Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Reverb12 | Day 9, The Eat Pray Love Cliche

I fell in love with Elizabeth Gilbert in a couple of radio interviews, when Committed, her follow-up to the Big One (you know which one), was published.  I loved her voice.  She was charming, funny, warm, imperfect.  She was like a female Garrison Keillor (which is about the highest compliment I can give).  She told great stories--like the one about learning advice on wrangling with the muses from Tom Waits.  I took an instant like to her.  She sounded like my kind of lady, which I must admit came as something of a surprise to me.  While I had not actively turned my nose up at the Big One (oh, okay, Eat, Pray, Love), I hadn't actively sought it out, either; you could say I was passively avoiding it.  I knew nothing much about the eating, the praying, the loving, except for the brief mention of it in an article I read about the growing trend of "divorce porn" in the publishing industry.

Even after meeting Liz Gilbert (or, her voice over the radio waves), I didn't immediately jump into the pages of her massive best-seller.  I chose, instead, to read The Last American Man, her slim 200-something page profile of North Carolina forest man Eustace Conway, who lives up in the mountains near Boone erecting buildings without nails and sewing his clothes with sinew from deer he's killed with his hands, a man who rode a horse across America with his cowboy brother, whose vision for this country doesn't include television or indoor plumbing.  I've built my life admiring men and women like this, and enjoyed his story mightily, but I also enjoyed the woman behind the tale--her insights, the voicing of her curiosities (what of his sex life?, she ponders for us all).  I devoured what articles I could find of hers online.  And, as 2011 came to an end, I found a used copy of Eat, Pray, Love, and without much thought to what I might look like in public holding this cover up in front of my face, I dispatched it, with glee.

Eat, Pray, Love was the first book I read in 2012, and it very much has directed the course and focus of my year.  A friend of mine read the book a little before me, around the time my curiosity over this writer was building, and when I asked what she thought, she told me she loved the food and travel dialogue, but was a little bored with all the spirituality stuff.  Five years ago, even a year ago, my answer would've been much the same.  It's not for everyone, all the spirituality stuff, but for whatever reason, my agnosticism has taken a strange turn, and while I still don't believe in Deity, I do believe in the power of prayer, in self-reliance, in manifestation of our wildest dreams, in living carefully and with purpose, in seeking: all things endorsed by Elizabeth Gilbert.

And there's the rub.  People don't like earnestness.  We are an acerbic kind living in a sardonic age.  Sneering is the stylish thing.  Not too long ago a fellow blogger (by which I mean, blog-writer, one who forms actual complete sentences [and good ones, I might add]), mentioned Elizabeth Gilbert (or perhaps The Book) as a punchline to a joke on Twitter, and I could not help but quip back the truth, which is: Elizabeth Gilbert is the writer I want to be.  She is.  Sharp and warm, personal (honest) yet urbane and seasoned, traveling the world, making money (I hope it's not too uncouth to mention).  I believe that people who judge Elizabeth Gilbert too harshly (like the aforementioned blogger) have never read anything by her, not the Big One, not anything.  As a writer, a constructor of sentences, it is difficult to find fault with her.  

No, what I think people find fault with, women in particular (because men appear to be mostly indifferent on the matter), is the quest aspect of Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir.  Liz Gilbert ended her marriage, pressed the pause button on her life, engaged in an utterly indulgent (that was partly the point) pilgrimage,  and then wrote (what became) a best-seller about it.  How dare she.  As if that weren't bad enough, she lays bare all her foibles, depressions, struggles, misguidedness, her desire to escape into relationships, her various methods of self-denial, all that messy stuff, and she doesn't apologize for it.  She reckons it for herself, but she doesn't hide any of her weaknesses--in fact, she claims the right to happiness in spite of all that.  What an entitled slut.

I love it.  I love her.  I ate it up.  As I wrote Kath during my reading of Eat, Pray, Love: I was feeling it.  I'm still feeling it.  I am still grooving on the Eat, Pray, Love manifesto.  She says something early in her book which hit me like a ton of fucking bricks.  She says it is our responsibility to make ourselves happy, because by being happy we make the world a better place.  It's true, of course.  One must open herself up to love before she can love anybody else, or anything else, and caring, changing things, begins with love.  It's a squishy, feely logic, but a logic nonetheless, and one that I abide by, completely.  Working on me in 2012, seeking, questing, has made me a better person, undoubtedly.  I have Eat, Pray, Love to thank for that, cliche or no.

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings.” - Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Prompt, Day 9 - What was the best book you read in 2012, and why?


  1. "and while I still don't believe in Deity, I do believe in the power of prayer, in self-reliance, in manifestation of our wildest dreams, in living carefully and with purpose, in seeking"

    I got goosebumps when I read this! A friend sent me a link to your YouTube channel a few days ago (we love your clothes!) and I was so pleased to see you had a blog. I'm from Asheville and my parents have several friends in Cary. Such a sweet town! I am having a great time catching up on your archives and just wanted to leave a comment letting you know I was here. We seem to have a lot in common in terms of our perspective on spirituality so I'm really enjoying your writing. Take care!

    1. I read your comment over the weekend, and I have to say it totally made my day. I've been trying to figure out how to respond because it made me all kinds of gleeful, and that's impossible to express in just a few lines. Thanks so much for stopping by and reading and commenting. I love Asheville, by the way--it's my dream town. And, it's interesting that you're in Portland now (right?), because I spent a number of childhood years living in Oregon, and it definitely left a print on me.


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