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The Last American Man

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3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  5,133 ratings  ·  757 reviews
What does it mean to be a man in modern America? Do men somehow better themselves when they leave civilization and head into the woods? The Last American Man is a cultural examination of contemporary American male identity and the uniquely American desire to return to the wilderness.From the frontier West to American utopian communities, Elizabeth Gilbert has produced a hi ...more
Audio CD, Abridged
Published April 8th 2002 by HighBridge Company (first published January 1st 2000)
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Diane
As a librarian, people often ask me for my book recommendations, and then I get discouraged when they stubbornly refuse to take them. "The Last American Man" is a book that I wish I could get more people to read.

You may recognize the name Elizabeth Gilbert from her tiny, little-known memoir called "Eat Pray Love." (Just kidding. It was a mega bestseller, was blessed by Oprah and later made into a movie starring Julia Roberts.) But the problem with a massive success like EPL is that people seem
...more
G (galen)
This was my introduction to Elizabeth Gilbert. It was a random meeting, a freak of fate. Walking into my local public library I saw this book on a shelf I was passing, and thought "What... there aren't any men in America anymore?" Intrigued, I picked it up, positive it was some take-back-the-country-from-the-feminists spiel from some conservative talking head. I was a bit surprised to see it was written by a woman. What the heck… I’d check it out (mostly to see what had happened to all the men i ...more
Jeff Nicholson
Jan 28, 2008 Jeff Nicholson rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who has a huge crush on Eustace Conway
Shelves: i-give-up
Eustace Conway could teach us all a thing or two about how we should live on this earth. Unfortunately, all Elizabeth Gilbert wants to teach us is about his father issues and his relationships with women. There is almost no wilderness ethic to be had; the book reads like the diary of a 12-year-old girl smitten by a mountain man. It's difficult to think of Gilbert as a serious journalist when she constantly fawns over her subject and actually appears (unflatteringly) in the narrative herself. She ...more
Donna
Aug 29, 2008 Donna rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jim Heetmann
I picked up The Last American Man thinking I was going to read about some environmentalist guy livin' out in the woods to prove a point to the world. While that is basically what the book is about- the author outlines a very different kind of man than you would expect to be living life in the woods. Eustace Conway is not only living on his 1000 acres of land, killing his own food and making his own shelter and clothing from surrounding materials- he is surprisingly a well versed businessman, a t ...more
Herbie
I love this story.
I love people who dream an intense, crystal clear dream, and then arrange their lives to see it come true.
I love people who work hard.
I harbor a strange and conflicted love for old-fashioned living and values, and for primitive living. Gilbert describes the conflicts I feel so acutely. The wilderness life she descries combines backwards attitudes about gender and the impracticality and seeming irrelevance of it all with sublime moments, connection with nature, and the inner str
...more
Brice
The Last American man is attempting to save our once great nation from its own greed and sloth by living in harmony with nature. Which obviously is not the exciting part of the book. Eustace Conway’s smaller and more successful journeys may be the exciting part of the book. What this guy has done in the name of fun, adventure, and self exertion kept my attention through the first halfish. Then rooting for Eustace to save our nation from the sedentary lifestyle, TV, and stupidity kept me in it fo ...more
John
Eustace Conway is a terribly fascinating and tremendously unique individual, exactly the sort of person that deserves a biography. Unfortunately, this is not the book he deserves.

Too many biographers (which is to say, more than none) make the mistake that Elizabeth Gilbert makes here. She has trouble staying out of the way of the story that would be conveyed by nothing more complicated than a straight narrative with some judicious focus on key events. That, I believe could have made for an excep
...more
Cher
3.5 stars - It was really good.

Every time I drive by my local high school and see a metrosexual boy in his skinny jeans with his emo hair, I thank God that I narrowly missed that dating pool selection. Masculinity is not exactly what it used to be, is it?

