Peter Beard lived an astonishing life. The artist, wildlife photographer, and bon vivant enthralled and inspired both because of his work and his legendary lifestyle. A scion of American industry turned explorer of Africa and environmental advocate, Beard embodied the extremes of his time. And Beard had a passion—probably more like an obsession—with the faults of the entire human experiment, with the ways in which our consumption of the world's resources have come to consume us all.
Spirited ... Wallace blends biography, art criticism, reportage and essayistic digressions to create a portrait of a man so disillusioned with civilization that he sought to 'rewild himself' ... Wallace’s thesis about a playboy intent on living according to his untamed impulses...is convincingly argued in Twentieth-Century Man, and the man is sharper as a result ... Wallace also drops any pretense at objective distance, preferring something more intimate and brashly opinionated ... A reader’s tolerance for...meta commentary will vary, though Wallace deserves credit for grappling so directly with many difficult subjects ... Wallace, a former executive editor at Interview magazine, is good at dishing up the gossip ... Less persuasive is the presentation of Beard’s ideas around conservation and the natural world ... Beard...was possibly a sociopath, fascinating to read about, but ultimately a bit frightening when you survey all the evidence.