Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Part Fourteen of a review of "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail," Chapter Six, Part Four: This Stupid Chapter Finally Ends

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

Part Fourteen: Chapter Six, Part Three: This Stupid Chapter Finally Ends

Cheryl wakes up on the morning of Day 14 of her Healing Quest in the Wilderness and immediately starts throwing herself a pity-party about how much pain she's in and I don't care.  She feels the need to describe her every ache and pain every few pages throughout the entire book and YOU KNOW WHAT?  Distance hiking is hard on the body even for experienced, prepared hikers, and yet experienced, prepared hikers don't feel the need to bring up all of their maladies every few minutes or so.  It goes with the territory; deal with it.  Nobody cares.  Welcome to distance hiking, asshole.

She once again takes goddamned forever to pack up camp and leave at a reasonable hour and, due to this, is approached by real hikers who have probably been up and hiking since sunup like intelligent people.  Albert and Matt, "a father-and-son team from Georgia," come up upon her, and she says that "both of them had been Eagle Scouts and they looked it."  And here we go now with Cheryl's flawless total recall of a conversation that took place 20 years ago:

"'Jiminy cricket,' Albert drawled when he saw Monster [told you, get used to it]. 'What you got in there, girly-o?  Looks like everything but the kitchen sink."

"No person talks like this." -- Jaime. 


Translation:  "Well!  Golly, gee willikers, lady!  I'm white and from a Southern state you've never been to, so I talk like this because your only knowledge of white people from the South comes from your recollection of episodes of 'The Andy Griffith Show!'  Gosh, your backpack sure does look heavy!" 

Cheryl insists on writing dialogue in an offensively stereotypical manner whenever she encounters a type person who had not before existed in Cheryl World.  Aside from O.J. Simpson, there is only one black person in this whole book and we already met him back in Chapter Five, when Cheryl wrote his dialogue in such a way as to suggest that he just escaped from a plantation, and now she's writing dialogue for Southern white people in the ridiculous way she seems to think white people from the South talk.  I found myself actually hoping for more kinds of people to unexpectedly show up on the trail so I could see what she would make them say, like maybe a Mexican guy could walk up and say, "Yo quiero Taco Bell," or a Chinese guy could exclaim, "You numbah wan rady!" or whatever insane bullshit popped into her stupid head.  She's a real humanitarian, this lady.
Anyway, back to Andy and Opie.
"I could feel their eyes on me, read them as they shifted from one thought to the next, as they registered my preposterous pack and my dubious grasp of the business at hand, while also acknowledging the moxie it had taken to make it this far on my own."
I'm sure that's exactly what they were thinking.
A conversation that I doubt ever took place happens, when Albert asks her how many times she's been urinating per day, and I assume that Cheryl probably accidentally found some information about the physiological aspects of hiking when she was doing her "research" 20 years after the fact and felt the need to weave her new-found knowledge into a non-existent conversation, where she learns that the "Boy Scout rule" is to be urinating seven times a day.  There are no words for my profound exasperation.
She tells them about the OMG WTF WAS THAT NON-BLACK-BEAR-TYPE-THING she saw and Albert tells her what we already knew: there are different kinds of bears of varying colors.
Cheryl then just about creams her pants when she tells them about Greg.
"'There's another guy up ahead named Greg,' I said.  'I met him a couple days ago...'  My insides leapt when I spoke Greg's name, for no other reason than he was the only person I knew on the trail."
And because you're a whore.
Yeah, yeah, they already were aware of him, and then told her that there were "another couple of fellas" behind them who would "likely be along at any time." 
"Two kids named Doug and Tom, about the same age as y'all.  They started not long before you did, a touch south."

Cheryl then has what I can only describe as some sort of optimistic meltdown, which makes no sense when you think about it, but then again, this is Cheryl, so it sorta does.  She's gonna beat Doug and Tom to Kennedy Meadows no matter what because omg she's so tough and hardcore and she's gonna show everybody how tough and hardcore she is by beating two people she was already ahead of to the next checkpoint that was super close.  I know.  I'm already impressed, too.  She's amazing.

