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Before the AT, Joseph Knowles was Naked in the Woods
February 10, 2008 5:36 PM   Subscribe

"It was now dark and here I was in this spruce thicket without food or fire, naked, and miles from a camp." It was 1913, and Joseph Knowles had with cooperation of the Boston Post, decided to prove that man could survive in the wilds. Pictures and courtesy of Google Books, Knowle's own account, Alone in the Wilderness.
posted by Atreides (16 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow. An amazing story. The photos alone are worthy of a post. I look forward to reading the book.
posted by gwint at 6:55 PM on February 10, 2008


Completely agree, gwint. Great post, Atreides!
posted by snwod at 6:59 PM on February 10, 2008


great post, thanks. I love stuff like this.
posted by Rumple at 7:01 PM on February 10, 2008


I call BS.
posted by DU at 7:05 PM on February 10, 2008


Here is an interview with Jim Motavalli, author of Naked in the Woods, which is a biography of Knowles.

A very interesting story, though it sounds like fraud was involved.
posted by Tube at 7:12 PM on February 10, 2008


Bitchen shelf-fungus?
posted by 517 at 7:13 PM on February 10, 2008


In fact, it was that interview (posted by Tube) I heard on the road tonight that inspired me to look up Knowles and discover the pictures and the book. Motavalli described it in the interview as a pre-television reality show, as Knowles would leave notes and pictures (like the charcoal drawing) behind or around for the Post journalists to pick up. Apparently, it was enough material to run daily articles on the status of Knowles and his achievements through the two month adventure.
posted by Atreides at 7:36 PM on February 10, 2008


Thoreau used to have dinner in Boston.

Considering some of this for use in conjunction with H.S. students' reading of Into the Wild and Walden, for an in-between example...
posted by kozad at 7:43 PM on February 10, 2008


What a crazy story, and the fraud implications only make it crazier in my mind. Thanks for the post.
posted by ORthey at 8:21 PM on February 10, 2008


Alone in the Wilderness via Internet Archive (color scan higher rez)
posted by stbalbach at 8:56 PM on February 10, 2008


H.S. students' reading of Into the Wild and Walden

Man that sounds depressing. Walden is a very important work, Into the Wild is like, an off-beat suicidal looser. A different suggestion: The Man Who Walked Through Time (1968), see my review for why it's significant. Some more ideas for a classroom.
posted by stbalbach at 9:32 PM on February 10, 2008


Loved the photographs. There was an intense return to Nature feeling during the first century after the Industrial Revolution, a sense that it was a more moral, finer way to live, that machines and urban life disconnected people from their feelings and each other.

D. H. Lawrence's works of writing were very much about this. His collected works represent an extended reflection upon the dehumanizing effects of modernity and industrialisation. In them, Lawrence confronts issues relating to emotional health and vitality, spontaneity, sexuality, and human instinct.

My grandfather, Wessel Smitter, wrote a book about this issue as well: FOB Detroit.

An evening sky in lieu of the real thing.
posted by nickyskye at 9:50 PM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Into the Wild is like, an off-beat suicidal looser.

Glad I'm not the only one who had very little sympathy for the "protagonist" of that tale.
posted by maxwelton at 10:29 PM on February 10, 2008


Glad I'm not the only one who had very little sympathy for the "protagonist" of that tale.

Fortunately, I don't believe he was interested in your sympathy. Whereas Knowles seemed to be banking on it.
posted by fairmettle at 4:24 AM on February 11, 2008


I've read a bit about the "Maine Tarzan" and it seems indisputable there was more than a whiff of James Frey about the nitty gritty details of his back-to-nature experience.

But even after Knowles was semi-outed (by rival newspapers), journalists still liked the guy.

There is a lovely line in an anthology about real tales of survival "Desperate Journeys, Abandoned Souls" about Knowles.

It says contemporary writers continued to recount his story with "whimsy and a wink".

They weren't fooled, but somehow the guy didn't make everyone feel foolish for believing him.

Maybe it was just a kinder time back then (1920s and 1930s) - but I like to think that Knowles was a genuine sweetie beneath his somewhat tall tales.

Gorgeous post Atreides ! Thanks.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 5:38 AM on February 11, 2008


Joseph Knowles does not sleep, he waits.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:15 AM on February 11, 2008


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