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April 2008 Categories
> Nonfiction: Post EAT, PRAY, LOVE nominations here
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(last edited Mar 18, 2008 03:53PM)
Mar 18, 2008 03:52PM
DEADLINE: APRIL 13, 2008
Eat, Pray, Love
: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert
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(last edited Mar 23, 2008 05:00AM)
Mar 23, 2008 04:52AM
Here is my review!
The author of Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert, is so honest, courageous and just overwhelmingly true to herself, it is difficult to imagine her not taking this journey toward peace and self-hood. It seemed so authentic in the end that I found myself wondering how she had not started out this vibrant, energetic, peaceful young woman to begin with.
This book is for anyone who has not had it all figured out, and for those who wish they could put their lives on hold in one aspect yet start the engine running in another. We cannot all get up and take a trip across the world, to three countries beginning with the letter I so we may find our true selves. And yet- couldn't we? This is the question this author begs to ask the rest of us who may be stagnant in one place, not as happy as we know we ought to be and deserve.
After a difficult at best divorce from a man she loved but was no longer in love with, a tricky and somewhat too-quick love affair with a man she continues to long for despite oceans between them, Liz takes off with a heavy heart and a confused feeling about her, for the three countries that represent what she is seeking most: Italy to eat, India to pray, and Indonesia to seek love.
I admire this author, Liz Gilbert. I want to meet her, eat pasta with her, meditate with her, and then sit on a beach in Bali talking with her all about what she has learned - and perhaps not included in the book - about her journey from starting out as this woman in the middle of an awful divorce, so unsure of herself and her place in her world, and who becomes the woman she says she always wanted to be - confident, happy and totally content with whatever life would bring her way.
I suppose I want to meet her because a part of me wants to acquire this author's clarity about who she is and about what matters in life. To top it all off, she gained a lot of weight eating pasta and gelato in Italy and didn't care one bit; she had no idea whatsoever how to be silent and pray as much as they asked her to in India, yet she tried her damnedest; and she only had one nice dress to wear over and over on dates, yet seemed perfectly non-self-conscious about it! Who wouldn't want to meet someone as bold as Ms. Gilbert? It might resemble meeting ourselves, and that, my friends, would be a lovely encounter for sure
(last edited Mar 25, 2008 05:14AM)
Mar 25, 2008 05:14AM
Wow, this book took me on a roller-coaster ride. I couldn't decide if I loved it or hated it and it seemed like every few pages I'd go from thinking Gilbert was delightfully witty to thinking this was the most horribly self-absorbed person to ever set foot on the earth.
In the end the overall effect was rather like sitting at a party listening to someone tell a long involved story all about themselves, and you're alternately annoyed and fascinated and you want to get up and leave but she's just so
that you keep telling yourself you'll leave in the next minute--and so you end up sticking through the whole thing.
I didn't hate Eat, Pray, Love, but it left me really unsatisfied. When I first started reading the book, I couldn't help rolling my eyes and thinking "Here we go, another tale of a precious, privileged woman who is unsatisfied with her life." I stuck with it though and was charmed through the Italy section by Gilbert's humor and down-to-earth writing style. Still, for a woman who abandons everything in search of a true spiritual experience, she leaves most of the important questions unanswered. I felt that Gilbert projects herself so strongly onto every place and every person she encounters that I'm not sure what she really learnt along the way.
As delightful as the Italy section was to read, I felt like she never really stepped out of herself to understand the country on its own terms and to move beyond the stereotype. Despite it being a bit of a superficial assessment, I have no problem with Gilbert associating Italy with pleasure. There is enough beauty there to warrant it.It was more her interpretation of what it means to open oneself to pleasure that bothered me and seemed very narrow. For Gilbert this consisted mostly of overindulging in foods and allowing herself to put on weight. It seemed like she came to Italy thinking she already knew how to experience pleasure and proceeded to enact it based on her definition (even though there are indications that the Italian interpretation of pleasure is not merely restricted to this.) I would have liked to see her explore what it meant to devote herself to pleasure just as seriously and reverently as she seemed to take the meditative experiences in India.
Overall though, my biggest problem with this book was I had difficulty at times believing Gilbert achieved the enlightenment she talks about because she is so internally focused. Most importantly I still have not really grasped why it was necessary for her to travel to these 3 places.
I understand that her intention was not for this book to be a travelogue but it begs the question, "Why was it necessary to go to Italy, India and Indonesia if the purpose was to not to gain something from them that could not be found elsewhere?" In every country Gilbert created a little security blanket of expat friends who seemed to cushion her from really understanding the lessons the countries had to offer on their own terms. Why go to India to meet Richard the big Texan Guru, for example? Why not just go to Texas?
For those of us with "eyelids only half-caked with dirt" but who can't uproot our lives and travel to countries of our choosing is "enlightenment" still an option? I wanted Gilbert to talk more about how anyone with an ordinary life but who is searching for insight could still balance spiritual yearning with duty.
