An article recently published by the The New Yorker is one of the most eloquent apologies I’ve ever read. In it, Jon Krakauer admits that in his 1996 book, Into the Wild, he comes to the wrong conclusion in his description of Chris McCandless’s death.
Originally thought to have misidentified one species of wild potato for another, McCandless’s death is viewed by some readers as a mix of arrogance and young foolhardiness. Here Krakauer brings light to an article written by Ronald Hamilton which disputes Krakauer’s findings, claiming instead that a neurotoxin known as ODAP was present in the seeds of two wild potato species (Hedysarum aplpinum and Hedysarum mackenzii) which McCandless was known to have eaten in large quantities during the weeks leading up to his death.
Krakauer admits that, “Hamilton’s discovery that McCandless perished because he ate toxic seeds is unlikely to persuade many Alaskans to regard McCandless in a more sympathetic light, but it may prevent other backcountry foragers from accidentally poisoning themselves.”
It is very difficult to admit that you are wrong, in any aspect of your life or work, but in this article Krakauer has graciously admitted his error and presented the true evidence in an un-biased, non-critical manner. Additionally, he has done so on a national, nay international, level. Read by millions across the globe, by publishing this in the The New Yorker, Krakauer is guaranteeing his admission will be read far and wide.
I admire Krakauer’s honesty and ease with such an admission. His talent for writing and resolve to find the entire story has always been inspiring to me and now I have another reason to keep him on the list of author’s I admire.