I was up late last night, despite exhaustion and Benadryl. (I blame my early-evening tea session.) I decided to use the time wisely by reading, and polished off The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel. It’s the story of Christopher Knight, the North Pond Hermit. Or, in other words, a monograph about an extremely selfish man, by an extremely selfish man.
My writing partner loaned me the book for Roadtrip Z survivalist stuff, and it scratched that itch nicely, I suppose. But it raised in me the same feeling of disgust Into the Wild did. Knight wanted to opt out of society and its pressures while also feeding off its benefits. He didn’t hunt, or trap, or fish–he robbed cabins and park kitchens. The people I felt the most for were the victims, in particular one woman who went to her cabin to escape and yet was robbed of any feeling of safety by Knight’s repeated break-ins.
Finkel pays lip service to the victims, of course, being more interested in quoting from the books Knight read and propping up his own self-image as the Hermit Whisperer. I only actively began to dislike Finkel at the point where he starts pursuing the just-released-from-prison Knight despite his subject’s repeated “no”s. At one point, Finkel shows up with an apple pie for Knight’s mother (who hung up on him when he called) and a bunch of lilacs, and it was so stalkerrific I was actually a bit nauseous. (Men who won’t take no for an answer aren’t only horrid to women, go figure.)
Add to that an episode of Finkel reporting suicidal ideation in Knight and a mutual crying session–patently unbelievable, my story-sniffer whiffed bullshit all over that particular chapter–with his subject, and Finkel’s attempts to worm himself into contact with Knight’s case workers afterward under the guise of being worried about the man…well, Finkel, despite his efforts to portray himself as a reasonable journalist, misses by a mile and comes off as a creep. Knight’s behavior was massively selfish, but Finkel’s edges into complete entitled bullshit. Needless to say, I wasn’t a fan of either man while reading, but when the book closed, I pitied Christopher Knight.
TL;DR: One of those books that shows you more about the author than the subject, but there’s a couple of good survivalist things in it.