Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Part Four of a review of "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail," Chapter One, except not really.

A review of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed

Part Four: Chapter One, except not really.

I'm gonna be honest with you: I am not looking forward to reviewing this chapter.  Allow me to illustrate my dread with the following photos of previously made margin notes:

There's that angry handwriting again.
Still angry.
Starting to lose my patience.
Had just about enough.
About to lose my shit.
(Please notice the different handwriting at the end of the chapter-- for future reference, anything written in cursive is courtesy of my awesome friend, Jaime, who was forced to read this book upon my demand.  I don't know if she'll ever forgive me for this.)
I want so badly to just write, "CHAPTER ONE IS A COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME" and be done with it, but that wouldn't be fair to you, so I'm going to bite the bullet and force myself to go into detail. 
Before I do this, allow me to explain a couple things.
I am a distance-hiker, and have been for several years.  I usually have two days off from work every week, and I walk anywhere from 20 to 40 miles on my days off (each day).  Also, a couple years ago, I had some vacation time to burn and I decided to walk from San Diego to Los Angeles just to give myself something to do.  I will tell you now that while making a long-distance hike seems like an incredibly entertaining thing, it is not.  I enjoyed every minute of that 120-mile hike, but there really wasn't much to say about it.  It was simply just one foot in front of the other for two and a half days.  The incredible thing was doing it; the walk itself was relatively uneventful.  There is nothing to say about a long hike, yet some people who have made such hikes don't seem to realize this.  They try to write books about it.
There is a book called "By Men or By the Earth: A Corporate Lawyer Walks Out on Law, Love, and Life, and Walks Across America With His Adopted Dog," by a man named Tyler Coulson.  For years now, I've dreamt of walking across America (there are only 5 things on my bucket list: to hike the PCT, the Appalachian Trail , the American Discovery Trail, the entire length of the original Highway 66 and, finally, the King's Highway), so when I found this book while I was researching everything having to do with making a coast-to-coast trek, I was so excited to read it.  I ordered it immediately and couldn't wait for it to arrive.  I ended up reading half of it.  You see, at least Mr. Coulson was considerate enough to break his book down into walking and non-walking chapters.  He did it in a maddening, lawyerly way, but he was at least clear enough in the separation that I was able to easily skip the non-walking, "let-me-tell-you-all-about-my-personal-drama" parts, which consisted of about half of the book. 
This is the mistake that every "author" makes when he or she is writing about a long trek, but I totally understand why they do it: because writing about walking is boring as fuck and they need to fill the pages with something.  The mistake they make is failing to realize that anyone who is bothering to track down a book on this very subject WILL NOT CARE ABOUT THE NON-WALK-RELATED BULLSHIT. 
I get it.  I really do.  My understanding, however, does not excuse the bullshit.
That said, let's get back to Wild.
Cheryl barely managed to cover much of the 1100 miles she claimed to have hiked-- let's give her the benefit of the doubt and say she hiked at least half of this mileage-- and, as I've pointed out, there isn't much to say about a hike like this, so she felt the need to fill her "memoir" with an unbearable amount of personal bullshit.   I DO NOT CARE.
Unfortunately, Cheryl doesn't even do us the small favor that Mr. Coulson did: she weaves her personal bullshit into every page of the whole book.
Digression over.  
I'm sorry.
I can't even bring myself to review this chapter today.  I no longer have the mental strength; tomorrow is another day.
The laughter will return tomorrow.  I promise.


  1. I actually enjoy reading about personal growth and self-discovery, in the hands of an author with the skill and humanity to make me care. I really wanted to like this book, and to admire the author. A young woman, struggling with grief and the aftermath of some regrettable choices, setting out to find clarity and a new beginning by tackling something ambitious and strenuous and worthwhile: that could have been good. It's the kind of thing that's hard to pull off without getting Iincredibly saccharine, but in the right hands, it could be moving and compelling. I'd wanted to read this book for a couple years, and then I finally picked it up and it was as if Cheryl were actually defying my attempts to connect with her, knocking me again and again out of that groove of empathy a reader needs to be able to settle into until I no longer even wanted to try.

    Want to hear something truly awful? As of two days ago, "Wild" was #1 in the camping/hiking guides category at That it was #1 isn't actually the worst part - why oh WHY is this listed as a camping/hiking guide at all? WHY? I wonder if they also list "Julie and Julia" in the cookbook department, or "Mommie Dearest" among the parenting guides ...

