Jon Krakauer does not shy away from tough topics in his writing: Mormons (Under the Banner of Heaven), poisonous forest plants (Into the Wild), mountain-climbing expeditions during which almost everyone dies (Into Thin Air). So maybe he's the perfect person to write about America's current favorite hot-button issue, campus rape, which is what he's done in his new book, Missoula, out later this month.
From what scant reports have emerged about the secretive book—of which no advance copies are being made available—Krakauer narrows in on Missoula, Montana, the home of the state's flagship university, as an example of how incidents of campus rape have been grossly mishandled by university and local officials. The city was dubbed the "rape capital of America" due to the proliferation of sexual assaults there, including an alleged gang-rape involving the school's football team. The Department of Justice was called in to investigate.
Missoulians are not taking kindly to the book's forthcoming publication. An article in the Missoulian is headlined "Missoula 'hyperventilating' about Krakauer book on rapes" (though evidence of hyperventilation is slim). In a column in the same paper, Bill Speltz tries to stick up for his town and school before Krakaeur douses it in his fancy-writer shit:
While we’re waiting for the Champion of Justice [ed note: Krakauer] to enlighten us, I’d like to point out some positives springing from the Grizzly athletic department since early 2012. I probably won’t have any book publisher knocking on my door but what the heck.
My guess is we won’t read much about that stuff or UM's updated model approach for handling rape cases in “Missoula.” Nor will we see anything about last week’s announcement the Garden City has been ranked among the top six coolest towns to live in by matadornetwork.com.
Good points, Bill.
More eloquent is Montana student Jake Iverson in the school's student newspaper: "When 'Missoula' rolls out on April 21, we should soak it up and learn from it. We need to make sure we never again create an environment that can produce a true crime book." Thank you Jake.
Regardless what the Missoulians think, Krakauer is a very good journalist who once climbed Mt. Everest for a story so he really knows how to commit to something. I have faith in very few people in this industry, but I like him so I'm hoping for the best in this book. Also it seems that this book will focus on women's stories (Krakauer reportedly took up the project after he learned that a family acquaintance of his was raped, and said his reporting focuses on the "experiences of several women in Missoula") rather than parroting packaged PR statements from law enforcement and the university. In any case, it will be an interesting thing to read after the Rolling Stone fiasco.
Work at Doubleday? Have a secret advance copy? Want to talk? Email me firstname.lastname@example.org.