Cheryl Strayed gets ‘Wild’ at Green Music Center

Last Thursday evening, author Cheryl Strayed spoke at the Green Music Center about her New York Times bestselling memoir “Wild.”  

Chosen by Oprah Winfrey as the premiere selection for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0, “Wild” has also won a variety of awards including the Barnes and Noble Discover Award.

The bestselling non-fiction book follows Strayed on her emotional, physical and spiritual journey while hiking over 1,000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. 

The physical journey took four months, beginning in June 1995 and ending later in September, but Strayed shared that her emotional journey really began four years earlier when her mother suddenly died of cancer. 

During her grieving process she turned to sex, heroin and wild behavior. She took life into her own hands and decided to backpack from the Mojave Desert to Oregon with zero experience. 

Her avid journaling enabled her to turn her experience into the soon-to-be film adaptation, “Wild.” 

Strayed took the stage and further elaborated on her experiences while hiking, her journey afterwards, what her writing process consisted of and what is happening next with “Wild.” 

She kicked off her lecture by quoting author Grace Paley who said that she wrote so she could “taste life twice, once while living and again through writing.” 

She extended Paley’s thoughts and stated that she felt as though the success of “Wild” had given her a third taste of life by allowing her to talk to so many people about the book. 

As a speaker, Strayed was honest, open, funny and relatable. The most intimate moments came later when she answered questions from the audience. 

A memorable moment came when an audience member began to thank Strayed for having the courage to write “Wild.” 

As she began her next sentence, she was brought to tears as she shared with Strayed and the rest of the audience members that she was also going through a grieving process after her best friend passed away.

She did not shy away from any questions, including when she was asked if she purposefully kept out any experiences. The answer? Yes. But only because they didn’t directly connect with the overall journey she experienced on the Pacific Coast Trail.

She clarified that because her book is a memoir and not a report, her work is a piece of literature. 

While it is non-fiction, the conversations and memories are through her perspective and how she remembered them. Strayed said that only one of the people she spoke about in her book felt as if she misrepresented them. 

Having been described as “bourgeoisie,” one of the men who was described in the book felt as though she did not capture him correctly. 

She explained that although he may not have been bourgeoisie, at that moment she felt as though he was. 

Strayed continued to answer students’ questions on Friday when she came back for an additional session at the Student Union’s multi-purpose room. 

Many questions revolved around the film adaptation of “Wild.” She let the audience in on who will be the screenwriter (Nick Hornby) and who will star as herself (Reese Witherspoon). 

Changes to expect for the upcoming film are the removal of her stepfather and sister as characters. Strayed said that she had to put up a fight to keep her brother in the film during revisions of the screenplay. 

Strayed offered a lot of advice to the audience by giving insight into her personal life. A major theme in her lecture was about struggle and how to accept and overcome it. For her, she needed to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. 

Strayed said that it was not because she had a very transformative reflective experience while hiking, but instead a gradual change that came from relinquishing herself from her emotions by focusing on her physical-being. 

Cheryl Strayed returned back home to Portland to continue on her book tour of readings and talks.