Tuesday, December 03, 2013

“The Last American Man” by Elizabeth Gilbert – Being One with Nature

The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert – Book Cover
The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert is the biography of Eustace Conway, and an exploration of his philosophy. For those of you who haven’t heard of him, Conway is a man who, when he was seventeen, decided to move away from what he sees as an unnecessarily cruel and materialistic world into the Appalachian Mountains, coming as close to nature as is humanly possible. He has been living in the mountains ever since then, feeding off the land and wearing the skins of animals he trapped.

This book looks into his early life, what led him to make such a rash decision, what influenced him in terms of his philosophy, his life in the mountains, and basically his way of thinking he is trying to spread to others.

Though there certainly are some interesting elements in the first part of the book about Conway’s early life, they are a bit superfluous in my opinion and only interesting for those who want to know why he ran away like he did. The part of the book which describes his survival in the wild is also quite interesting, but once again it only scratches the surface of what we really want to know. Things get truly interesting once Gilbert begins to explore things on a psychological level, attempting to explain Conway’s reasoning and why he found happiness in a way of life that is drastically different from most of ours.

Though it may be enough for some authors out there, Gilbert doesn’t merely content herself with exploring Conway’s life and trying to decipher his thoughts. Rather, she goes as far as exploring Conway in terms of a symbol and what he means for the modern. According to her, Conway basically represents the true ideal of men we should be looking towards: kind, completely self-sufficient, and capable of braving harsh conditions… something that goes in stark contrast to the pretty playboy image many societies are trying to impose on their people.

On the whole, The Last American Man is an interesting book to pass the time, and if you truly are interested in Conway, I believe you will find all the information you could ever ask for about him. We get to see him as he is: an extraordinary and yet somewhat troubled man who decided to live the way he saw fit. The exploration of male identity is certainly another factor which adds to this book’s interest.

All in all, I can do nothing but recommend it to those wanting to learn about this man or what it’s like to live in nature, far away from society, both physically and mentally.

Elizabeth Gilbert (July 18, 1969)

Elizabeth Gilbert

Personal site

Elizabeth Gilbert is an American writer who has dabbled in everything from short stories and essays to whole novels, memoirs and biographies. She is certainly best known for her 2006 memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, which has spent more than 199 weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers list.

More of the Elizabeth Gilbert's book reviews:
The Signature of All Things

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