“He wished to be unconditionally alone, exiled to an island of his own creation, an uncontacted tribe of one.”
In 1986, 20-year-old Christopher Knight drove his car to the edge of a forest in rural Maine, abandoned it by the side of the road, and disappeared into the woods for 27 years.
In 2013 he was arrested while burglarizing a local camp. It turns out he had burglarized homes and camps in the area thousands of times over the years for food and supplies. To locals, he was a bit of an urban legend: everyone knew he was out there, but no one had ever seen him.
I remember reading a GQ article about Knight a few years ago and being fascinated by his story. This book, by the same writer of that article, digs even deeper.
It’s a compelling account of one man’s fascinating life, with insights into Knight himself alongside more general psychological insights into the nature of solitude.
There’s a sense of moral grey area surrounding Knight: folks in the community are torn on whether they respect or despise him. Some wish for him to be released from prison so he can retreat to the woods, claiming that he never hurt anyone. Others, frequent victims of his burglaries, speak of feeling violated and terrorized by his crimes. Even the prosecutor admits that the law isn’t set up for outlier cases like this.
I imagine that most readers will fall on the side of empathizing with Knight. There’s a universality about his story in spite of how unique it is: he, like all of us, only wanted contentment.
As interesting as it was, I had a distinct feeling throughout that I shouldn’t be reading it. I felt as if I were intruding on Knight. And despite him allegedly giving the writer explicit permission to write this book, I’m not convinced that’s what he really wanted. Of course, this could be me projecting onto Knight.
And that’s perhaps the most interesting about all of this: there’s an intense desire to understand Knight—by both the writer and us readers—but an underlying feeling that he can’t and doesn’t want to be understood. There’s a coy secrecy about him; in interviews he’s clever, droll, reticent, and immensely intelligent. Maybe he gave the book his blessing because he knew that although it appeared to reveal so much about him, it actually revealed very little about who he really is.
what are the last 5 or 10 books you have read? what are you reading now. do you have any opinions on the best books of 2017 so far?
Currently, I’m reading Wrestling With His Angel: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln, Volume II, 1849-1856 (BOOK | KINDLE). It’s the second volume of what is planned to be a four-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln by Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime Bill and Hillary Clinton loyalist who has been a lightning rod for conservatives for the past quarter-century. Despite the level of disdain that most Republicans have long felt towards Blumenthal, they would be doing themselves a disservice if they skip this biographical series because of it. Quite frankly, Blumenthal’s first two volumes in The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln have the makings of a masterpiece of political biography. The first volume, A Self-Made Man: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln, Volume I, 1809-1849 (BOOK | KINDLE), was released in May 2016, and Wrestling With His Angel was released last week. I’m planning on writing a full review of the book as soon as I finish reading it, but don’t miss out on this series just because you might not share Blumenthal’s own political outlook. This is purely history, and it’s REALLY good history. I admittedly had a difficult time picking up Karl Rove’s 2015 book, The Triumph of William McKinley: Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters (BOOK | KINDLE), and reading it with an open mind, but I’m glad I did because it was a solid history book by a guy who I just happened to strongly disagree with when it came to his own political ideology.
Wrestling With His Angel is definitely a contender for the best book that I’ve read in 2017 so far, but I think that Michael Finkel’s The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit(BOOK | KINDLE) is at the top of my list right now. “I couldn’t put the book down” is an overused description, but I really did read Finkel’s book – about a man who retreated from normal life and lived in the woods of Maine, without any other human contact, for 27 years – in one sitting. And the book had a powerful effect on me that I can’t really describe. It just has stayed with me for the past three or four months since I read it. It’s absolutely fascinating.
I did examine myself,” he said. “Solitude did increase my perception. But here’s the tricky thing—when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. With no audience, no one to perform for, I was just there. There was no need to define myself; I became irrelevant. The moon was the minute hand, the seasons the hour hand. I didn’t even have a name. I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free.
Christopher Thomas Knight via “The Strange Tale of the North Pond Hermit” interviews by Michael Finkel
“True Story” Trailer Starring James Franco and Jonah Hill
Known more for their efforts in comedy, James Franco and Jonah Hill take on a more serious role in True Story, a gripping drama that deals with the pursuit of uncovering the truth behind a horrific murder. The film follows Journalist Michael Finkel (Hill) and his relationship with Christian Longo, an FBI Most Wanted List murderer who has been using Finkel’s name as his alias for years, as Finkel tries to explore whether or not he’s truly discovering the truth, or whether he’s actually part of a bigger plan.