The Last American Man
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The Last American Man

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3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  4,544 ratings  ·  713 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...more
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Published April 8th 2002 by Highbridge Company
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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
Aces
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Nick Klagge
Read on Elise's recommendation; glad I did. After reading this, I am not surprised that EG's other book "Eat Pray Love" was such a hit. She (a New Yorker writer) has an almost pitch-perfect magazine-feature writing style. It's not exactly my favorite type of writing, but I have to admit that she crafts her sentences and narratives very well. Eustace Conway, the subject of the book, is an extremely interesting character, and EG does a great job of introducing us to him and revealing various aspec...more
Rebecca
This book was serviceable. If you are interested in human nature, environmental nature, and the interaction of the two then it is a (decent) read. I found Gilbert's writing and Conway's life to be, at best, marginally compelling. Though I do find myself thinking about some of the issues raised by Gilbert and issues inherent in Conway's life, I think it is only because I'm inclined, by my own nature, to do so. That is, other than putting the man out there - in print - I don't feel that Gilbert's...more
Artnoose Noose
Sep 26, 2013 Artnoose Noose rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Artnoose by: Dan g
Eustace Conway escaped his abusive home as a teenager by hiking the Appalachian Trail and nearly starving to death in the process. Decades later he is a full-on mountain man, living off the land he owns in rural North Carolina.

It's a story about him, but it is told in a way that also describes the friendship between him and the author. It's human, and touching. It touches on several themes such as the concept of an exemplary life, the sustainability of living off the land on a capitalist-driven...more
Allison
This book is about an extraordinary, ambitious and complex man. Elizabeth Gilbert, the writer of Eat, Pray, Love, wrote this a few years before her blockbuster memoir. It's equally engaging to learn about a modern American "Mountain man" as it is to read about her own worldly travels. The best thing about this portrait is that she doesn't forget to turn a critical eye towards this somewhat iconic man. He is a visionary, a hard worker, a genius, but he's also difficult, demanding, and remote. A l...more
Suzanne Johnson
I got interested in Eustace Conway after watching the History Channel series "Mountain Men," and wanted to see what this kind of hippie-environmentalist-mountain man was about. Elizabeth Gilbert got a little star-struck, but then again Conway is charismatic--you can tell that from the show even though the show gave a really one-sided view of the man and his life. Fascinating study of a very smart man who marches way to the left of normal compared to most of us--and would have us live his way if...more
Cagney
This book is a portrait of an extraordinary man with very ordinary flaws. In all actuality the take away message of this book is a not as revolutionary as Eustace Conway seems at first glance. Ambition drives Eustace and it is the catalyst for many of the incredible stories Gilbert relates. In the end, however, the depth of the book comes from Eustace failing to find happiness in his ideals, but struggling to make compromises in order to get through this beautiful thing called life. This book co...more
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PLEASE HELP EUSTACE!!!! 1 26 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 Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage The Signature of All Things 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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