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The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Last American Man

by Elizabeth Gilbert

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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 |
Eustace Conway is awesome. They don't make men like that anymore. This is worth the read for anyone interested in self-sufficiency and alternative lifestyles. This biography chronicles the life of Eustace as he works and lives off the land deep in the Appalachian mountains. ( )
  Aerinl | Dec 5, 2012 |
I found [The Last American Man] to be fascinating on many levels. It is a wonderfully told biographical story that describes Eustace Conway's world from both a micro perspective of his personal life and relationships as well as a macro perspective of the American cultural icon of a frontiersman. [[Elizabeth Gilbert]] examines the personality of frontiersmen and addresses the way these personality traits contributed to the development and expansion of the United States. Some of the mythical stories are perhaps "debunked" or perhaps just told more honestly, such as those of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. Eustace Conway is compared to and considered as a modern version of this icon and lives much of his life in the woods of North Carolina, learning to survive and thrive by killing and eating his own food, making his own clothes, etc. His micro story is that of an abused child finding escape. For readers interested in the psychohistory of the U.S. this is a must read. Is Conway driven by post traumatic stress disorder of which he has many symptoms, or perhaps bipolar disorder? This would be a great text for a psych class to analyze and diagnose Conway with detailed descriptions of his personal relationships and interactions. At the same time, if that is poppycock to you, it's just a great adventure story of living in the woods, as well as riding a horse across the continental United States. This is one of my all time favorites! ( )
  mkboylan | Oct 18, 2012 |
A true story, Eustace Conway is born in North Carolina into a family where his father is extremely hard on him and a mother that doesn't squeal over the critters he brings home during his childhood. He eventually sets out to live in the wilderness. The book goes on to talk about Elizabeth Gilbert's own personal encounters as well as stories that Eustace has shared with her.

He believes in living off the land, not using electricity, etc. He is definitely not a hermit, he believes in teaching others survival skills on his land in the mountains of North Carolina.

My biggest complaint is that while the story is extremely captivating, her writing style is a big turn-off. It is auto-biographical but she also includes herself in as a character at times. ( )
  tashasarena | Mar 28, 2011 |
Elizabeth Gilbert's story of Eustace Conway, whose idealistic compulsion to live completely off the land at an early age captures the imagination of countless Americans, is a most interesting book. Gilbert clearly has a deep affection for this compelling and complex man. And yet the story she tells of Conway's toxic and damaging relationship with his father and his inability to sustain relationships with the scores of people drawn to him and to his small 1000 acre farm in North Carolina, is telling. A complex story of a difficult and interesting man, well told. This book is probably not what you were expecting, and is all the better for it. ( )
1 vote co_coyote | Nov 23, 2009 |
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:00:57 -0400)

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[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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