By December 7, 2011 1 Comments Read More →

Finding Everett Ruess

One of the nice things about a book discussion is that you can use it as an opportunity to vent if you have issues with a book.  I might need that opportunity.

I need to vent about Finding Everett Ruess: The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer. My first issue is fame.

I know we make a big deal today about being famous for no reason.  It appears that every one has their fifteen minutes today.  However, this book shows that perhaps this is not a new phenomenon.  With all due respect to his family, Everett Ruess had no reason to be famous except he wandered around in the remote southwestern United States in 1934 and got himself good and lost.  While today the Ruess followers try to make something romantic of his life, the reality is that he was a twenty-year-old boy with potential whose limited output has been praised over time as important.  The reality is that his body of work is not significant except tied to the mystery of his disappearance. 

It reminds me of the Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) quote from the film Annie Hall:  “Sylvia Plath – interesting poetess whose tragic suicide was misinterpreted as romantic by the college girl mentality.” 

Everett Ruess shares the same fate and fame as Chris McCandless from Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer:  nice idea, poor execution.  In fact, Krakauer has a whole chapter on Ruess in his book.  Book discussion groups who were interested in that title and film may now want to share this book, or groups who have not tired Into the Wild could make it a twosome with this title. 

My second issue is the story told in this book that involves the personal search conducted by the author David Roberts.  Roberts became obsessed with Ruess in the late 1980s when he read another book on this subject, A Vagabond for Beauty by Bud Rusho.  After doing some research and a two major pieces for the National Geographic Society, he wrote this book to explain his action in a recent controversial discovery that is best left unexplained here in order not to ruin the book.

Let me just put it this way:  Roberts is as big a character in this work as Ruess and book discussion groups will have no problem doing a post-game analysis of his efforts and behavior.

Ultimately, I would have to say I read this book based on the traffic accident scenario:  horrible to look at, too interested to look away.  I think book discussion groups will enjoy this book and may want to try to watch the two filmed efforts on Ruess (that viewer beware, get panned in this book).  Just keep you wits about you and prepare ahead so that you survive the experience.



About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

1 Comment on "Finding Everett Ruess"

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  1. Interesting. All I can say is take a look at my book published at about the same time, but with a different take on Everett Ruess and an explanation of how David Roberts’s search for Ruess ended in a journalistic and scientific fiasco. The title is “Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death, and Astonishing Afterlife,” University of California Press, August 2011.

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