And that's my final peeve about this book. I wondered if Gilbert had any sense of duty or sense of obligation to anything beyond herself. Gilbert seems to recognize the bonds of duty that restrict the locals she encounters. Yet, she somehow paints them as pleasurable or inevitable yokes for the people who bear them. Her detached observations of life and death rituals in India and Indonesia as though they are restricted to those parts of the world made me want to shake her and say "but there are rituals everywhere; you have made a conscious decision to remove yourself from the ones you know."
I ask about duty not because I wanted Gilbert to stay in a loveless marriage but because the concept of duty is also linked to a concept of justice. What is it that we ought to do? What do we owe each other?
Part of me felt that Gilbert took comfort in the non-dual aspects of Eastern philisophies in a strange way. She seemed almost relieved that the non-duality of existence would ensure that one would not necessarily be punished by the universe for selfish deeds. I felt like Gilbert embraced that aspect of the philosophy without realizing the equal importance those cultures place on the balancing notions of reciprocity, duty, of being
beings in the truest sense (often taking it to the other negative extreme).
The lack of sense of obligation to anyone other than herself made Gilbert seem curiously dead to the contradictions around her. She didn't seem perturbed at the abject poverty of the Indian women around her, or to question if it was just. She never wondered how a spiritual person should grapple with the injustice of the world, nor did she seem to question the "rightness" of living in the midst of poverty in an artificial environment created to specifically cater to pampered Westerners. In Indonesia, she finally seems to see beyond herself to the suffering of others but when she does try to help someone it seems impulsive and done almost with carelessness so that the whole thing almost becomes a big mess.
After all of this, the end of the book just seemed to fall flat as Gilbert tried to wrap things up quickly, crowning it all of course with a romance with a doting and exotic lover.
This book had a lot of potential but ultimately it seemed like a story about one woman's sense of entitlement and her inability to ever quite move beyond that though she does make some valiant efforts to do so.
Bloomin’Chick (Jo) aka The Eclectic Spoonie
Mar 27, 2008 10:21AM
well, here's my review! it's a bit long ~ this book left me feeling so much, with so much so say about it! also, i don't use cap letters - sorry! (it's how i email, blog, etc).
though i heard of this book in 2006 (see who i say recommended it to me), by the time my interest peaked enough to actually read it, i was also very hesitant to do so because of all the "hype" about it! and i why did i go & buy the book? because the waiting list at both our local libraries is over a year long and once i saw liz's first appearance on oprah in october, i couldn't resist the book any longer! (curiosity kiiled the cat as they say!)
usually, this isn't my type of book, but i can honestly say that it is, so far, the most honestly written memoir i've read to date and for that it's amazing! (the main reason i gave it to 3 of my girlfriends for christmas!) i under-lined many, many sentences in the book that i relate to or which stuck a chord with me.
i lost interest at times when i felt i couldn't relate to some of the 'frou frou' spiritualism of it! now before you get annoyed at me, please keep reading! i'm not saying people can't truly have & believe they have experiences like that! i just can't relate because i haven't experienced anything to that degree and don't expect to! that's just not me! but, that's ok on both sides of the coin! (i'm ok, you're ok!)
i lost interest & got bored during her 'history lessons' that she gives in the book as backgrounds on different places and religious practices because i felt it got a bit too academic (for my taste!) and lengthy. i did want more closure at the end given the fact that i know liz gilbert goes on to buy a home and live in western nj & marries felipe ~ she ends the book before anything concrete like that happens.
and dare i say this?! because of most of the comments "richard from texas" made to her, i think he's a condiscending *&^%$#!
it's been an interesting and emotional read and as usual, i'm a bit sad that it's now over. i wonder, "now what?!"
ps: i watched both of liz gilbert's oprah appearances and what worries me after watching the 2nd is the rush to use this book as ones ultimate life guide or "bible," as some viewers kept calling it. that's not what she intended when writing it. (i assume given her reactions to those viewers!)
i realized in my late 20's that no matter how much you look, there's no one book (or even many books) that will give you all of the answers you need. by all means, take some things to heart, challenge your views and file away things as suggestions you can try, but if you take a book like this and use it strictly as guide for your own life, i feel you're still going to end up back where you were before you read it. (been there & done that, let me tell you!) liz gilbert's path is not the same as mine or yours or anyone's! and that's ok! it may be a long & painful road but we'll all get to where we want to be eventually & all in our own ways!
i have battled severe depression for many years now and have been in abusive relationships (i'm not saying hers were) and i think many do not like this book because they cannot relate that kind of deep & overwhelming pain and being lost. therefore, they feel that she's being selfish, self-absorbed, hopped up on self pity. i've also come across a bit of jealousy when others say they dislike the book because they may not have the financial means liz had to be able to do what she did and therefore, they feel she's ungrateful or selfindulgent.
around 2000, i was handed a cushy trader job with a powerful and well known financial company in manhattan where i'd be making oodles of money and working on the 78th floor of tower 2 at the world trade center. i've always dreamed of working in the city! but, it was NOT what i wanted to do, nor did i have the confidence in myself to handle everything it would've entailed, so i backed out of the job ~ much to the utter dismay of friends & co-workers.
on september 11, 2001, i was at home that morning, sitting on my livingroom floor because i'd thrown my back out. i turned on the tv to see tower 1 of the world trade center in manhattan "on fire." they didn't actually know yet what had happened. a few moments later, i watched a plane fly into tower 2. later i found out that only 2 people from the 78th floor of tower 2 made it out alive. 2. i feel in my soul that if i'd been there, i would've died.
just because one seems to have "everything," sometimes the price for that "everything" doesn't make it worth having after all.
