Nonfiction-folk: Let’s “Talk” Eustace. (And Liz.)


Check it out:

  • That’s Eustace up there. Talking. About himself.
  • And this is Elizabeth Gilbert. Talking. About Eustace (click “Listen” when you get there). And “talking” about lots of other things. Namely (but not exclusively): herself.

Yes. Check it out and then comment in the (of course) comments section. Write a nice, meaty paragraph or two in which you respond to some aspect of your whole experience of Eustace — maybe starting with the idea of what’s real and how a writer conveys a sense of reality in A) writing about another person and B) creating his/her own “persona” (in writing or in “real” life).

  • [For instance: what’s all the historical background stuff doing in the chapter of The Last American Man you read? How does it help render Eustace more realistically? How does it help create Elizabeth Gilbert’s persona/voice as a writer?]

Or just. You know. Whatever you want to say about the whole Eustace phenomenon.


8 thoughts on “Nonfiction-folk: Let’s “Talk” Eustace. (And Liz.)

  1. Carmen September 14, 2011 / 9:26 pm

    First, I’d like to say that I found Elizabeth’s tone in the excerpt to be very riveting and inviting. Her writing had a great balance of humor, wit and efficiency that made reading the section a breeze–it was so refreshing! At the same time, she manages to create a type of tension–throughout the piece, I’m wondering why Eustace is so interesting to her. What makes him interesting? How does he do what he does? Why? I’m interested because she’s interested and curious. I’m hanging on to every word Eustace says, just as she is. I absolutely love that. This is a perfect example of a strong reader-writer connection.

    As for Eustace himself….I think his upbringing was really cool. (My mother would be one of the ones asking “You let your kids do WHAT?”) Having that kind of freedom at such a young age…is strange. (but listen to me! freedom is strange, yet we call ourselves Americans?) I think Eustace has a strong sense of “America” because of that freedom. I think it’s very American to do things completely for yourself and prosper and be proud of your work. More than that, though, I think Eustace is also trying to say that we’ve lost our connection to people, our compassion, and our love and respect for the Earth. We’re mostly inside all the time, so we don’t know what the real world (nature…EARTH) is like. What we know as the “real world” is completely fabricated: politics, scholarships, that nine to five job, homework. Maybe Eustace is saying that we breathe, think, live and take these things so seriously that they become our reality. And there lies the danger. When they become reality instead of supplements to it.

    Maybe it’s not the things we should blame, but ourselves for getting so attached and consumed by them. Maybe some time in nature will open people’s eyes, but people won’t abandon modern technologies or ideas completely. They’ll just be viewed in a different light. They can be used to connect to people and help people instead of isolating and numbing them.

    This made me want to try some new things like…carving a pair of shoes from wood with a knife or using a squirrel for target practice or meeting people in person and going places and laughing and learning culture first-hand….instead letting my GPA control my life or living the world through a computer and glassy, unblinking eyes.

  2. Natalie September 15, 2011 / 3:22 am

    Okay, I guess I’m just going to start by saying that I grew up reading stories about survival. You know, the kind of stories where the main character is left somewhere wild, untamed, with little to nothing except maybe a knife or the clothes on their back. I loved the resourcefulness, the dogged determinedness of it all, “My Side of the Mountain”, “Little House on the Prairie”, “Island of Blue Dolphins”. The idea of having to do things for yourself, to be smart and fast and strong or die was something I ate up. It was fascinating.
    Enter Eustace Conway, who didn’t just read about it in elementary school, but did it. I mean, come on now. The thing about stories like that is that you don’t actually think people go out and do these sorts of things. It isn’t rational or practical or convenient, to most people anyways.
    And again, enter Eustace Conway who said “Just watch me” and rode across the country on horseback, not to prove anything to anyone, but just because he felt like it.
    What do you say to that?
    I guess what amazes me the most about him, though, isn’t all of these skills he’s obtained in the wild, not the hunting or fishing or the general idea of “roughing it”. No, it’s how real he is. Because he doesn’t talk the way you think someone living like that would. He’s not stoic or brooding. He’s not a hermit. He’s social. He makes jokes and seems to understand people and how they behave better than the people themselves, probably because he’s looking at it from a distance.
    Another thing he said struck me as well. He said that people essentially make their own limitations, which really jumped out at me, mainly because I’ve heard it before.
    Excuse me while I segway to a connection that proves just how much of a nerd I can be.
    Okay, so Hugh Jackman. Also known as “that guy who plays Wolverine in the X-Men movies”. Alright, so for his role as Wolverine, who is this hulking, muscular fellow, Jackman started hitting the gym and just went beyond what one would except a person to do in that situation. It was kind of amazing. Anyways, in an interview about it afterwards, he said that when people go to do things like work out, they don’t push themselves as hard as they can because they tell themselves that they can’t before they even try. He also said that, if you stop thinking about things that way, you can do anything, and that nothing is impossible.
    So back to Eustace Conway, who essentially said the same thing, though without the pretense of X-Men, but I digress.
    I guess that’s what I like about him, that roughness coupled with his own realness. The ability to walk into the woods, not as a challenge but as an equal, and come back out to tell us about it.

  3. Julianna September 15, 2011 / 8:49 pm

    I found, while I was reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s essay, I just wanted to drive to Turtle Island and live with Eustance Conway, just for a few weeks, though. The whole idea of making everything from scratch and really finding value in things and nature really I really agree with. I feel like, with our current world, there’s so much industrialism that we don’t take time to think about the glass that we drink from had to have been made by some machine and before machines, some person had to have made that glass. Everything that we need is right in front of us. After all, if we get sick, we drive to a pharmacy to get medicine. And I really like the idea of making things yourself and learning to appreiciate time and effort.

