Tag Archives: Books

On Reading “Eat Pray Love”

(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.)

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Between Elizabeth Gilbert and Chastity: Torched Rose Petals!

Elizabeth Gilbert, I still love you. But the more I read, the more “Committed” feels frustratingly like an extended exercise in self-rationalization: of having a second marriage (would you believe some seagulls marry twice–and the second time they’re sooo happy!), of not having children (did you know Leo Tolstoy and the Bronte sisters were both raised by childless Aunties??), of Felipe, husband number two, and his liberated feminism (once she overheard him say woman’s place is in the kitchen: with a glass of wine and her feet up!).

But some sections, I must admit, still strike a chord. In particular, her inquiry into the question of why so many single women are desperate to get married despite an apparently overwhelming amount of data demonstrating that marriage benefits men far more than women, in every conceivable way. Gilbert surveyed her still-single friends to ask why, and got some predictable answers–many featuring the word “chosen.” And she offers an anecdote about her friend Christine: a woman so burdened by her longing to marry that on her 40th birthday she took a small wooden boat of rose petals and rice to set aflame in the Pacific–symbolically allowing herself to “marry her own life.”

I’m not sure anything has ever made so depressed. “I have got to to go burn some rice petals,” I thought as I read this, horrified, thinking of my writing teacher’s persistent advice (echoed, I should add, by Gilbert when I heard her speak) to “marry my writing” and the similar wisdom of my dear friend J, who last week told me that I must accept the possibility of being eternally single.

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Between Elizabeth Gilbert and Chastity

Reader, I have a problem. (OK, the first problem is that I just finished Jane Eyre, and it’s going to be difficult for me to restrain myself from gratuitous, compulsive use of that horrible addressing the “reader” device, but really I should just replace it with “Peter” because as of this writing he is the only person who knows of this blog. I’ll get better, I promise.)

Anyway, the other night I heard Elizabeth Gilbert read from her new book, “Committed.” Peter, I fell in love with her. The woman is charming and funny and well-spoken on the subjects of relationships, writing and being a romantic disaster in one’s 20s–truly, the only three things I care to think about in life. As a consequence, I am devouring that new book. The problem is that it’s a book about marriage, and, after a string of romantic disappointments so close together I am beginning to contemplate my Hebrew School delinquency, marriage is the last thing I ought to be thinking about.

Additionally, I want to blog about my dating life, but I also think that perhaps the best thing I can do right now is hide under some soundproof adobe and take a vow of chastity until my 30th birthday.

Gilbert isn’t helping. I’m only halfway through the book, and frankly should have put it down on Thursday to focus on the several hundred pages I’m actually required to read (on subjects woefully less self-reflective). So far I don’t think it’s great. Janet Maslin was kinda right . At times it does read like an elaborately concocted, shoddily researched and highly self-indulgent vehicle for justifying the failure of her first marriage and the existence of her second.

But I’m sorry, Gilbert’s voice is hopelessly endearing and frequently her insights are spot-on. So spot-on, it kind of hurts. Such as her rant on infuation: what she calls the “most perilous aspect of human desire.” She cites research that humans are most vulnerable to infatuation during periods of instability: “The more unsettled and unbalanced we feel, the more quickly and recklessly we are likely (sic) fall in love.”

Which brings me back to the chastity vow. Having just moved across the country to begin a three-year masters program toward a degree (creative writing) that will situate me no closer to stability than a beat-up frisbee, the point in time when I won’t feel unsettled feels far beyond sight. So: I should probably stay celibate.

But: celibacy does not make a very entertaining blog. Stay tuned. I haven’t finished the book.

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