The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert
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 their homes and go feral.
Which sounds really cool, up until the part where Gilbert begins unravel Eustace Conway’s background, and we discover that there’s more to this buckskinned, bearded hillbilly than first meets the eye. His emotionally abused childhood has messed with his wiring a teeny bit, and he can’t quite grasp the message of his own teachings. While his speeches are powerful enough to inspire the sudden urge to drop everything now and go live at one with nature, the more we learn, the more difficult it becomes to separate Eustace from any regular workaholic business man (apart from the Davy Crockett buckskins, of course).
Eustace Conway has a website (!) and on it, his title is ‘The Dictator.’ Yes, I know, I’m a little scared too.
Through Gilbert’s detailed psychological inquiry and personal relationship with Eustace Conway, The Last American Man is a multi-dimensional biography, which exemplifies Gilbert as the masterful wordsmith that she is. My nose was plastered in the folds of this book for two sweet days and I’ve yet to pick up another book — I’m still coming down from the high of indulging in all my favourite story features rolled into one biography: nature, adventure, psychology, idealism and excellent writing.
The lessons I learned
- We don’t need as much stuff as we think we do. Or do we … ? **scratches non-existent beard in a contemplative manner**
- Elizabeth Gilbert is so much more than Eat, Pray, Love.
- I need to learn how to kill and skin an animal to sew me up some buckskins.
“There is not way that you can have a decent life as a man if you aren’t awake and aware every moment. Show up for your own life. 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 consciousness. So honor that consciousness.”
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