Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Book Burners' Club: Journey with Cheryl Strayed's WILD PCT Trek via the Words She Read

"The flowery cover of The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor was unbent.  The same could not be said of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, or rather the thin portion of the book I still had in my pack. I'd torn off the cover and all the pages I'd read the night before and burned them in the little aluminum pie pan I'd brought .... I'd watched Faulkner's name disappear into flames feeling a bit like it was sacrilege —never had I dreamed I'd be burning books — bit I was desperate to lighten my load." ~Cheryl Strayed, Wild

I picked up a copy of Wild after discovering Cheryl's writing on The Rumpus, and then reading that Reese Witherspoon will be playing her in the film adaptation.  I always try to read the book before the movie -- no offense, Reese, but the books are almost always better.  But I'm excited to see how they capture the beauty of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Despite sobbing through the first part in public (I don't recommend cracking open the first chapter, about her mom, on a plane, tears like that FREAK OUT men in middle seats) I loved reading Wild.  I lived vicariously through Cheryl's solo journey, making mental notes that it is always better to lighten the load, shed the unnecessary.

Who's in to start a Book Burner's Club here on the blog, and read Cheryl's trail books together?   As a writer, I wondered what she took away from the books she read along the trail. We can read them in light of that, such as when Anse ruminates on the nature of putting down roots in As I Lay Dying, "Because the Lord put roads for travelling ... when he aims for something to be always a-moving, he makes it long ways, like a road ... but when he aims for something to stay put, He makes it up-and-down ways, like a tree or a man."

As a frequent nomad, I've felt both the need to hit the road, and travel to the unknown, as well as appreciate what it means to put down roots, and learn from the unexpected unknown you may discover in your own city, backyard, or best friend.

So that's the focus, and we can meander off the trail to wherever each book leads.  We'll note where she was on the trail, talk about our own wandering paths, and create a bit more community via words, here in the Blog comments.

1. Wild, Cheryl Strayed
2. As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
3. The Dream of Common Language, Adrienne Rich
4. The Complete Stories, Flannery O'Connor
5. The Novel, James Michener (her mother's favorite writer)
6. A Summer Birdcage, Margaret Drabble (May have to hunt via Amazon or your local used bookstore.)
7. Dubliners, James Joyce
8. Waiting for the Barbarians, J.M. Coetzee
9. The Best American Essays, 1991
10. The Ten Thousand Things, Maria Dermoût

When should we start talking about Wild and As I Lay Dying?  Start with talking those two in December?  Say Tuesday, 17th? 

If you want reminders, message me at rebecca.snavely [at] gmail [dot] com!

If you haven't read Wild, go to to order online (Strayed now lives in Portland, so support PDX!). Along with that, we'll start in on Faulkner, her first trail book, leaving out Staying Found and the Pacific Crest Trail guides.

Without physically burning books, or reading them by the light of a flickering headlamp, we can take part of the journey Strayed traveled, sans heavy backpack, bears, snakes, and missing toenails.  Who's in?

(Photo: WWeek)


Judy Olmsted said...

Loved "Wild," maybe one of my all time favorites. They were filming apart of it this past week at the former Mt. Pleasant school here in Oregon City. Happy reading!

Rebecca Snavely said...

Thanks Judy! I loved it, too. Excited to read all the books she read - with the shorter days and darker nights, it's perfect for cuddling up with a book. Hope you're well - thanks for leaving a note!