It has been 20 years since Chris McCandless starved to death in Alaska during an attempt to live simply and alone in what he considered wilderness. McCandless's story captured the popular American consciousness through the work of author John Krakauer, first in a lenthy 1993 magazine article, then in the 1996 book "Into the Wild," which itself inspired a 2007 movie.
McCandless's death and Krakauer's account touched off a huge debate in Alaska and America. Should the dead young man be pitied? Feared? Mocked? Lionized? Was he a martyr? Gallant or Goofus? Mentally ill? Was he just another arrogant Outsider full of disrespect for Alaska and its people? A daring adventurer who did what self-important Alaskans only dream of? Was he a literary character or a real person?
The years since McCandless's wasted body was found have not blunted the passion with which people have expressed their point of view. The following exchange proves that if nothing else. It begins with an Aug. 20 column by Alaska Dispatch's Craig Medred, taking issue with a column by Pete Mason for The Huffington Post.