    Also, I think Elizabeth Gilbert did a fabulous job with her tone and point of view in her essay. She gave the readers a sense that she knows Eustance Conway’s surface, but not the underneath his surface.

  4. Dakotah September 19, 2011 / 2:26 pm

    I think Eustace is rendered honestly and accurately in The Last American Man essay. Hearing him talk adds another level to his personality. I think it’s wonderful that he lived so openly. Living in a teepee, sustaining and teaching himself how to survive, how to ride a horse. I think Eustace was raised what we think of a sub-category of the american dream- being free to roam outside until dinnertime- with an added level of wild rugged-ness that is more unexpected. Now, in America, most parents don’t give their children that much freedom because it seems like a less safe world. Also, kids are less inclined to go outside.
    I watched the music video for “Virgin” by Manchester Orchestra and it is fairly unsettling but I really like it- all about the relationship between children and media. It has really haunting images. It’s very different from Eustace Conway but it goes along with the idea of The last American man- “Never gonna be the same” is chanted in the song.

    I loved: “I mean you really look real” Eustace seems more than anything: genuine. I think the best writers can come from having true, real experiences.

  5. Amanda September 21, 2011 / 3:42 pm

    I think I must have been that guy who told Eustace that he looked really real. I’m so fascinated by this concept that he’s built for himself, completely uninfluenced by outside factors and entirely what he wants to do, and then he does it. He’s the living, more careful and cautious Christopher McCandless/Alex Supertramp. In a contrived, weird, probably unintentional way, Eustace achieved what all Americans seem to strive for in their lives: someone to recognize them, someone to acknowledge their achievements and to be told that they’re different, real, tangible– “cool.” Eustace just set out to live the life he knew that he had to live, what he was good at doing.

    I think Liz really did him justice, capturing the general awe and mystique surrounding this guy, and I find it especially wonderful that he opens up to everyone in the same way without discriminating. When the teenagers at the camp kept asking the same questions over and over about the hairbrush, he replied very peacefully without getting angry or irritated. It’s just fascinating and terrifying at the same time to see how this man has tied himself to nature and has received the peace and here I am, sitting at a computer, awaiting my digitized and certain fate.

  6. Brennan September 21, 2011 / 9:25 pm

    In truth, I don’t know what’s real. (But it’s pretty much psychologically necessary for me–and I would guess others–to dismiss the above statement and never question what I believe society perceives to be “real.”)

    I do, however, find it intriguing that Eustace feels so certain of what’s real: being bound to nature. And although he appears to be a “nature evangelist,” especially in Elizabeth Gilbert’s essay, I’m not of the persuasion that Eustace is some sort of pious zealot. In fact, I think he’s quite the opposite; his demeanor (particularly in the video, when he reenacts past conversations he’s had with people who object to his way of life) seems to support the pursuit of whatever “reality” each individual concocts for him/herself.

  7. Katie McMath September 23, 2011 / 3:04 am

    I think that Eustace Conway’s idea of real- appreciating the Earth and using what nature allows us to use, and respecting and being thankful for our access to these resources- and our modern world’s idea of real- a constant race and acceleration of discoveries that will make our life easier or more entertaining- are both real, in different and separate ways, but that they can overlap in some sort of happy medium/balance. I don’t think that I understand enough about either world. There is still a lot of “real” work going on today, like the scientific and mechanic discoveries behind all of the conveniences that some people take for granted. Science is part of the real and natural world, and it is part of human nature to be curious about the possibilities, and ways that we can use it to our advantage, as in computers, and cell phones for entertainment, communication, and research purposes.
    Also, I like, as it is conveyed in the first chapter of The American Man, Eustace Conway’s appreciation of man’s tools and inventions, like the bucket. This makes me think that it is not that he is against progress, but that he just wants everyone to stay connected to nature somehow, because nature isn’t anything confusing or man-made, it can’t malfunction, it is just there, and we can take advantage of it, as long as we don’t get rid of all of it before we see the value in a relationship with his “real” world. The natural world is sort of a gift that has just been there for each of us, since we were born. It is from Earth, and we should be careful about getting rid of it and forgetting its importance, because we can not replace it once it is all gone.

  8. sophia September 23, 2011 / 7:16 pm

    honestly, the biggest effect the video made on me was that now i feel guilty taking everything for granted, and especially guilty that i am not fully connected to nature as much as he would like us all to be. i mean sure, i go outside a moderate amount, i enjoy greatly a long run or walk at 530 am when everything is still dark and cool and slightly wet, and all you can hear is birds waking up and cicadas going to sleep, but after that i always go home to a brightly lit house that uses far too much electricity then we probably need, and three cars that just sap fuel from earth and thank her by ruining her ecosystem.
    and some of the stuff he said really had an effect of me, like when he said that sometimes, while he was going on all his adventures in the wild, you could stick your hand up his rib cage. and that struck me as a scar. it healed, obviously, he got fatter and wider, but it was a scar that stayed with him, reminding him every time he ate that he was lucky that that wasn’t the case anymore, that he had survived that and he could again. and i found that such an incredible experience. never once in my life have i gone hungry for more than three hours before eating enough. never have i had to hunt for my food, cook my food, do anything. never have i been in that position. and that hearing conway talk about those experiences made me jealous. i wish i had the guts and the skills to do exactly what he had done, is doing. all through his talking, he held me spell-bound.

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