Katz Fan Club
Yes, you read that correctly. Of all the great characters in American literature, the inimitable Stephen Katz, belongs in the annals. Put him up there with Ishmael and Captain Ahab of Moby Dick, in his dramatic pursuit of the American Dream. Perhaps Katz can best be understood in a Shakespearean context. Shakespeare’s motif as a writer was his aversion to absolutes, in favor of multi-hued shades of character. Surely, Katz can be forgiven for pouring out their water at a crucial point in favor of less weight. That is nothing more than an old fashioned blunder, which I had my share of while hiking the AT.
But great literature is subject to revisionist thinking and partisan attack. There are those who have accused Bill Bryson of fictionalizing the Katz character. “Nobody is that hapless,” the thinking goes. But take a look. Katz actually falls right in the middle of the Bell Curve of AT hikers. 75% drop out, some at Neil’s Gap. Others flail around, get off, re-load, and continue north. Chastity is not their forte, but in their existential struggles they sometimes show Olympian fortitude (such as the night Katz clowned around while Bryson was freaking out over two bears entering their campsite).
My vote goes to Stephen Katz, the well-intentioned, amiable screwup, as the poster child of the Appalachian Trail.