From Publishers Weekly
From August to October 1913, 43-year-old Joseph Knowles went alone, naked and without supplies, into the Maine woods, vowing to live for two months by his own devices. The stunt, sponsored by the Boston Post
, generated publicity for Knowles and increased readership for the newspaper, but later proved to be a hoax, one of several examples of nature fakery in the early 20th century that Motavalli (Forward Drive
) discusses in this entertaining and evenhanded account of the life of the Nature Man. Knowles got another chance to prove himself when William Randolph Hearst backed a second naked wilderness foray, this time in California and with sanctioned observers to watch over Knowles. A third expedition would have put Knowles in the Adirondacks with a naked woman, but this fizzled when Dawn Woman, as she was called, quit after realizing she would have to endure cold weather and kill wild animals. Motavalli sees the humor in these exploits, but also describes Knowles as a skilled woodsman with a sincere love of the outdoors that reflected the back-to-nature movement of his time. He paints a sympathetic picture of a man with a tragic flaw, showing how Knowles succumbed to media hype and tried to maintain his Nature Man image long after public interest in his wilderness experiment had subsided. Illus. (Feb.)
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"A fascinating story of survival, showmanship...
Thoroughly researched...If you like survival stories and tales of bigger-than-life people, you will enjoy Naked in the Woods
. More than a fascinating story of a Maine character, it deals with the neverending lure of wilderness in the days of urban culture. A great winter read." -- Maine Sunday Telegram
"An absorbing tale of one man's retreat into the Maine woods, padded with a healthy history of the back-to-nature movement...The good-natured author... uses Knowles's stunt to digress on such topics as the establishment of the character-building Boy Scouts; consciousness-raising by naturalists John Muir, Ernest Thompson Seton and John Burroughs; and the sensational life of Ishi, "the last wild Indian," whose emergence from the California woods made headlines two years before Knowles did. Tasty, light nourishment for nature buffs." -- Kirkus Reviews
"Lengthy, luxurious discussions of Ishi, Frederick Jackson Turner, Buffalo Bill, Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett and the extended family of Oscar Hammerstein." -- Washington Post
"The book shows how current media celebrities like Paris Hilton--who are famous for being famous--have nothing on Joseph Knowles, who caused a sensation in 1913 with a publicity stunt for The Boston Post
." -- Connecticut Post
"To place an individual in the time and place in which he or she lived so that a reader can understand both the person and the period is a smooth talent. Motavalli, editor of E/The Environmental Magazine, demonstrates this skill...This lively biography/adventure story/cultural history is recommended." -- Library Journal
"You might call it the precursor to reality TV." -- New York Post
"[A] thorough and readable study of Knowles...Motavalli takes us through a history of the back to nature movement, with its phonies and firm believers that extend to today's "reality" television." -- Associated Press