(Note to Readers: Is anyone besides me starting to think that rather than calling this blog “Dating In the Odyssey Years” I should perhaps have called it “Not Dating in the Odyssey Years, But Thinking About Someday Dating While Reading Bestselling Books by Elizabeth Gilbert”? Just wondering.)
There are a multitude of lame explanations for why I’ve gone this long without reading “Eat Pray Love.” They include: laziness, bitterness, and the persistent anxiety that there are other More Important Books that I am more ashamed of not having read.
But perhaps the most significant reason—as well as the most lame—has been my stubborn resistance to doing exactly what I did this morning: that is, being That Girl on the Plane Reading “Eat Pray Love.”
(I must tell you that my resistance was not helped by the fact that my friend and colleague D, who insisted—heroically—on getting up at a ridiculous hour to drive me to the airport, casually and sincerely mentioned in the car that he likes to read Dickens on airplanes; as I told him, this made me feel bad about myself not just because of my chosen travel book, but because I like to read Dickens exactly nowhere.)
Anyway. For a while I did kind of celebrate being one of the approximately twelve single white women under the age of fifty who had not read the book. Like a badge of anti-solidarity, or something.
But then, as you may recall, I saw and kind of fell in love with the woman who wrote “Eat Pray Love.” And for all of my frustrations with her new book, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t take great pleasure in reading it.
Plus: I am, after all, trying to be a writer. I am trying to be a writer with a style not terribly different from Elizabeth Gilbert’s. And, need it be said, I would not object to being a writer with popular and financial success not terribly different from hers either. Clearly—like anyone—I’d be ecstatic to achieve some small fraction of either one. Which means that trying to figure out how she got it is not a totally irrelevant exercise. In fact, it’s probably a worthwhile endeavor.
This, at least, is what I told myself this morning as I sat beside a mustached, middle-aged Texan shamelessly devouring his mystery novel and took comfort in the thought that: I may be That Girl on the Plane Reading “Eat Pray Love,” but at least I am That Girl on the Plane Reading “Eat Pray Love” With a Pen!
What was I doing with said pen, you ask? You know, making like a good MFA student and trying to read “from a craft perspective:” noting shifts in tense and structural strategies and underlining those sentences I found brilliant (on men in Rome: “They’re like show poodles. Sometimes they look so good I want to applaud.”) and those I found irritating (on a group prayer session to some obscure Indian guru: “I instead felt my soul rise diaphanous in the wake of all that chanting.”)
Mostly, though, I used that pen to signal—to no one, it would seem, but the oblivious passenger next to me—that I am not just another of the fifty million devoted and desperate women who read this book. I am special. I am different. I am reading this not for philistine pleasure—or, worse, because I too am desperate, though we all know by now that I am—but for lofty, artistic and practical purposes. I made sure to periodically pull out my Moleskine notebook to jot down thoughts for this blog as well as further reinforce this perception.
I made it through about three quarters of the book, but I may need to save the rest for my trip back to Albuquerque: I’m in New York for the weekend, and I’m not sure there are enough writing instruments or Moleskines within the five boroughs to make me truly, fully comfortable being That Girl reading “Eat Pray Love” on the Subway.