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Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia Paperback – January 30, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Gilbert (The Last American Man) grafts the structure of romantic fiction upon the inquiries of reporting in this sprawling yet methodical travelogue of soul-searching and self-discovery. Plagued with despair after a nasty divorce, the author, in her early 30s, divides a year equally among three dissimilar countries, exploring her competing urges for earthly delights and divine transcendence. First, pleasure: savoring Italy's buffet of delights--the world's best pizza, free-flowing wine and dashing conversation partners--Gilbert consumes la dolce vita as spiritual succor. "I came to Italy pinched and thin," she writes, but soon fills out in waist and soul. Then, prayer and ascetic rigor: seeking communion with the divine at a sacred ashram in India, Gilbert emulates the ways of yogis in grueling hours of meditation, struggling to still her churning mind. Finally, a balancing act in Bali, where Gilbert tries for equipoise "betwixt and between" realms, studies with a merry medicine man and plunges into a charged love affair. Sustaining a chatty, conspiratorial tone, Gilbert fully engages readers in the year's cultural and emotional tapestry--conveying rapture with infectious brio, recalling anguish with touching candor--as she details her exotic tableau with history, anecdote and impression.
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"If a more wonderful writer than Gilbert is currently in print, I haven't found him or her... Gilbert's prose is fueled by a mix of intelligence, wit, and colloquial exuberance that is close to irresistible, and makes the reader only too glad to join the posse of friends and devotees who have the pleasure of listening in." —Jennifer Egan, The New York Times Book Review
"An engaging, intelligent, and highly entertaining memoir... [Her] account of her time in India is beautiful and honest and free of patchouli-scented obscurities." —Lev Grossman, Time
"A meditation on love in many forms... Gilbert's wry, unfettered account of her extraordinary journey makes even the most cynical reader dare to dream of someday finding God deep within a meditation cave in India, or perhaps over a transcendent slice of pizza." —Los Angeles Times
"Gilbert's memoir reads like the journal of your most insightful, funny friend as she describes encounters with healers, ex-junkies, and (yes!) kind, handsome men." —Glamour
"Readable [and] funny... By the time she and her lover sailed into a Bali sunset, Gilbert had won me over. She's a gutsy gal, this Liz, flaunting her psychic wounds and her search for faith in a pop-culture world." —The Washington Post
"This insightful, funny account of her travels reads like a mix of Susan Orlean and Frances Mayes... Gilbert's journey is well worth taking." —Entertainment Weekly ("A" rating)
"Be advised that the supremely entertaining Eat Pray Love—a mid-thirties memoir by the endlessly talented Elizabeth Gilbert—is not just for the ladies, fellas." —GQ
"Compulsively readable... Think Carrie Bradshaw cut loose from her weekly column, her beloved New York City, and her trio of friends, riffing her way across the globe on an assortment of subjects ranging from the 'hands-down most amazing' Sicilian pasta she's ever tasted to her reason for buying sexy lingerie to our collective, species-driven instinct for being on the planet." —Elle
"Gilbert's exuberance and her self-deprecating humor enliven the proceedings: recalling the first time she attempted to speak directly to God, she says, 'It was all I could do to stop myself from saying, "I've always been a big fan of your work." ' " —The New Yorker
"An intriguing and substantive journey recounted with verve, humor, and insight. Others have preceded Gilbert in writing this sort of memoir, but few indeed have done it better." —Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"In this engrossing and captivating travel memoir, journalist Liz Gilbert globe-trots for a year to Italy, India, and Indonesia... Lucky for us, the lessons she learns are entirely importable." —Marie Claire
"Gilbert's writing is chatty and deep, confident and self-deprecating... that makes her work engaging and accessible." —San Francisco Chronicle
"As a friend--and as a writer--Gilbert is innocently trusting, generous, loving, and expressive." —The Boston Globe
"Gilbert is an irresistible narrator—funny, self-deprecating, fiercely intelligent... [She's] such a sincere seeker... [It's] impossible not to applaud her breakthrough." —Salon.com
"An intimate account of a spiritual journey. But it's also a zippy travelogue with rich, likeable characters...You will laugh, cry, and love with a more open heart." —Rocky Mountain News
"Gilbert is a witty, funny, and likeable pilgrim on a hero's journey." —The Oregonian
