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The Last American Man Paperback – May 27, 2003
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Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Eustace Conway is largely a fraud. While he may have practiced a low-impact, back-to-nature way of life as a teen (although when he drinks, Eustace admits many things that contradict this), Turtle Island today reflects very little of that. It is a non-productive "farm" covered by half-built cabins and strewn with rusty old cars and trailers (all exposed to the weather and leaking oil, coolant, etc. onto the soil). On any given day, you are more likely to hear the din of heavy deisel trucks and tractors, gas generators, electric power tools, chainsaws, and motorcycles than you are the natural sounds of the forest.
Here are some things Gilbert neglects to tell the reader:
--Livestock routinely die from neglect at TI. I watched one goat and her kid die from a bacterial infection, despite the intern's repeated warnings to Eustace of its condition. A former volunteer told me that he saw 3 other goats die in a similar manner during the previous months.
--Turtle Island DOES NOT produce most of its food. The majority comes from the neighbors' donations and farmer's markets. His vegetable gardens are usually so overgrown and neglected that it is difficult to tell what is food and what is not.Read more ›
The man described by Ms Gilbert does not actually live primitively. Nor does he treat his animals (or wildlife) with respect. Nor does he show any compassion for his 'apprentices'. Even his primary expectation of his women is that they be beautiful.
Ms Gilbert writes that Conway lives 'mindfully', suggesting some Zen-like awareness on his part. Yet every novice zazen practitioner realizes the connection between true mindfulness and compassion. Ms Gilbert draws a portrait of a man without compassion.
Rather, he is pictured as a man of uncommon cruelty to both humans and others, a self-serving, self-promoting, self-described 'tortured' soul (lacking in paternal love). Oh, poor little unloved Eustace. He treats women with no respect and whines when they leave him. He experiences the AT by running across it as quickly as possible, leaving even his 'love' to catch him at camp late in the evenings. He runs horses to extremes for his own fun and because "that's what they are made for."
The first challenge in reading this book is to look past Ms Gilbert's own infatuation with her subject, and to ignore her comparisons of Conway to actual American pioneers like Daniel Boone and Davey Crockett. While she correctly recognizes the self-promotions of those men, she overlooks the thousands of others who moved west, pioneering, living 'primitively' because that's what it took, thousands who actually subsisted on their work's rewards, without self-promotion, without abusive relationships, without whining about daddy-love.
The ancestors of many of us, ancestors who struggled on the edges of a migrating population and diminishing wilderness, would not recognize Eustace Conway as one of their own.Read more ›
While reading 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 of his accomplishments later in life. As I read, it became clear Conway is not deserving of a book. I began to think he had the potential to be someone worthy of a book, but was not there yet. Then as the book went on I grew more and more tired of it - of him. The back of the book starts off by saying "The Last American Man is the story of Eustace Conway, a true American original." Bull. He is not an American Original, there have been Charlatans in America since the beginning, and make no mistake: Eustace Conway is a Charlatan in every sense of the word.
The author is clearly captivated with Conway, and pours praise on him throughout the book; she can quote Conway saying arrogant, hypocritical things and yet frame it with praise. Thankfully she quotes others who do not share her infatuation; others who give us an inkling of who Conway really is. If you only read one part of the whole book, read the conversation between the author and CuChullaine O'Reilly in Ch. 7, it explains Conway very well. It is unclear if O'Reilly has ever personally met Conway, but he is well aware of Conway's feats, and he puts it this way:
"[Conway has] reached a plateau in his life.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I was interested in Eustace. He is an interesting man.The book has a lot of unnecessary fluff but I enjoyed reading about this amazing man. Read morePublished 7 days ago by K. Meyers
What a fun read and a complex individual...turns out my husband had met Eustace Conway, and that's why I was curious, but I'm truly enjoying the book.Published 8 days ago by Cathy Johnson (Kate)
Well written bio of a fascinating character tinged with sadness. Interesting analysis of character traits (albeit rather toxic) carrying over from one generation to another.Published 2 months ago by happy grampa
I liked the book, it felt liked it dragged on a bit. I enjoyed the female characters trying to figure out what was going on inside his head.Published 3 months ago by Wendy Wanger
Wonderful story of a complicated man and his life! So beautifully written by Elizabeth Gilbert. She is a Rock Star!! I love all her books.Published 3 months ago by corinneanddon
A fascinating read, but it got a bit tedious and in hindsight, hard to believe it's all true. My more visceral reaction was that this guy needed to seriously get over his critical,... Read morePublished 5 months ago by bike4life