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Life and Death in the Wild
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March 17, 2003
Former Washington Post staffer Chip Brown offers a vibrant portrait of multitalented, enigmatic outdoorsman Guy Waterman, whose son Jon's climbing-related death was chronicled in Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild.
Beneath a title borrowed from Emily Dickinson, a ghostly mountaineer cover photo evokes events leading to the 67-year-old's carefully planned, snowy, subzero suicide in February 2000.
Opening with the retrieval of Waterman's body from New Hampshire's Franconia Ridge, Brown traces Waterman's life and career. Inspired by Helen and Scott Nearing's back-to-the-land bible, Living the Good Life, Guy and Laura Waterman left New York City in 1973 to live off the land in Vermont.
The conservationist couple collaborated on adventure-type magazine pieces and books and found an intimacy with the earth, but dark clouds of grief over losing his two sons (another son, Bill, died in a mountaineering accident, too) hovered.
By 1992, Waterman saw suicide as a sensible option and wrote, I'm prepared to accept sixty years as a sufficient lifetime; and my intermittent glories as a piano player, politician, father, homesteader, and mountain environmental advocate and activist as concluded.
His final message read, Do not take special efforts to save life. Death is intended. Mapping an existential journey through life and death, Brown has blazed a poetic path into Waterman's soul.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.