Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Eat, Pray, Love (copy)

I admire writers who willingly place their lives on public display through personal memoirs. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, Night by Elie Wiesel, and The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr immediately come to mind as examples. This week I read Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert; a book that combines two of my favorite non-fiction genres—memoirs and travelogues.

Before we delve into the book, I wish to define the word memoir. Most readers use memoir, biography, and auto-biography interchangeably which is an injustice to the writer. Biographies are meant to convey one’s life from birth to death, or in the case of auto-biographies near death. With memoirs, the writer concentrates on a specific event within a life and tries to give it meaning. In Wiesel’s Night, the reader faces horror upon horror as he travels from ghetto to concentration camp during the Holocaust. His specific event is the Holocaust, but we know, through Oprah, he continues to live an eventful life.

Eat, Pray, Love is Gilbert’s search for meaning after an acrimonious divorce which spirals her into depression. To break her cycle and “comeback” from failure, she plans a yearlong trip abroad. Her inspiration for the wanderlust is a string of beads called japa malas which contain 108 beads. A precursor to rosary beads, she uses the 108, “a perfect three-digit multiple of three” as her outline for the book, as in 108 entries with 36 chapters per three countries.

Continuing with the trilogy theme, she further chooses three goals to achieve while living in each country. She calls them pursuits and while in Italy she pursues pleasure through food, in India she pursues devotion through meditation, and in Indonesia she pursues balance through human contact. Her title Eat, Pray Love derives from the adjectives describing each pursuit as she accomplishes them.

I’m shocked Gilbert chooses food over the obvious pleasure many recent divorcées opt for. Staring her in the face are two Italian gods, otherwise known as Giovanni and Dario, or the Tandem Language Exchange twin brothers. My jaw drops as she spends fifty, flirty hours drinking wine and watching sunsets with Giovanni only to be left at the door with a handshake. Dang those English Puritan genes!

Many a reader will enjoy Gilbert’s self-imposed travel through raw emotions with an upbeat flare. She reminds us, “God never slams a door in your face without opening a box of Girl Scout cookies.”


Anonymous said...

Perhaps my favorite thing about this book is how easily it lends itself to being discussed; it just came up out of nowhere yesterday with one of my co-workers, who wasn't overly fond of it. I find that people either love it or hate it, but either way, they want to discuss it. Kudos to Gilbert for that! (And have you tried her earlier book "The Last American Man"? An interesting book, even though I didn't care much for that last american man as a person, myself.)

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to hear another vote of confidence for this book. It's one of my alternate/bonus choices for Armchair Traveler challenge, and I'm thinking I'll have to exercise my swap-out clause. :-)

maggie moran said...

Hi NonAnon,
You are so right about EPL! I'm hoping to get it discussed in next semester's Reading Roundtable. I have heard about LAM! I ordered it for the public library when it came out after reading a review in Booklist and hearin' a little blurb on NPR. It was then reinforced as a good buy when a local book club choose it. Unfortunatly, I was in library school and missed the chance to read with them. Darn Library School! :)

Lesley! Man, I need to give you my titles and get to reading! This is definatly one or is that cheating! So sorry to be dragiin' my feet!

Anonymous said...

My library just sent me a notice that they have this book on hold for me! I hope I can just read it before it's due back :)
Stay cool over there - it's freakin' hot in Dallas too.

maggie moran said...

Run don't walk to the library to pick this up! Just kidding, you can drive! :D

Vasilly said...

I am so glad that someone else loves this book. It's one of my favorites. The Italy section, for me, is the best part. But it's true what nonanon said, people either love it or hate it.

maggie moran said...

I liked the Italy part the best, too! This will make a great book club discussion and I look forward to pushing it for next semester. More fun when readers disagree... :)

sage said...

I read this (actually listened to it)about a year ago. The more I read, the less I liked it. It seemed too focused on the author

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

I just started this book and I am really looking forward to getting deeper into it. Thanks for the great review!