March 27, 2009

Writers and Naturalists

So I caught the last bit of an interview with writer Elizabeth Gilbert on the radio and thought, "hmmm...I wonder what she's been up to?"

Of course I'd seen her book Eat, Pray, Love with its crayola cover on the shelves of every bookstore since time began but it never occured to me to look at the author's name, so I didn't know she'd wrote it. The book screamed "chic flick!" or literary equivalent. Maybe I thought it was a cookbook and I avoid them like the plague. My impression now is that it's a combination diet, self-help, "seeker" memoir - all of which I'm pretty much allergic to.

So I had no idea it was my Elizabeth Gilbert, meaning the one who wrote the excellent biography of the amazing Eustace Conway. I wondered how Conway and Gilbert were both doing. A quick check of and I find that Gilbert has become famous in her own right with the aforementioned book.

I searched Catlick blogs & Mama T came up:

I'm finding a lot that's interesting in Eat, Pray, Love. More than I thought I would when I picked up the book. Do I agree with her spiritual path? Oh, no. She's one of those "we all believe the same, deep down" folks. And I think that is manifestly untrue. BUT, her questions, her seeking, her drive for a relationship with God? THAT I can empathize with and see myself in. I don't think it's always necessary for us to agree with an author to get something out of the book.
I'm not necessarily recommending the book. But I am saying it's not being a bad read....

While I was interested in the first two sections (Eat (of course) and Pray), the book fell apart in the final third for me. The author goes off to Bali to find "balance" in her life (oh, would that we could all jet off to foreign destinations when we're "out of balance"). But in the end it turns out that she falls in love with a Brazilian ex-pat and the story devolves into a paean about the glories of sex with this guy. Um. OK.
With Mama T, it'd be easier for her to list the books she hasn't read. Meanwhile Meredith Gould has more on her blog:
Why would I want to read Liz Gilbert's best selling book, Eat, Pray, Love? I mean, really. Having people say, "she sounds like you" and "her story is like yours" is not exactly compelling. If I want to recall the dark years of my soul, I can take a handful of busprione and reread my journals. I need to read someone else's spiritual memoir?

But because a friend gave me a copy as a birthday gift, I recently read Eat, Pray, Love. Could not put it down thanks to my endless fascination with navel-gazing even when said navel is embedded in someone else's body.

Are Gilbert and I that much alike? I guess. The spiritual journey does, after all, follow a predictable trajectory that starts with a brutal wake-up call.

Differences: My so-called successful life imploded when I was in my late thirties. I did not take the language-food cure in Italy. The ashram where I spent my soul sabbatical was in the United States. (Her description of shakti kundalini is nicely done, especially since the experience is impossible to convey without sounding psychotic.) The healer who rocked my reality was from the Philippines, not Bali.

I've also yet to meet the much older lover who adores all my quirks, most which are floridly apparent either before, during, or after writing a book. And excuse me for whining about being a "mid-list" author, but no one has given me a whomping huge book advance to chronicle my journey from darkness to light. Not yet, anyway.
Finally, if you haven't ready enough on Gilbert there's more here.


William Luse said...

You won't be mad at me for confessing complete ignorance as to who any of those people are, will you? Except for Mama T, of course. Everyone should know her.

TS said...

That's right, everbody know MamaT. Speaking of bloggers, in a few weeks it looks like I'll be meeting the Darwins of Darwin Catholic, a Dayton priest who blogs, and Rich Leonardi of "Ten Reasons".

wl said...

Are you going to offer them all a Guiness? If they all turn out to be teetotalers, you won't let it inhibit your drinking, will you? You must remain a man of principle.

TS said...

No worries - we're meeting at an Irish pub and except for Mrs. D I think we all enjoy a fine pint.

Betty Duffy said...

Hi TS. Speaking of the Darwins, they pointed me in the direction of your blog, and I always love a rant on Elizabeth Gilbert.

I know I'm no Meredith Gould, but if you're interested in more "Eat Pray Love" discourse, I blame that book for making me start a blog.

TS said...

Good stuff Betty. I can so relate to the seductions of the glories you mention. Also this resonated: "Everyone feels a silent pity for the elderly, first because they are so close to dying, but mainly because, being so close to the end, they have never been cured of those defects that forever have been glaringly obvious to everyone but themselves."