"Run-of-the-mill envy doesn't begin to describe what many readers must feel when devouring Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love." —St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"A captivating storyteller with a gift for enlivening metaphors, Gilbert is Anne Lamott's hip, yoga-practicing, footloose younger sister, and readers will laugh and cry as she recounts her nervy and outlandish experiences and profiles the extraordinary people she meets... [Her] sensuous and audacious spiritual journey is as deeply pleasurable as it is enlightening." -Booklist (starred review)
"Sustaining a chatty, conspiratorial tone, Gilbert fully engages readers in the year's cultural and emotional tapestry—conveying rapture with infectious brio, recalling anguish with touching candor—as she details her exotic tableau with history, anecdote, and impression." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Gilbert takes us on a pilgrimage, with the humor, insight, and charm that only come with honest self-revelation and good writing." —Jack Kornfield, The Omega Institute
"Spilling out of this funny (and profound) circus car of a book are dozens of mesmerizing characters; people you'll envy Liz Gilbert for finding, valuing, loving, and, I couldn't help noticing, joining for irresistible meals. I've never read an adventure quite like this one, where a writer packs up her entire life and takes it on the road." —Alan Richman
"This is a wonderful book, brilliant and personal, rich in spiritual insight... Gilbert is everything you would love in a tour guide of magical places she has traveled to both deep inside and across the oceans: she's wise, jaunty, human, ethereal, hilarious, heartbreaking, and, God, does she pay great attention to the things that really matter." —Anne Lamott
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"Eat, Pray, Love" is pseudo-intellectual, altruistic, mother-my-dog pap of the worst kind masquerading as spiritual insight. Read between the lines and it expounds selfishness as a virtue and mindless hedonism as both philosophy and legitimate path to spiritual insight. Unsurprisingly, that great doyen of the gullible, Oprah Winfrey, loved it and made it one of her book club choices, thus unleashing it to a wider audience than Gilbert's talents as a writer would normally have ever allowed. Apparently, God help us, a big-screen version with Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts is currently in the offing.
As a literary construct, Gilbert herself seems to be the contemporary living embodiment of Tom and Daisy Buchanan from "The Great Gatsby", of whom F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, "They were careless people...they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness...and let other people clean up the mess they had made."
"Self-absorbed" does not begin to cover it; "self-centred" is not nearly an adequate description. One hopes that she can't really have been so completely inured to the poverty of India and Indonesia by her solipsism. If so, then she seems to be genuinely emblematic of a subset of the "sex and the city" generation of women who put their own self-gratification above all other things. Worryingly, this attitude seems to be becoming increasingly more prevalent in western society.
I will be honest, I first happened upon this book after briefly seeing some of Winfrey's interview with Gilbert on television and consequently read three quarters of the book in my local library - and was so completely incensed that I felt it my civic duty to warn you off of this book.
If you want a genuinely enjoyable book to provoke introspection, this isn't it, but may I politely suggest Tom Hodgkinson's How to Be Idle: A Loafer's Manifesto and The Freedom Manifesto: How to Free Yourself from Anxiety, Fear, Mortgages, Money, Guilt, Debt, Government, Boredom, Supermarkets, Bills, Melancholy, Pain, Depression, Work, and Waste or Lin Yutang's The Importance Of Living in it's stead; If you want a decent travelogue, may I politely suggest any Bruce Chatwin's books, and if you really want to read a writer with talent give the exponents of the Gilbertian philosophy of self-aggrandisement both barrels, then I strongly recommend Michael Bywater's Big Babies: or: Why Can't We Just Grow Up?
Here is a woman who shows all the possibly-perceived-as-lacking-substance thoughts of hers and we are throwing tomatoes at her. One thing, she obviously wasn't afraid of that. She wasn't aiming to be coming off as some deeply wise woman but a fumbling girl-woman trying to break out of what she felt was imminent disaster (had she had the baby and delayed her need to find out what she truly wants from her life she might have left not only her husband, but their child, or most probably ending up not leaving out of guilt and becoming crazy instead: exposing her family to that for years; not an uncommon reality). She is not one for anti-depressants, remember.