Apr 07, 2008 08:33PM
When I first heard the premise of
Eat, Pray, Love
— a woman's journey after a series of personal hardships to find peace and happiness across three countries — I thought it was going to be a solemn retelling of the pilgrimage-like voyage in the likes of Paulo Coelho. Of course I was wrong.
Elizabeth Gilbert tells an honest story (which starts with the quote "Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth") of her emotional and psychological breakdown after a harrowing divorce and a whirlwind romance. Embarking on a culinary expedition to Italy for the sake of pleasure (
), a spiritual retreat at a temple in India (
), and a search for balance with the help of an elderly medicine man on a tourist island in Indonesia (
), she shares how she progresses from depression to a balanced, full life.
At first I didn't really get how serious Gilbert's problem was — she only mentioned the word 'suicidal' in a passing, almost nonchalant way — until she described her use of medication and the moments when she seriously thought of killing herself. Her tone is often melancholic in places; in others it was rich with humor and wit. Some have called her a self-centered whiner but to me she was only expressing her anguish, trying to make sense of her world after it turned upside down, and finally allowing herself to heal.
I also find that Gilbert's open-mindedness toward many schools of spiritualism and religion leads me to tolerate hers as well. I may or may not agree with her practices and beliefs (one of them is that there is no such thing as hell because if imperfect humans can be so compassionate and forgiving, why not God almighty Himself?) but it doesn't stop me from appreciating them. In an era where religious debate can so easily lead to scathing insult and physical aggression, Gilbert's take on religion is a breath of fresh air.
But the core of the story, for me, is that Gilbert's search brought her face to face with the only one who can help her: herself. Only you can bring yourself from an awful state to a better place. Just like Gilbert's favorite Italian word:
(let's cross over).
Apr 11, 2008 02:41PM
I'm a bit wary of Oprah's almost god-like influence over the nation (or at least the publishing industry), so after Oprah recommended Elizabeth Gilbert's
Eat, Pray, Love
I had no desire to read it—until I heard about the backlash against the book. Suddenly, I had to know what kind of book could produce such strong reactions of love and hate.
Now that I've finished, I cannot figure out what all the uproar is about. I neither love nor hate the book. I like some parts and dislike others. It is, after all, just a book and not a piece of sacred scripture.
Eat, Pray, Love
covers a year in Elizabeth Gilbert's life as she strives to overcome grief and depression by finding balance in her life. I did not read the book as a how-to manual for overcoming life's difficulties. Instead, I approached it as an interesting travelogue similar to Eric Weiner's
The Geography of Bliss
Gilbert's first stop is Rome to experience pleasure (eating) and to learn Italian. She has a good sense of humor, and I enjoyed the vignettes she shares about her four months in Italy: the friends she makes, the sites she sees, and (most importantly) the food she eats. This part of the book did inspire me; I now want to study languages as diligently as Gilbert, and I want to have the confidence to eat alone at a restaurant. I visited Rome once, and I had no plans or desire to return, but Gilbert made me see the city in a different light and has convinced me to visit again.
After delighting in 100 pages of Italy, I entered the book's second section, and it was like stepping into a swamp of molasses. Gilbert travels to an Ashram in India to meditate for four months. I believe in spirituality, and I respect Gilbert for seeking spiritual health and healing. Unfortunately, I have little patience, and I couldn't imagine anything more difficult and tedious than spending hours upon hours in silent meditation—until I read about the hours and hours Gilbert spent meditating. These passages were just plain boring and painful for me to read, and I slugged through over 50 pages before I could bear it no longer.
In the midst of Gilbert's chanting, I found myself having my own other-worldly experience as my mind wandered away from the text. Suddenly, an internal voice came to me, saying:
Stop reading this sludge. Skip this passage. Set yourself free.
This advice seemed absolutely brilliant. I mean, surely even Elizabeth Gilbert herself would urge me to follow this spiritual guidance and skip the India section. I did and felt immediate relief and freedom—almost a sense of nirvana.*
Moving on to the Bali section was a relief and almost as delightful as returning to Rome. Although Gilbert continues to meditate, this final section once again contains portraits of the people she meets and the experiences she has in Indonesia.
I am not going to start eating more, praying more, or loving more after reading this book, but it did keep me entertained for several hours.
*I did eventually return to this section, believing it is unfair to write a review if I haven't read the entire book. My opinion about how tedious this section is did not change.
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