It would be difficult to explain what this book is about because it touches on so very many different topics, but the change in American culture, particularly the sharp decrease in self-sufficiency, is the main focus. There is also an explorati
...more
Angie
After devouring Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, I ran to the bookstore and picked up this fascinating biography of Eustis Conway, who may or may not be the Last American Man, but he IS the last person you would want to live with or work for. He is in his own idealistic world that shuts out others and has no tolerance for varying levels of compentence or preferences that differ from his. Gilbert attempts to show why Conway is who he is, and the reader does develop empathy for this lost, misplaced-in-t ...more
Jason
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's got it all; history, spirituality, primitive living skills, botany, you name it! I came across this book some where many years ago and have always meant to read it. I'm glad I finally took the time to do so.

As a therapist who specializes in working with folks on the Autistic Spectrum I was only in to the 2nd or 3rd chapter when it struck me; "Holy cow, this guy has Asperger's!" Just like a textbook example he had all the special interests (his interest in nat
...more
Michelle
I had high hopes for this as it seemed an interesting subject (the life and times of a guy who lives quite literally off the land - a "pioneer" if you will.) I have no idea what the point of this book was supposed to be - it is disorganized and strange, the author switching tones, style, and storyline within the same paragraph. I found myself wondering more about the relationship between the author and the subject (as in, when did she sleep with him and how long afterwards did she convince him t ...more
Rosie Nguyen
I was in a bad mood, wanting to leave for a transcontinental trip and settling somewhere on the Himalayas, then I checked this book and it saved my day. Definitely my favorite. I always love Elizabeth Gilbert's writing, and I'm fascinated by Eustace Conway's lifestyle. Ingenious and intelligent, adventurous and ambitious, living simply and close to nature, he leads a dream life that we all want but scared to follow. I also feel a deep empathy with his characters and ideas of life, strict to hims ...more
Emily
First of all, anyone can tell from reading some of these other reviews that Eustace Conway is a jerk. He just is; there’s no getting around it. I would even go so far as to say he’s a hypocrite. There’s no doubt that this man is talented and hard-working, and has at some point done all the things he has preached to other people about. And there may have been a point in his life in which he had the proper attitude and motivation to change the world, like he claims he wants to, but here’s where th ...more
Julianne Johnson
I knew of Eustace Conway before reading this and that was the only reason I read it because I didn't like Eat, Pray, Love. I think this would have been a more successful book about "the last american man" had it been written by Jon Krakauer. Gilbert annoyed me yet again and this book is not really about living a life more like Eustace Conway, it is a book psychoanalyzing his personality, relationship and family issues. Which gets really old, really quick. She tries to argue that Americans are fa ...more
Mary Ellen
I liked Gilbert's lively, well-rounded portrait of Eustace Conway, but my enjoyment was tempered by one overriding thought: "Boy, that guy is a DICK." This has nothing to do with Gilbert's breezy, funny style. As a matter of fact, in anyone else's hands, I would have filed Conway's story in the "dull, thudding tract" section of my library. It boggles me that a man who is so aware of his natural surroundings, who lives WITH the earth, who conforms himself to the seasons and doesn't expect Nature ...more
Shawn
I rarely read books about people unless it is someone I greatly admire. My brother gave me this book and suggested I read it, with the caveat that he had not read it yet but wanted to – so I gave it a shot.

As I read this book, I had multiple feelings about it. As it started I really like the book – the stories of Conway’s youth were interesting, his abilities at a young age to survive outdoors were admirable and I could see him maturing into someone worthy of a book, looking forward to learning
...more
Jen Hirt
One day, I happened to watch "Mountain Men" on the History channel, and like just about everyone else watching, I was struck by the visage, skill, and pure oddity of Eustace Conway. Unlike the other mountain men, he was not in the west or Alaska -- he was in North Carolina. And unlike the others (with the exception of Tom Orr, my other favorite), he was using little technology, seemed more interested in honoring wildlife rather than trapping it, and seemed really, really smart. And so I Googled ...more
Jim Johnson
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 ch ...more
Marianne
The Last American Man is the first non-fiction book by Elizabeth Gilbert, written four years before her highly-successful memoir, Eat, Pray, Love. It tells the story of Eustace Conway, an American Man who believes his mission in life is to show the American population that they can be strong and resourceful, grow their own food, fabricate their own clothes, make fire with 2 sticks, and save the planet. Eustace was taught and encouraged to learn the survival skills he needed to be able to live in ...more
Marissa
I listened to this in the car, again. Found it to be well-written and interesting, about a real man, Eustice Conway, whose goal in life is to live as naturally as possible, meaning on his land, in a teepee, growing his own food, etc. He also wants everyone else to live this way.