  2. I agree. Wild should be shelved in the self-help or autobiographical book on a stores shelves: however, I disagree that good hiking books can't be written. I've read several really inspiring titles. Two, that are specifically PCT related are, "Dances with Marmots" and "Zero Days". The second book would've been a far better novel than Cheryl's book since one of the authors and hikers is a tucking child...a child who hiked the whole trail and earned the respect of all who met her.

    But, dude...I'm reading your blog in chronological order and I'm starting to wonder if you're meta-punking your readers by complaining about an author who can't get to the good shit while simultaneously failing to get to the good shit. Lol.

    1. This made me laugh.

      The day I wrote this part of the review, the magnitude of what I was attempting finally sunk in and I think I needed one more day to come to terms with the fact that I would likely be devoting at least a good month of my life to this stupid piece of crap book.. I'm so glad that you decided to keep reading.

    2. I'm glad you decided to keep writing ... this blog is truly so awesome that it almost justifies the existence of the book in the first place.

      I haven't commented here in a while because I've been busy celebrating Christmas with my family. Guess what my mom got for Christmas from another relative? Yup, a copy of "Wild." I said "I just finished reading that!" and immediately regretted it, because of course she asked "Is it good?" and it would have been terribly impolite to say "Not unless you're into hate-reading" with the gift-giver in the same room. I went with "It's interesting, all right."

    3. Good to see you back!

      Your poor mom.

      My mother was the one who recommended this book to me because I'm a hiker and she thought I'd love it. She does not approve of my review. LMAO.

    4. My mom is reading it now and she *loves* it. Then again, she hasn't finished it yet, so she probably expects Cheryl will actually experience some kind of "OMG I'm a horrible person!" moment and then proceed to become a better person. Then again, I wouldn't be the first daughter ever to have more sophisticated literary tastes than her mother. *snort*

    5. This is truly harsh critique . I don't see what all of your problems are with Cheryl Strayeds book. A little jealousy maybe? How many of you have a successful book and movie about your life? I enjoyed the movie and then read the book. I can't imagine such a long journey as an inexperienced hiker. What a journey and experiences!
      Good enough for Oprah and Reese Witherspoon and good enough for me. X x

    6. I agree with Gale in a sense. You blog title certainly piqued my interest as I am slouching about going on google trails to nowhere. And it lead me to your go fund me. To be honesty honey - if I had found the go fund me first, i would have supported you - but you are talking about the good in people and you have dedicated an entire blog to being hateful and cruel about someone. I just don't get it - or maybe i do - its the only way to get people to look at your go fundme site...which is sad.....really sad.

  3. Did anyone else notice that the section about buying her initial supplies was a nearly-complete plagarization of Bill Bryson's section on the same subject in his "A Walk in the Woods"?

    1. YES!!
      I started "Wild" only minutes after finishing "A Walk in the Woods" and I was immediately struck by how that section seemed to be lifted straight from Bryson's book. That was exactly the moment I began suspecting that something wasnt quite what it seemed....

  4. I just whipped out my copy of "A Walk in the Woods" to look into this and I guess never noticed before, probably because Bill didn't have an abortion right before packing. But you're right, this is strikingly similar.

    1. I mean. That we _know of_. Bill is occasionally British and somewhat more discrete.

      But yeah, fuck her.

    2. You have your opinions on abortion, harsh! I say, who are you to have such strong opinions when you're just judging other people when I am sure you are not perfect. Bitterness will get you nowhere_ he who cast the first stone................

    3. Says the guy who just bothered to leave a negative comment about a negative comment posted over a year ago. Oh the Irony! Holding that much hypocrisy in must lead to awful hemorrhoids.

    4. its just really fucking shocking to read the hatred. But you are right mercer, from over a year ago - I am OFF THIS PAGE. Gross.

  5. I have read every thing she has wrote they all start the same

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  7. It is possible to write an interesting book about a journey that isn't just repetitive justifications of one's own failings. i.e. it's possible to not write "Wild".

    "The Man Who Walked Through Time" by Colin Fletcher comes to mind. Or "Coming into the Country" (the 1/3 of the book at the kayaking trip on the North Slope of Alaska) by John McPhee. No one gets pregnant, laid, strung out, no horses or moms die and yet they are captivating reads. In part because they're great descriptive writing and also because they include actual facts and information.