively had it examined the experi-
ences of the members of other casts. This
would show the universality of feelings
regarding MTV's desire to exploit people for
ratings, which is what Patane postulates
throughout the book.
In one description, he explains, "I remem-
ber crew members warning or joking that we
should treat them right, or they'd make us
look bad."
Also, learning other cast members' qua s
with MTV and contrasting them with those
who truly enjoyed their experiences might
add more validity to what Patane claims in
his own account.
He discusses cast members in his own
house and how they had affected his own life,
but a more diverse examination into the
experiences of other casts might have made
his own claims more or less valid.
Deeper exploration could have opened e
doors to how different casts reacted andvmy
it was not only Patane's house that had prob-
lems with MTV's tactics.
Patane's memoir is a quick and enjoyable
read for "Real World" junkies who actually
watch those marathons every weekend on
But if investigative journalism on a pop
culture icon is what defines a good read, then
"Livin' In Joe's World" is probably not the
most satisfying choice.
-BY Joanne Aln r

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