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Naming the Dead

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I think I'm supporting a new subgenre of books. While it's no Debunk-The-Da-Vinci-Code (a popular publication frenzy to insist that a fictional novel isn't a nonfiction exposé), the budding industry of People- Dying-in-the-Wilderness fascinates me. Maybe it speaks to my secret desire to escape civilization for the dwindling death of deserty solitude and dehydration.

But, I love my nutrition too much.

And I'm not too askew to recognize the irony of fashioning an idealistic suicide as a means to thumb my then-deceased nose at the very objects of my misanthropy.

Since reading INTO THE WILD (a product of my viewing GRIZZLY MAN), I purchased a used (and cheap) copy of THE JOURNAL OF THE DEAD (TJotD), which sounds potentially menacing and vaguely necromantic.

TJotD has proven to be a somewhat divergent from the other two tales. Witness the blurbs from the front and back covers:

In the summer of 1999, best friends
Raffi Kodikian and David Coughlin
headed off on an American rite of
passage: a cross-country road trip.
When they reached the New Mexico
desert, they stopped to camp overnight
in Rattlesnake Canyon. Expecting
to be back on the road early the next
morning, they took just three pints
of water. But they lost their way in
the desert. Four days later help arrived...

Authorities...made a grim and shocking
discovery. Kodikian freely admitted that
he stabbed Coughlin twice in the heart.
Had there been a darker motive than
mercy? And how could anyone, under
any circumstance, kill his best friend?

While an utterly fascinating report on the incidents surrounding Coughlin's death, I was disappointed in TJotD's dry prose, which is dry enough to contribute to the parched lips and cramping stomachs of any would-be-hikers reading the book during some jaunt through nature (should they dare to bring along like some welcome portent). But, it's certainly a rendering of a captivating tale -- one destined to leave the reader with conflicted notions of what might have happened and why.

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