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The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert
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The Last American Man

by Elizabeth Gilbert

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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
I'm fairly certain that I could not stand to be in the presence of Eustace Conway. From reading this book and watching videos of his interviews, I would think that he and I would be at odds. His values are skewed from mine and that is the most disappointing aspect of learning about such a man. He takes a fragment of my individualist, libertarian ideals and twists them into a "my way or the highway" way of spreading the propaganda of his legend. But this is not a review of Conway's substantial character flaws. This is a review of the book written by Elizabeth Gilbert.

I'm not sure if the author's approach to this was supposed to be objective reporter (she definitely wasn't that), biased friend, or impassioned disciple. She seemed to be an annoying combination of the second two options. It was hard to take Gilbert's narrative seriously when she was relying heavily on Conway himself for a good portion of the source material.

It was a little ironic that the author mentioned Congressman Davy Crockett and how he wrote an autobiography of great outdoor adventures and daring (conveniently timed with his political campaign). This is about as reliable as the amazing things that Benjamin Franklin said about himself and I couldn't help but realize that Gilbert was doing the same service for Conway. Whether Conway is incapable of writing intelligently or just enjoys having his story told is beyond my ability to discern.

I can say that most of this book was hard to read because it read like fan-girl Gilbert had gotten her dream assignment of writing about one of her personal heroes. The gushiness and obvious high esteem that the author held for Conway made it difficult to believe that I was reading about the real man (rather than the idealicized version). There was a particular passage in the book that described a birthday card to Conway from his dad. It was overly sappy and dramatic and seemed like the author was manufacturing something more meaningful than the actual occurrence. There was another such over-done bit of drama near the very end when Conway was facing a deer or elk and started shouting feelings of love towards the creature. So what?

At any rate, this book was pretty much a bust and that's two strikes against Elizabeth Gilbert. Frankly, I don't intend to give her a chance for strike three because my time is precious to me and I have hundreds of other books on my list to read. The only part of this book that I liked was when Gilbert challenged Conway just to live as he teaches and stop messing with the idea of changing the world. She basically called him out as a fact and he begrudgingly admitted that he had to put on a mountain man act to get the message out. He is a phony and an attention-seeker. Gilbert portrays Conway as a man of action be he goes out of his way to do so as a public spectacle. I don't admire him and I can't respect her admiration of him. ( )
  jimocracy | Apr 18, 2015 |
More like 3.5 stars...this was an interesting read, but it could easily have been 100-150 pages. There was a lot of repetition, which made her point about eustace conway much less concise. ( )
  abbeyhar | Jul 23, 2014 |
More like 3.5 stars...this was an interesting read, but it could easily have been 100-150 pages. There was a lot of repetition, which made her point about eustace conway much less concise. ( )
  abbeyhar | Jul 23, 2014 |
More like 3.5 stars...this was an interesting read, but it could easily have been 100-150 pages. There was a lot of repetition, which made her point about eustace conway much less concise. ( )
  abbeyhar | Jul 23, 2014 |
Sometimes it is hard to separate a character from the book itself and I found this to be one of those books. Eustace Conway is a very interesting, inspirational, skilled, contradictory, and deeply flawed person. His story is well worth telling and is captivating for all sorts of reasons. He is a "back to nature, living of the earth and sharing how everyone could be doing this" kind of person. Unlike others who want to do this he actually does which is impressive and I applaud him for the skills he has and his interest in sharing them. At the end of the book I just want to shake some sense into him but that might be just me. I want him to look in a mirror and see his own flaws and accept them, then maybe he can accept them in others. My main complaint about the book is the writing and the almost dreamy quality of some of the scenes that were put there because they sound good but get contradicted one paragraph later. It was still a good book but it could have been much better. ( )
  fmgee | Jul 31, 2013 |
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The result is that to the frontier the American Intellect owes its striking characteristics. That coarseness and strength comvined with acuteness and inquisitiveness: that practical, inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients; that masterful grasp of material things, lacking in the artistic but powerful to effect great ends; the restless, nervous energy; that dominant individualism, working for good or for evil, and withal that bouyancy and exuberance which comes with freedom--these are the traits of the frontier... --Frederick Jackson Turner
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What a wild life! What a fresh kind of existance! --Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, considering the possibility of writing an epic poem about the American explorer John Fremont
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142002836, Paperback)

Finalist for the National Book Award 2002

In this rousing examination of contemporary American male identity, acclaimed author and journalist Elizabeth Gilbert explores the fascinating true story of Eustace Conway. In 1977, at the age of seventeen, Conway left his family's comfortable suburban home to move to the Appalachian Mountains. For more than two decades he has lived there, making fire with sticks, wearing skins from animals he has trapped, and trying to convince Americans to give up their materialistic lifestyles and return with him back to nature. To Gilbert, Conway's mythical character challenges all our assumptions about what it is to be a modern man in America; he is a symbol of much we feel how our men should be, but rarely are.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:33 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

[In this book, the author] explores the true story of Eustace Conway, who left his comfortable suburban home at the age of seventeen to move into the Appalachian Mountains, where for the last twenty years he has lived, making fire with sticks, wearing skins from animals he trapped, and living off the land. A charismatic and romantic figure, both brilliant and tormented, brave and contradictory, restless and ambitious, Conway has always seen himself as a "Man of Destiny" whose goal is to convince modern Americans to give up their materialistic lifestyles and return with him back to nature. [The author] tells of Eustace's crusade and his extraordinary wilderness adventures, including his 2000-mile hike down the Appalachian Trail (surviving almost exclusively on what he could hunt and gather along the way) and his legendary journey across America on horseback." To [her], Eustace Conway's mythical character challenges all our assumptions about what it is to be a modern man in America; he is a symbol of what we feel our men should be, but rarely are. From his example, she delivers a look at an archetypal American man and - from the point of view of a contemporary woman - refracts masculine American identity in all its conflicting elements of inventiveness, narcissism, isolation, and intimacy.-Dust jacket.… (more)

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