I didn't find Eustice to be a very nice guy, overall, although he did have some redeeming qualities, so I guess he's just pretty human, but so driven and so ego-centric that he was almost unlikeable. The story chronicles
...more
Colby
Elizabeth Gilbert (yes, of "Eat, Pray, Love" fame) presents in "The Last American Man" the story of Eustace Conway, a man who left home at the age of seventeen to live a more authentic life, surviving off of the land. Raised by a father who found him to be a complete disappointment and a mother who taught him the skills he would hone to become America's most prominent outdoorsman, Conway determined that he was a "man of destiny" and that his destiny was to shake Americans out of their materialis ...more
Linh Bún
Captivating, which I'd never expected when I picked up this book. I had to finish it before turning to my boring textbooks to study. It is so hard to believe that this is a biography. One reason is it's quite unbelievable that this is based on the life of a real person, who lives, and still, is living when I am writing these words (yeap it feels unusual to read about something quite extraordinary but still real). There is so much in the image of Eustace Conway that is fiction-like. The best way ...more
Ron
This is one of those books that stir up strong opinions and heated controversy. Eustace Conway, the back-to-nature mountain man of the title, is someone you can see as a living American myth or a nut case. The author's portrait of him, full of ironies right from the title onward, lends itself to either point of view. And depending on how the book is read, you can see either admiration or skepticism in what she says about Conway.

Or you can see subject and author in all of these ways which, as I u
...more
Torre DeRoche
You don’t have to be a fan of Eat, Pray, Love to like Gilbert’s biography about the extraordinary (and peculiar) life of Eustace Conway. Gilbert reveals a story of a man who rejects society from an early age to live in the wild. In the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, Eustace Conway hunts his own food, sleeps in a teepee and wears, at times, nothing but an animal-skin loin cloth. Preaching his philosophies to any listening ear, Eustace urges greedy, earth-destroying Americans to sell up t ...more
Carla Lowe Baku
I have intended to read this book for years and am so glad I finally took the time to do so. After hearing Eustace Conway on the radio some time ago (This American Life) and seeing him recently on television (Mountain Men on History Channel), I was primed to know more.

The beauty of Elizabeth Gilbert's portrait of Eustace is that she comes from a position of knowing him personally; her love for him is obvious. The depth of her narrative comes from her willingness to explore problematic nuances, t
...more
Chad Carson
A good friend of mine Aaron El Leon Boyd gave me this book while we were traveling in Costa Rica and being that we are both 'American', and in a way running from the false and tired system of Western Capitalism, I was engaged by the title alone. The main character Eustace Coneway depicts in many ways a lost archetype within the psyche of The United States, in that he lives entirely off of the land and has a deep respect for the Native American traditions that he learned from. This tenacious cha ...more
Johanna Dieterich
Elizabeth Gilbert strikes again; her subject matter is unique, her insights are novel, and her writing is eloquent. I love that she openly includes herself in the story, a subtle reminder that _she_ is telling a story, rather than the story objectively existing.

But of course this book isn't about her, so my review isn't about her either. Gilbert writes about Eustace Conway, a man who is torn between a desperation to live off the land in isolation and to publicly urge others to follow his lifesty
...more
anne
Elizabeth Gilbert has an ideal voice for this subject... though she obviously respects her subject, she displays the necessary healthy amount of skepticism needed to make palatable the biography a die-hard naturalist who feels he is destined to educate Americans about the evils of consumer culture. No one wants to be lectured, and Gilbert makes it clear that Eustace Conway -though he's arguably right- has spent his life alternately enamoring and alienating people doing just that.

