That’s right. I changed the order after reading Roger Ebert’s review the other day, a review that concludes like so:
“The audience I joined was perhaps 80 percent female. I heard some sniffles and glimpsed some tears, and no wonder. “Eat Pray Love” is shameless wish-fulfillment, a Harlequin novel crossed with a mystic travelogue, and it mercifully reverses the life chronology of many people, which is Love Pray Eat.”
I haven’t seen the film, though I will, probably sometime next year on Netflix. But I have read the book, twice. The first time I read it as a beach read when it came out in paperback in 2007 or so, mostly because of the Italy chapters (I was planning a trip to Italy), which I still like the best because of the descriptions of Rome, Venice and the yummy food (I, too, went on a quest for the perfect gelato, though if I ate as much as Gilbert ate, I, too, would have gained instead of lost weight. Yes, I lost weight in Italy–all that walking everywhere).
The second time I read it was last week: I’m teaching a Memoir course this fall, and I’m anticipating at least a few students will ask me why I didn’t include Elizabeth Gilbert’s book on the syllabus. (One student already has emailed me about the book, interestingly.)
It reads better the second time, mostly because I’m already over the “she’s so full of herself” response that many readers have to the self she presents us (beautiful, talented woman with a book contract gets to travel the world and eventually meet Felipe, who seems to be a combination of the Old Spice Guy and Antonio Bandaras).
Or, maybe this time, just two weeks before I’m required on campus and the whirlwind of academic life begins again, I was just more willing to enjoy the ride.
I’ve spent months reading dozens of autobiographies and memoirs in preparation for this class, and this one was one of the few (Under the Tuscan Sun comes close) that was such pure fantasy. The Italian twins (one shy and scholarly; one more stereotypical Italian). The all-knowing yet still dripping in sarcasm Richard from Texas. The Australian hotty who thinks e-mail is too impersonal. And, of course, Felipe, the Brazilian gem merchant who spends hours physically pleasuring our Elizabeth. Add the lovingly detailed food of Italy, skim the Pray sections, pausing only when Richard’s name is mentioned, and leap to the sex in Bali and this is a great end-of-summer read.
In keeping with the romance/fantasy plot structure of the story (not that there’s anything wrong with that), our Elizabeth remains celibate for most of the book, with moments of sensual release through food in Italy, yoga and meditation in India, and finally, after months of such foreplay, including an aside on the sudden ineffectiveness of her usual masturbatory fantasies involving firemen or Bill Clinton, sex with our Antonio Bandaras/Old Spice man in Indonesia.
On NPR last week, I heard an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert where she discussed her new book, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage*, and while her marriage to Felipe (aka Antonio) sounds sweet, she had no problem admitting that he is, on a daily basis, quite boringly consistent.
I’m guessing few students will ask me to add that one to the reading list.
*Time magazine’s Mary Pols has an interesting comparative analysis between Gilbert’s and Julie Powell’s (of Julia and Julia) books on marriage, preferring the more self destructive Powell to the tedious Gilbert–Powell’s is called Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat and Obsession).