Monday, June 16, 2008

Eat, Pray, Love

[Note: Today I'm publishing a special guest post from my GoodReads friend and blog author I frequent, Jonniker. Her book reviews on GoodReads usually crack me up, so I wanted to share one (and probably more in the future) with you today. Here's her take on Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. After you read the review, check her blog. She's hilarious and insightful -- hilariously insightful, if you will.]

Eat, Pray, Vomit

Oh, Elizabeth Gilbert, how you frustrate me. Forgive me for saying so, as this book came so highly recommended by so many people I truly love, but I haven't wanted to punch someone as much as I want to punch Elizabeth Gilbert in a really, truly long time. "One woman's journey," my ass. The premise, if by now you aren't familiar with it -- and if you aren't, might I add that I'm envious of your oblivion, and may I urge you to stop reading this now to protect your innocence? -- is Liz Gilbert's three-country tour through Italy, India and Indonesia to find herself after what she deems as a "painful" divorce. The divorce, by the way, was her choice, and yet she spends an inordinate amount of time making us feel sorry for her, as though she was VICTIMIZED by this man who loved her and wanted to stay married to her, OH BOO HOO. They're called consequences, sister. Learn to live with them.

Sorry, where was I? Oh yes. Ultimately, the issue that I had with this book was that I didn't like her -- I didn't like her at ALL -- and without having a sense of compassion for who she is, and what she learns on this journey, I think enjoying the book is a near impossibility. And yet ... by the end I was less vitriolic in my hate for her than I was in the beginning, but I think that can be chalked up to the fact that by Indonesia, she's introduced several characters for us to become emotionally invested in -- real people who are not as self-pitying and self-centered as she is.

But oh, Italy and India. I hated you so. And frankly, I hated her. Her attitude, her smugness, immature behavior all amounted to a person who really needs to be kicked in the ass -- hard -- by a good dose of reality. Put it this way: how much pity would you have for one of your friends who left her husband in a fit of immaturity and got a YEAR -- fully paid -- to do nothing but eat her way through Italy (and really, that's all she does there), do yoga in an Indian ashram and find a way to balance the two (VOMIT) in Indonesia?

I imagine not very much, no? Wouldn't you take her aside and say listen, bitch, quit your complaining, because some of us do this shit EVERY DAY and oh by the way, we also have to WORK and tend to our RESPONSIBILITIES. So GROW UP?

No? Just me then?

I was, and remain, truly mystified by the legion of reviewers who called her self-deprecating and likable, for frankly, any self-deprecation was done in a way that we were meant to find charming and lovable, because wasn't she so HUMBLE and SELF-AWARE? How darling! Oh, Liz!

Ha ha NO. I didn't find her likable at all, and I'll admit, I really wanted to. And I'll admit, I was a bit soured by the concept of running off and "finding yourself" at 34, which seemed ... well, it seemed self-indulgent, and her selfish reaction to everything she saw kind of cemented that idea for me.

In addition, while I understand that non-fiction is largely written and commissioned on spec, I do feel very strongly that the pre-determined publishing agreement took a great deal away from the authenticity of the project. While I admire her business acumen in securing one prior to her travels, on the other hand, how much more would you have admired her if she did it on her own, out of an actual desire to do so, rather than a mercenary, selfish motivation? Doesn't it seem a bit contrived to find yourself because you got a publishing agreement to do so? I'm CERTAIN I could find myself -- even though I have not yet gotten lost -- if someone gave me a year to travel around the world. In fact, I DARE a publisher to come find me and make me an offer.

To put it mildly, I won't be seeing the film. The concept of Liz Gilbert played by Julia Roberts is ... well, let's say it's a bit too much for my gag reflex to bear.

Do you agree or disagree? Let us know.


Anonymous said...

While I actually liked the book, I totally understand this viewpoint. I was never quite able to feel sorry for a person who was depressed about a marriage she chose to leave and who got to travel on someone else's dime. What I did like was watching her deal with her problems in many different ways and seeing how people along the way were able to get through to her and help her to move on. I also loved traveling with her and learning about the places she visited. In some ways it reminds me of "Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home" by Kim Sunee, which I recently read for book club. Both deal with a semi-unsympathetic woman struggling with identity and depression with themes of food and travel. Maybe my dislike of "Trail of Crumbs" made me like "Eat, Love, Pray" better in comparison.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit, when I first read it, I liked it. HOWEVER... Not so much now. And certainly not the more I learn about Gilbert and her self-aggrandizing behavior. In fact, the further I get from the novel, the more I want to pummel this woman. GET A GRIP Sweetie! Real life can suck, no? I am with you, quit complaining and grow up. It's too bad she was on Oprah too, now she has LEGIONS of fans, LEGIONS.. God help us all.

I did manage to salvage a few things from EPL, a few quotes I do happen to love, no matter the nauseating source.

Amy said...

In spite of the self indulgence, I liked her and I liked the book. I'm not sure how a book of this type could end up not sounding like a woe is me fest. The book was the equal of chick lit to me - I didn't want to like it, but there's that part of me which did and probably always will like it.

The other part of the book I liked was that it seemed to really speak to so many women who needed a wake-up call and somehow found it in Liz's story.

After seeing her on Oprah though, I did kind of throw up a bit and was glad I had read the book months prior to the show. It was just too too much.