A Consideration, in many parts, of Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Committed”
So I have to admit, before I even began to read this book, there has been a tremendous amount of conversation going on around me regarding Elizabeth Gilbert, and Eat Pray Love (the precursor to Committed). She is local to my mostly bucolic county, owns a business in a small, funky and quaint town 12 minutes from my doorstep, and everyone I know seems to have an opinion about this 2006 bestseller, the author, and the sequel. (including two friends who live in two different states, and work in/own two different, wonderful independent book stores).
I loved Eat Pray Love when I read it. It was an amazing journey. Gilbert’s descriptions of scenery, food, people, and her own thoughts, were compelling. The idea was delicious: someone in their mid-thirties, shedding her existence, to travel and figure out her next act. It was absorbing and envy-making. Who among us hasn’t had (and c’mon, admit it, at least once in a while!) the fantasy of escaping, traveling the world to exotic and far away places, sampling delicious cuisines, hooking up with exciting, sexy strangers? Who wouldn’t love to have the resources to drop everything and take off? Sadly, most of us do not – which is probably why this book was such a huge hit. She lived out most women’s fantasies.
So, there I was, in the weeks before the release of Committed, still talking about Eat Pray Love. Many conversations about the book, and it’s author, with many different women who exist in many different places in my life (and a few smart men as well). Am I too late to now add, "long story short"? Never mind, here is the Reader’s Digest Condensed version of those voices in those conversations:
- I *loved* Eat Pray Love!
- Too much of a fantasy, who can really do that? Woulda been a great novel, rather than memoir.
- Gilbert whined too much about the dissolution of her marriage. Shut up and get on a plane already!
- I wish I was her!
- Liked the book. Gilbert… not so much…
- It was a vicarious thrill and journey that prompted me to look at my own desires and dreams.
- How brave to take off like that and travel alone!
- Oh my God, I can not believe Julia Roberts is playing her in the movie version!
Which then led to a whole new aspect of the conversation: several mixed opinions of the upcoming movie:
- I totally can/cannot see Julia Roberts as Elizabeth!
- I hope Julia doesn’t flash that maniacal grin through the whole movie!
- I loved her in "Erin Brockovitch": how cute was she in Notting Hill? (really? only these two movies?)
- and finally: Ugh, really? I wish Meryl Streep was still young enough to play Elizabeth. (at which point, an hilarious discussion about Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan romping through "Mamma Mia" ensued – which is actually an idea for a great, if not totally dated Pandoration post!)
All of which finally brings us back around (you knew I’d get back there eventually, right?) to the new book, of which I’ve only read a tiny bit. A consideration and personal study of Marriage (with a capital M). Many have tried to figure out marriage. Whether we are in one, never been in one, never wanted to be in one, crave one desperately, or are currently out the other side of one… Marriage is something almost everyone has an opinion about. (for example, I’ve read lots of opinions about marriage just this past week, as our totally Wussy Democrat-majority New Jersey State Senate failed to pass a Gay Marriage bill. (hey, there is yet *another* Pandoration post – because obviously I have a lot to say about this as well!)
Lizzie and I have talked about blogging Committed together. She’s finished the book, I’ve only just begun reading it. We’ve talked about the process of reading the sequel of a book that provoked so much reaction among so many readers. And about sharing that process with you all.
Funny–I never got much caught up in any of the opinions that swirled around Eat Pray Love. But I did read it. Well, at least…I read part of it. And the beginning of it I reread several times. But only after it had sat on my shelf bookmarked for months. Hold on–I’m getting ahead of myself. I should explain….
I have two dear friends with whom I meet every Thursday morning for omelettes and home fries at the local greasy spoon diner. (It’s one of those wonderful places where a waitress named Betty brings your Diet Coke and your friends’ coffees to the table and plunks them down just at the moment you sit down. "Usual, right Ladies?") We read and discuss challenging, meaty books on subjects ranging from theology to philosophy. One morning one of those friends brought up Eat Pray Love–and there was some discussion between them on whether the book was perhaps "navel-gazing fluff." And, from what I gathered, both of my intellectual buddies concluded that, while the book was of a fluffier texture than they might normally read, there had been something about Elizabeth Gilbert’s voice that had been genuine enough, thoughtful enough, exuberant enough, to make them really, really like the book. Or, perhaps more accurately, to to really, really like its author.
And, whenever these two reading buddies–let’s call them Virginia and Christina–are in agreement on really, really liking an author, I am at the bookstore while the grease from the home fries is still fresh on my lips.
So, I purchased Eat Pray Love-and I settled in to read it in bed one night. Read all about the now-famous "bathroom floor moment" when Liz realized her marriage must end. Indeed, that it had, in many ways, already died. I got as far as the beginning of her year-long geographical and spiritual journey. The wonderful "eating" part in Italy…yummmmmm. Except…the next day, I found I had no desire to read any further in that book. I put it on a shelf–and there it remained for months.
You know what? That book, with its bathroom-floor weeping and its beckoning big-wide-world, was simply hitting too damn close to home to be a pain-free (or even a tolerable) read. And now…her follow-up book, Committed, is hitting just close enough to home to be a must-read. Yes, there is much more to say; and my experience of Eat Pray Love is more personal, more about a provocative effect than an evaluative response. And, because this post is getting way too long, that story will just have to wait for the next post.