Eating- Praying- Loving. A lot of people do it, so what?

My posts have been rather sporadic, and far less on topic, or the topic of the blog, anyway. Let me explain, or try and attempt to use the “get out of jail” card here, just once. I completed my top five list, a couple of posts back, and while I was truly anticipating those five, I realized, quickly, that I could not possibly afford four new books at this time. We all have to live within a budget, and I’ve certainly been better than most, lately. Furthermore, Nicole Krauss’s, Great House: A Novel, isn’t due for release until October.  I received my second most desired title, Memory Wall: Stories, in the mail the day I left for Washington, and read the first story almost completely, during the flight. But I found that I couldn’t pick it up the entire trip as the first chapter’s focus on memory loss, inequality and poverty stricken landscapes was too depressive for a brief getaway that I had managed to obtain. I was in no mood to feel that side of the emotional spectrum; I was visiting a friend, touring a new city.  I’m not saying that I'm not going to continue reading Doerr’s collection of stories; I finished the second story this afternoon at lunch.  His prose is, after all, breathtaking and sheds light on the wonder of the human capacity to create and keep memories, while also exploring topics such as social injustices that have managed to avoid evolution far into the future.  I’m reading it at a slower pace; trying to pick it up at times when I’m feeling more inclined for that type of mood displacement. Isn’t that what some of us look for in great literary works, anyway; the opportunity to feel extremes of the human condition, in many different situations that are sometimes outside of our own?  To get to my point, his work is incredibly thought-provoking, and a work of that caliber must be read with complete attention--eyes as sharp as glass. 

So, as I mentioned previously, I did get a load of new books this weekend. One of those books just happened to be a seriously discounted copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray Love. I purchased it because I felt I couldn’t escape a female friend, or retail store or twitter update that didn’t mention how it was a must read for women of all ages.  It was a revelation; an "indulgence" which would allow women to live vicariously through this superwoman, whose intelligence, wit and hard work would catapult her into far-flung adventures. I also believed it existed to act as encouragement for the modern woman, exhibiting a woman who could take control of her life and own her happiness. Why not? Gilbert's a successful working woman, who's left behind a nasty divorce (and another screwy relationship?) and resists the trend of marrying young, creating a family and living in a bubble with blue skies and the greenest of all the sides. I wholeheartedly agree with all of this; if you’re unhappy, make changes in your life, everyone has a right to themselves, even if some say it’s purely selfish in nature. The entire book is essentially the documentation of this successful woman’s experiences trekking through three countries: Italy, India and Indonesia. I- I- I!

or Me-Me-Me. Ok, so I was interested. Truly inspirational, is what I believed. 

I really wish I could say that’s what I got from her work, but I feel miserable lying. I was ready to toss the book aside upon reading the first pages, but the little voices of every praise I had heard ran circles in my head; so I thought, “ok, I should at least try to process half of the book, and then decide from there.” Like most avid readers I have a real problem with not completing a book. Now, I’m sure critics say, if the books is poorly written, or just doesn’t speak to you, then move on, there are other fish in the sea (sorry to be ever so cheesy). But I’ve made it past the first chapter of her experiences in Italy, which I appreciate almost solely for her adept descriptions of Italian cuisine. At night, while lying in bed, book in both hands, I was salivating at the thought of the pasta, the pastries and the stews of her journey. I had eaten just an hour and a half beforehand, probably stuffed, yet dreaming of plates piled high with pizza from the land that introduced it to the world. She had a way with words; I felt I could taste the food. 

And that's really great!  But, I would've picked up a guide for food lovers if that's the only thing I was going to get. I can't discredit her work by saying that she didn't provide any insight, not to mention the fact that I only finished the first chapter, because she did have a few moments of clarity, so to speak; uplifting epiphanies that really pulled at my heart strings.  However, these were just too few and far between and I was really expecting more.  Just to make sure that I shouldn't completely rid myself of the book immediately, I checked my Goodreads list for reviews of the book from about 100 readers, and they, for the most part, held the same sentiment.  Many readers, like me, didn't believe Ms. Gilbert owed us anything, but were at least expecting a little more than a novel of epic narcissistic porportions. She really couldn't offer any real world advice.  Sure, she didn't come from the blue blooded upper crust of New England society, but she wasn't disadvantaged, either. Furthermore, she goes on and on and ON about how her personal growth is a top priority, discovering who she is, what she wants, but she consistently refers to men as if they are the only means in which she can discover herself. Maybe that's part of the discovery, but she doesn't explicitly come to terms with it, so it ends up sounding trite. There must be more to a human being than the nature of lust and the inability to recognize that you're certainly co-dependent, right?  She leaves her husband, after years of unhappiness, stating that she needs time to herself, yet starts seeing another man before the divorce is even finalized. She loses everything, right? Then gets an apartment in NYC. Really, lost everything, huh?  What is everything, exactly?  I literally felt like I had picked up the diary of an extremely self-absorbed woman, who just happened to be making money in the process. I don't want to read a book that has been sold to the public, and Hollywood, apparently, that proclaims free-thinking, modern women of the world should wake-up and immediately buy this life changing book. It won't really change anything.  You might actually walk away from it feeling a little cheated, like I did. Like I said, she offered a few moments that I really felt were genuinely moving, but wading through the many ridiculous sessions of dialogue she had with herself simply wasn't worth the work.   
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  1. Despite my many attempts to avoid this book it was placed into my hands by someone I adore so I am reading it. I'm halfway through the first chapter and I share most of your sentiments - but please tell me you haven't finished it yet? Gallivanting around the world sounds great, but I'm really hoping the final two chapters will offer more worldly enlightenment and advice for women out there. This is also a perfect time to mention the VERY VERY small percentage of Americans who actually have a passport. Even if shallow at times, if she can get across to the shallow women of America, maybe they would come back at least slightly more worldly and therefore more tolerable to the rest of us :)

  2. Rachel,
    I completely trust your word, and I understand the importance of promoting world travel. I just didn't really enjoy it. Perhaps I'll pick it up at a later date, but for now I'm going to move on. Love the last line- very tongue and cheek! :)

  3. Beth, I feel exactly as you described here and I read the entire thing.

    I came away thinking.. what a shame, all those fantastic people and those beautiful places had to put up with a woman who, in all honesty, is more fortunate than many women out there who dream about seeing the places she saw and doing the things she did.

  4. Lydia,
    Thanks for the input. So far, I've heard so many different reviews that I feel I might need to at least try and finish it. I feel like I should respect it in some sense, because she is so candid about her emotions during downtimes in her life. I think it was the way in which the book was marketed that left a bad taste in my mouth. I was under the impression that she was a strong, independent woman, who worked tirelessly to break away from everything ane experience the beauty of the world. Overall, I felt like she really reinforced negative stereotypes of women as travelers.


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