If you are a woman who only has a couple girlfriends, hardly reads, never watches TV, and hardly uses the internet then maybe you are one of the few that had not already heard of the Elizabeth Gilbert memoir, “Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia”.
Well either that or you are a guy.
The book was published in 2006 and with it came this odd Chick Lit pseudo-spiritual/cultural phenomenon where it was on every woman’s book club reading list in America.
Then things died down a bit on it, but now it has been released as a movie starring Julie Roberts and with it a huge resurgence of banal chick blogs, self-help drivel, and articles about women solo travel and finding yourself.
Okay, to be honest I was already sick of it back when the phenomenon started to grow in 2007 and the writer appeared on Oprah. My issues with it are many – like the writer seeming spoiled and narcissistic making the whole thing seem trite and the book being passed off as a memoir, yet it seemed completely preconceived.
Getting an advance on a book idea - the idea of traveling around to three major places in the world – well I'm sure it was discussed at length and in detail ahead of time. After the agent sold the idea, the writer and her editor sat in a room and decided exactly where she would go and the main theme of each country and what she would do while she was there.
Eat - Italy, Pray - India, and Love – Indonesia
Also quite nice how the alliteration works with all "I" countries. How convenient and does not seemed contrived at all (yep, that is sarcasm)
Besides it appearing to me to be so obviously contrived and trite - some friends of mine wonder what my issue is with it. I have tried to pinpoint it. I think it boils it down to two issues:
1) The mob mentality love affair with mediocrity
If a handful of people say something is good then others just assume it must be and jump on the bandwagon without using their own discernment – this is what I am calling the mob mentality love affair with mediocrity.
The book gained attention and then its popularity snowballed out of control. As far as self-help chick memoirs go (and I am no expert on that genre) the book is very overrated.
And really this is not a rip on Elizabeth Gilbert. It is a societal criticism of lack of discernment or maybe just being lazy in discernment. In fact, kudos to EG for writing a book and getting it published. It’s not her fault that American women are so desperate for fluff that they turned it into a pop culture icon.
In fact, I think originally they were going to publish this book under the For Dummies series and the working title was, “Under the Tuscan Sun for Dummies”.
Then we have the entitlement theme - and that is a major pet peeve of mine anyway and probably why I have such disdain for the book.
The writer is at the very least middle class and really probably upper middle class, although I am not privy to her net worth. She says she loses money through her divorce, but then the nice advance comes through for the travels of her contrived memoir.
But really folks, her life is pretty charmed. But yet she is very unhappy and needs more. Not only does she need more, but she seems to insinuate that she is entitled to more. Maybe if she had to worry about feeding her family and paying her electric bill she wouldn't have time to be unhappy and searching for more.
You know what would be interesting? Is if this same person has the same issue.
She is unhappy in her marriage, wants a divorce, and needs to find herself.
But instead of the entitlement of getting an advance and having someone else pay for her wonderful trip to Italy, India, and Bali - how about she gets nothing.
How about she decides to do more like a Thoreau thing by going out to stay out in a cabin in the woods of economically depressed America where they don’t even know what gelato is and there are no good pizza joints for thousands of miles.
And while she is out there in the middle of nowhere she goes to the corner store and meets a family who are on food stamps because their husband/ father was killed in car accident by a drunk driver with no insurance. They have no life insurance and the mother has MS.
Maybe this will help put things in perspective for the writer. Maybe she will eat less and cook the family some meals instead. Maybe instead of being tutored in Italian by some young hot guy she will tutor an illiterate thirteen year old and teach them to read.
And maybe she will be able to pray. Pray for those in real and actual need. And then maybe she will learn the true meaning of love. Giving of yourself and not expecting anything in return.