On the other ha
...more
Chris
Eustace Conway is an anachronism, a nineteenth-century Daniel Boone type who lived in a teepee for seventeen years and (at least partly for effect) still dances around in buckskin clothing he fashioned himself. He's a relentless worker who fancies himself a Man of Destiny, and he's hell bent on saving America from its own vile materialism. But he's no back-to-nature, spread-the-love hippie. He's painfully stubborn, as ambitious as they come, obsessively regimented in his habits, and hard as hell ...more
Dominique
Ok, I can officially say that Miss Gilbert should stick to magazine articles and short stories. This is the third book I read by Gilbert. I loved Eat,Pray & Love (who didn't?), read Committed and finished it but had hoped for more. Therefore I picked up an older book of hers and the found the same problem I had with the previous one. I feel she loses her direction, lacks story and plot and overwhelms readers with statistics and random info. I can see that she would make a good non-fiction wr ...more
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PLEASE HELP EUSTACE!!!! 1 29 Dec 09, 2012 07:00AM  
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Elizabeth Gilbert is an award-winning writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Her short story collection Pilgrims was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award, and her novel Stern Men was a New York Times notable book. Her 2002 book The Last American Man was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critic’s Circle Award.

Her memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, spent 57 weeks in the #1
...more
More about Elizabeth Gilbert...
Eat, Pray, Love The Signature of All Things Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage Stern Men Pilgrims and Other Stories

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“I live in nature where everything is connected, circular. The seasons are circular. The planet is circular, and so is the planet around the sun. The course of water over the earth is circular coming down from the sky and circulating through the world to spread life and then evaporating up again. I live in a circular teepee and build my fire in a circle. The life cycles of plants and animals are circular. I live outside where I can see this. The ancient people understood that our world is a circle, but we modern people have lost site of that. I don’t live inside buildings because buildings are dead places where nothing grows, where water doesn’t flow, and where life stops. I don’t want to live in a dead place. People say that I don’t live in a real world, but it’s modern Americans who live in a fake world, because they have stepped outside the natural circle of life.

Do people live in circles today? No. They live in boxes. They wake up every morning in a box of their bedrooms because a box next to them started making beeping noises to tell them it was time to get up. They eat their breakfast out of a box and then they throw that box away into another box. Then they leave the box where they live and get into another box with wheels and drive to work, which is just another big box broken into little cubicle boxes where a bunch of people spend their days sitting and staring at the computer boxes in front of them. When the day is over, everyone gets into the box with wheels again and goes home to the house boxes and spends the evening staring at the television boxes for entertainment. They get their music from a box, they get their food from a box, they keep their clothing in a box, they live their lives in a box.

Break out of the box! This not the way humanity lived for thousands of years.”
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“Show up for your own life, he said. Don't pass your days in a stupor, content to swallow whatever watery ideas modern society may bottle-feed you through the media, satisfied to slumber through life in an instant-gratification sugar coma. The most extraordinary gift you've been given is your own humanity, which is about conciousness, so honor that consciousness.
Revere your senses; don't degrade them with drugs, with depression, with wilful oblivion. Try to notice something new everyday, Eustace said. Pay attention to even the most modest of daily details. Even if you're not in the woods, be aware at all times. Notice what food tastes like; notice what the detergent aisle in the supermarket smells like and recognize what those hard chemical smells do to your senses; notice what bare feet fell like; pay attention every day to the vital insights that mindfulness can bring. And take care of all things, of every single thing there is - your body, your intellect, your spirit, your neighbours, and this planet. Don't pollute your soul with apathy or spoil your health with junk food any more than you would deliberately contaminate a clean river with industrial sludge.”
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