Just as we're starting to think that this book is going to be about hiking the trail from now on *BOOM* clumsy flashback and eeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrgggggggghhhhhhhhhhh, I DON'T CARE ABOUT ANY OF THIS but I'm not going to spare you the details as I've been doing in the past.  I'm sorry, but I had to suffer through all of this, and you should have to do the same.

Cheryl realizes that pretending to hike the PCT is "the hardest thing [she'd] ever done," and then holy fuck, total meltdown.  No, wait-- the hardest thing she'd ever done was "watching her mother die," (except that didn't actually happen because she was off doing something else when her mother died), but wait, no, ruining her marriage was also the hardest thing she'd ever done (and since she managed to ruin her marriage by banging tons of men, I wonder if she realized the tongue-in-cheek reference to "the hardest thing") and blah blah blah, here we go.

I hate this as much as you do.

Honestly, I hate it infinitely more than you do, because I actually had to read this piss and you just get to enjoy my angry take on it.

OH MY GOD, SHE CHEATED ON HER HUSBAND, LET'S ALL FEEL SUPER SORRY FOR HER RIGHT THIS SECOND.  That's what is supposed to happen at this point: we're supposed to feel sorry for her.

Oh, god, I can't.  I just can't.  But I'll try to suppress my gag reflex long enough to relay the most of it. 

Flashback to the weeks and months and decades and centuries leading up to her divorce (you don't even know how much I'm still sparing you), and sorry, blah, blah, blah, I just can't, and then, Cheryl and Paul, drunk in her apartment, come across the wedding vows they'd written for one another and oh my god--

--they actually had given their vows a title, and that title was, "The Day the Daisies Bloomed," and fuck me right in the face, I need to go vomit on something.

Blaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrggggggghhhhh, I'm sorry, I just can't, and they finally get their divorce.  Here's when Cheryl comes up with the awesome idea to change her last name to "Strayed."  The word "strayed" comes into her brain and

"Immediately, I looked it up in the dictionary and knew it was mine."
"You didn't know what it meant?" --Jaime
Cheryl must have a special Cheryl dictionary, because her dictionary's "layered definitions spoke directly to [her] life and also struck a poetic chord"--
"to wander from the proper path, to deviate from the direct course, to be lost, to become wild, to be without a mother or father, to be without a home, to move about aimlessly in search of something, to diverge or digress."

That's so weird, because when I looked up the definition of "strayed," I found the following:

to deviate from the direct course, leave the proper place, or go beyond the proper limits, especially without a fixed course or purpose; ramble.
to wander; roam.
to go astray; deviate, as from a moral, religious, or philosophical course.
to digress or become distracted.


Anyway, Cheryl just falls in love with her own made-up definition of the word "strayed" and decides that this will be her new last name because she's super clever like that, and also because she is twelve years old.

"Cheryl Strayed I wrote repeatedly down a whole page of my journal, like a girl with a crush on a boy she hoped to marry. Only the boy didn't exist.  I was my own boy."

I CAN'T, I CAN'T, I CAN'T, I JUST--- oh, god, just go ahead and thank me for not subjecting you to the rest of this bullshit.

They divorce.  The end.  Thank god, this is the end of Chapter Six.


  1. Yeah. Funny. When I look up "Strayed" with a capital "S", it says "poser of epic proportions who cheated on her husband, dropped out of college for bullshit reasons, and thought of boning a nurse while her mom was in agony". Someone really needs to talk to Websters.

    Did you notice, too, that she completely digs on the fact that there are only men behind and in front of her. Except, well, we know from the actual trail registries that that's not true.

    The stereotyping. Oh Lord. The stereotyping. You know the screen writer had to take her aside and go, "Hey, Cheryl, um...yeah...we can't have people talk this way." Only in the hands of Cheryl Strayed could a competent father and an eagle scout devolve to Amos and Andy.
    I think she just wanted to beat Tim and Whats-his-face to Greg.

    1. LMAO, your definition is brilliant.

      Don't forget what a big feminist she's supposed to be... and yet her self-worth is based entirely on what men think of her. Ugh.

