This Blog is Dedicated to our dear friend Karen.
When she left this life she left a hole in our hearts as well as several to be read books.
We, her friends, will read these books for her.
This blog will be a sort of book club for us to post our thoughts and feelings about the stories and feelings we have of Karen while we read.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

#57 Walden on Wheels by Ken Ilgunas


Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Ilgunas does a good job showing how he developed his life philosophy - broke college student gets opportunity to spend a summer in Alaska, pays off debt by living frugally, decides to go back to graduate school without going back into debt, so he decides to live in a van (down by the riv-) no, just in a van in a parking lot.To no one's surprise, he quotes Thoreau and Emerson a lot, but toward the end points out that Thoreau was a poseur, since Walden Pond was only a couple miles outside of town and his mom did his laundry for him (but Ilgunas did his own freekin' laundry, and wouldn't accept money from his mom, so take that, Mr. Thoreau!)
I was disappointed that, after developing this frugal life philosophy throughout the book, the author backtracks at the end and says, well, maybe it is ok to live in an apartment and take out a loan to buy a house and let your mom give you gifts of money. But only because you don't want to hurt her feelings. I was also disappointed that some of the best descriptive nature writing I've ever read was often followed by sophomoric poop humor. Some of Ilgunas' writing feels like it's straight out of English Comp 100, but at other times - usually when writing about the Alaska wilderness - it feels like it's been written by a man with 20 or 30 more years of writing experience.

I should caution the reader that, while the book is promoted as being about the author's experience living in a van ("vandwelling", he calls it), a little less than half of the book covers that topic. The remainder of the book deals with Ilgunas' time in Alaska, as a voyageur in Canada, hitchiking across the US, and working in post-Katrina Mississippi. But for the most part, it's all beautiful, and it makes me want to work harder on paying off my debts, so I can go on a wander of my own. But I'm not living in a van.


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