This memoir falls in the same category as the TV show Sex and the City (of which it was compared to in a review here). Both get trampled for being supposedly superficial, covering the silly plights of city girls who don't know what they want and yet have everything. But this book--as the TV show--actually are part of a wider story that is illiciting reactions from the public because it reflects the transition in which women in the modern world are experiencing: now that we have equality with men professionally, now that we are liberated from all the limitations being a woman dictated two generations ago, how does that affect us? From a distance, in a glance, it seems that women have all the cards to play with now. But this book and many other works by women and/or about women of this generation show that having all those cards does not mean Happiness.
There are still things in society--in regards to a woman's role--that grates. And then there are things within our Modernised, Westernized, Individualized, Ambitious selves, that are lacking.
This is what Miss Gilbert's search is about, and what she represents.
On a collective level, much of the modern world is in search of God, Spirituality (one just needs to walk through bookstores in the US and see the plethora of soul searching self help books on the shelves). This is what needs to be observed and understood as a phenomena in the West; the small voices, small cries, here and there by those who come up with the balls to share their journeys and thoughts with us--no matter how trite-sounding, how shallow-seeming--are part of a collective howl for the meaning of life.
Elizabeth Gilbert's voice is just one of many that calls for recognition as part of a chorus for something that firstly, many women are hollering about, and secondly, humanity in general--humanity in the first world--are crying for: some kind of guidance, indication, that the collective paths we fought for and chose (the best education, career ambitions realised, a certain amount of money needed to live that certain kind of magazine-lifestyle life--which is what Liz Gilbert's life is a reflection of, remember--love in the form of marriage and what society dictates) are truly the things that give us peace and happiness in the infinite sense.
Eat, Pray, Love might not be that deep, wise voice representing the deep, wise journey into the deep, wise self. But this book's packaging and tone, hell, its WORDS, never did say it was. It is a fumbling--almost child-like in its guilelessness--show of the ego's awareness and needs, and its attempt at searching for what many people from all walks of life only wish they could go out and find: THEMSELVES. SELF, being the keyword here. And in this memoir, ultimately, God, being in each of our selves.
To the people who were disappointed that the author didn't seem to give a hoot about India's poverty, they must have not read the book through: Miss Gilbert never ventured out of her ashram and the little village it is located in, after making a decision to further develop her meditation skills and thus skipping the rest of India. She also ignored Italy's corruption with her indulging in good food and focus on learning and enjoying the Italian language. Again, the critics missed the point of this memoir. It's a book about a writer, a New Yorker, a recently-divorced-woman-in-her-early-thirties' journey to heal and find spiritual strength through various means: pleasure first to recover (Italy), spiritual examination and purging (India), combining the two for balance (Bali), which would result hopefully in the kind of substance and depth and balance that so many critics mentioned she lacks.
One doesn't pick this book up to: 1. Be exposed to India's poverty and expect the author to discuss that in depth. 2. Be exposed to Italy's corruption and expect the author to discuss that in depth. 3. Be exposed to Balinese wiles and expect the author to discuss that in depth. (which she actually did in the account of the Balinese woman she raised money for to buy the land the woman needed to build a home).
Next time you pick a book up at the bookstore, call up your powers of perception before purchasing it. A book IS pretty much its cover. Did everyone really expect a book titled "Eat, Pray, Love" A Woman's Search for Everything, to be an experience of religious fervor, one that would reveal the secrets of the universe? It's a story about a girl who thought everything she thought she wanted, would bring her happiness. It didn't. It didn't for her, and possibly not for many other women. If it took this one woman to go to Italy, India, and Indonesia, to get away after a difficult and painful divorce to heal and get perspective--instead of festering and turning into a pile of flesh in depression--then by all means. Yes, she financed her travels through her book advance--after giving away the suburban home and NYC apartment to her ex-husband. And if she wrote this book for us, it's really for us to appreciate and enjoy the ride with her. Anybody else who got so upset needed only to put the book down and pick another one to their taste. If anything, that's this book's lesson: Do what makes you smile and thankful for life.