Synopses & Reviews
In The Last American Man
, acclaimed journalist and fiction writer Elizabeth Gilbert offers a fresh cultural examination of contemporary American male identity and the uniquely American desire to return to the wilderness.
Gilbert explores what pushed men to settle the frontier West in the nineteenth century and delves into the history of American utopian communities. But her primary focus is on the fascinating 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 off the land.
Conway's romantic character challenges all our assumptions about what it means to be a man today; he is a symbol of much that we feel our men should be, but rarely are. From his example, Gilbert delivers an intriguing exploration into the meaning of American manhood and from the point of view of a woman refracts masculine American identity in all its conflicting elements. Like Jon Krakauer's national bestseller Into the Wild, this book will find an enthusiastic audience among women, readers of American history, and those interested in nature and the wild.
"Gilbert, a top-notch journalist and fiction writer, braids keen and provocative observations about the American frontier, the myth of the mountain man, and the peculiar state of contemporary America with its 'profound alienation' from nature into her spirited and canny portrait." Donna Seaman, Booklist
"Elizabeth Gilbert has done a marvelous job of profiling Eustace Conway a modern-day Jim Bridger whose every hour roaming American is laden with mythological magic. The Last American Man is, in fact, the best book of New Journalism to appear since Tom Wolfe published The Right Stuff. A truly delightful, outrageous, unforgettable saga." Douglas Brinkley
Wickedly well-written... There are two parts to The Last American Man: Conways personal story, which is fascinating enough, and the way it entwines with the American preoccupation with robust, can-do masculinity. James Gorman, The New York Times Book Review (Editors Choice)
"Gilbert has a jaunty, breathless style, and she paints a complicated portrait of American maleness that is as original as it is surprising." Publishers Weekly
"The finest examination of American masculinity and wilderness since Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild
"Wickedly well-written...Without compromising her obvious admiration, Ms. Gilbert presents a warts-and-all portrait of Mr. Conway and a sophisticated understanding of why those warts are only natural.... A vigorous, engaging book." —The New York Times Book Review
"Gilbert artfully taps into this unique life to create a fascinating, deeply thought-out and anthralling narrative." —Los Angeles Times
"A vivid, nuanced portrait of an endlessly complicated man." —San Francisco Chronicle
"The Last American Man relates the riveting story of Conway's odyssey from a child of affluent parents, to mountain man, to the owner of 1,000 acres of woods and fields in western North Carolina. Gilbert sees in Conway's life a parable for our time, a way of capturing how our culture is sapping us of all that is vital." —Chicago Tribune
"There are so many reasons to read this book. Read it for the portrait of a man who isn't divorced from the land below and the sky above. Read it to watch his youthful ambitions fade into tired gasps. Read it to see how Gilbert gets at her subject without ever stabbing him in the back." —Entertainment Weekly
"Conway is a character almost too goofd to believe...In Gilbert, he may have found the perfect writer to tell his story...from Conway's life, Gilbert takes off on delightful tangents about the nature of manhood, the appeal of utopian communities, the history of the frontier and the lingering myth of the frontiersman. The subject becomes much broader than one man's life. It's about what has been lost with progress, and what can be reclaimed." —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"An important book, and well-wrought to boot...Gilbert just plain catches him: It is hard to imagine a deeper, more insightful portrait...her book is wise and knowing." —Men's Journal
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 history of American manhood as it has never been told before.
To illustrate her story, Gilbert uses the rich and fascinating case study of Eustace Conway, a man who has lived in the Appalachian Mountains since the age of 17. Conway has worked tirelessly to try to convince his fellow Americans to give up self-destructive modern lifestyles and return with him to the primal sanctuary of the wilderness. He is a living metaphor that challenges all assumptions about what it is to be a modern man in America.
The Last American Man is at the same time an adventure saga and a thoughtful meditation on the relationship of man to the wilderness. It is also a reflection of masculine American identity in all its conflicting elements--energy, isolation, narcissism, inventiveness, audacity, and destiny.
Acclaimed journalist and fiction writer Gilbert focuses on the fascinating true story of Eustace Conway, who left his comfortable suburban home at the age of 17 to move into the Appalachian Mountains, where for the last 20 years he has lived off the land.
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.
About the Author
Elizabeth Gilbert is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love, and several other internationally bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction. Gilbert began her career writing for Harper's Bazaar, Spin, The New York Times Magazine and GQ, and was a three-time finalist for the National Magazine Award. Her story collection Pilgrims was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award; The Last American Man was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. The follow-up memoir Committed became an instant #1 New York Times bestseller. Her latest novel, The Signature of All Things, was named a Best Book of 2013 by The New York Times, O Magazine, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and The New Yorker. Gilbert's short fiction has appeared in Esquire, Story, One Story, and the Paris Review.