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Joseph Knowles was a forty-five-year-old part-time painter, ex-Navy man, friend of the Sioux, and onetime hunting guide who stepped-nearly naked-into the woods to live off the land and his own devices. From 1913 to 1916, Knowles's dispatches to the world-alternating accounts of bear clubbing and quiet contemplation, written in charcoal on pieces of birch bark-set off major newspaper wars, exploiting readers' fears of modernization. Did Knowles really survive for months at a time in the untamed wilderness without any aid, and why is the answer still so vital to the American psyche? Part adventure story, part cultural investigation, Naked in the Woods reveals a whole new dimension of our natural history.
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Jim Motavalli, who has written four books, is the editor of E/The Environmental Magazine. He lives in Connecticut, where he teaches journalism at Fairfield University.Review:
"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
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