    2. yeah but ever single man who has ever met her admires her, yearns for her, aches to impress her! All of them.

  2. Ah yes ... the chapter in which she sets back by decades the cause of everyone who ever wanted to obtain a legal name change and be taken seriously about it.

    Also, she took this weird name because she felt it suited her - and heck, seeing as how she strayed in her marriage and strayed from the PCT to catch a ride every time things got hard, I can't disagree. But ... SHE PASSED THIS NAME ON TO HER CHILDREN. Poor Carver and Bobbi, saddled with a name like Strayed when they had *literally never deviated from any proper course of anything in their entire lives*.

  3. I really enjoyed this post because I like racially charged humour, and because I also like making fun of wedding vows, which are super stupid.

    Anyway, I read the paragraph starting with the word 'Cheryl' and ending with the words 'humanitarian, this lady' to my wife (I did it with accents and everything) and my wife said, "oh my god she's so mean!", meaning you. But she was also laughing. Like me, she will never read the book, we just watched the movie together a few nights ago.

    By the way the screenplay was written by Nick Hornby, who actually has a lot of skill, so none of this hokey/racist dialogue made it into the film. My wife didn't know about the memoir, saw his credit and thought he had made the whole thing up himself. Its a shame the story is not ~explicitly~ fictional....

  4. I think the thing about her choosing "strayed" that pisses me off so much is she seems to be celebrating her abhorrent treatment of others. She seems proud of her irresponsibility. Her cruelty. Her lack or preparedness and respect for the hike, her husband, her shitty decisions. "Hubris" would have been a way better pick.

  5. How is it no one she met thus far has a trail name? Thru hikers have trail names, damnit.

  6. I know I'm late to this too, but in the middle of reading the book and this blog again (it's too hilarious for one reading!) I came across a confusing point. In this chapter she talks about getting married young, then she and Paul move to Ireland and England for numerous months; she turns 20 in this time frame. They move back home and "shortly after" her mom dies.
    But wait.
    I thought she was going to a 4 year college with her mom when her mom gets sick and quickly dies (and Cheryl doesn't graduate for not writing a 5 page paper).
    So when did she live in Europe for nearly a year?

  7. Wow. I can't continue reading your vile diatribe. You call a fellow woman a whore--yet claim elsewhere that you are pro-choice, which suggests you have a passing acquaintance with feminism.

    You are angry that she talks about her mother dying? The whole point of the book was her journey of dealing with that and yeah, she made some bad choices (I am sure YOU have never made bad choices because you are so perfect and able to hike effortlessly across the entire country taking selfies at every landmark) but she also acknowledged them. Have you ever looked at something you did and said "Why the fuck did I do that?"

    Wow. I hope your spewing of hatred (and going around to every blog you could find and continuing to spew hatred) was fulfilling for you. You'd fucking hate me. I can't do more than 4-5 miles a day on my thru-hikes and my pack weighs a shit-ton because I need a lot of stuff. How DARE I not hike in the approved fashion of the Blog Queen? How dare I have different goals than just putting one foot in front of the other?

    I'll look forward to reading YOUR book if you ever get it published. But I won't bother to blog about it for two months because I'm not that jealous.

    Oh--and one of your commenters keeps authoritatively giving the weather reports for 1996. Cheryl hiked in 1995.

    I don't like her! She must be lying!

    I don't know if this comment will post because I don't have an account and I am on a library computer--and even if it does I am sure you'll delete it because god-forbid anyone criticize your rant, but sheesh girl. I hope you get a life. This book didn't change my life--I am not planning to head to the PCT or worship at Cheryl's feet. She's flawed, as are we all.

    I enjoyed the story and she made me laugh many times. Do you not get that someone hollering "MOOSE!" and it turns out to be a cow is FUNNY?

    1. Whoops, my bad. The commenter did have the right year for the weather reports.

  8. This blog is more entertaining than that lying whore's book of bullshit.
    Yeah I said whore because that is what she is. The word "whore" applies to both males & females that lie & cheat.
    That whole book is "flawed" not just the author.