Repost: The Last American Man

I listened to the This American Life with Eustance Conway last night before going to bed (it focuses on Eustace and his brother’s journey across the country on horseback) and decided it’d be a good idea to post this again. Read this book if you haven’t already. It’s really wonderful.

Before Elizabeth Gilbert wrote the ubiquitous Eat, Pray, Love, she wrote a fantastic book about a guy named Eustace Conway called The Last American Man. Conway is a naturalist who moved out of his house when he was 17 years old to live in a teepee. From there, he bought a plot of land in North Carolina that he named Turtle Island and has been living the “old fashioned” way ever since.

There’s mountains more to the story than that, but the interesting part of this book is how Gilbert focuses on Eustace the person, not Eustace the mountain man. The Last American Man is not about what tools Eustace uses to make a barn or how Eustace catches the squirrels that he eats for dinner. The book is a sad chicken and egg story about a guy’s exile from his family life and the modern world and his extreme obsession with a forgotten way of life. Eustace is one of the most incredible, brutal, and intense men you’ll ever read about. His story reminds us of how difficult it is to simply go into the woods and “live off the land.” There are papers to be signed and lots of money to be made…

Eustace on This American Life (I highly recommend listening to this)

Eustace on The Today Show

MP3: Gillian Welch – I Had A Real Good Mother And Father


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5 Responses to Repost: The Last American Man

  1. ryan September 10, 2009 at 10:59 am #

    i jist finished reading that book for the first time a couple months ago. really amazing story! eustance is an idol!

  2. ryan September 10, 2009 at 11:22 am #

    oh and thank you for the radio show link. i had never heard that yet

  3. nbolton September 10, 2009 at 7:46 pm #

    This looks excellent, thanks for posting this

  4. Paul September 11, 2009 at 8:09 pm #

    Thanks for this. Your blog is inspiring.

  5. Goat October 10, 2011 at 6:16 pm #

    I love that book. IMy favourite part was where young nature-girl types would keep falling in love with him, only to find themselves stuck as stay-at-home teepee-wives and our hero coming home with some fresh roadkill he’d expect them to cook…

    You want to love him but the conclusion of just about everyone in the book who’s had any contact with him is that he is, at best, “difficult”. And hiking the A.T. while “living off the land” – I met people on the trail who would talk about doing it, but one thing you can say about E.C. is he really TRIES to live by his ideals, even if it means almost starving to death.

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