Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Eat, Pray, Hurl
or
"Why I Hated The Book Eat, Pray, Love"

I don't often write entire posts on something I dislike, because when I venture into snark-dom, I inevitably get mean-spirited comments. Negativity begets negativity, I guess. (Uh, although to be fair, I hardly think I can be considered evil, or likened to a vampire, both of which I've been.) (Yes, vampire.) (I do not know.)

So then let's begin this with Caveat #1:
Hi! This is my personal opinion! I do not wish to change your personal opinion should it differ from mine!

Also, I realize 100% that my opinion in this particular matter is super-personal, and reflects my own Issues with a captial "I". Fun! La la la.

Caveat #2:
If you liked this book, even a little bit, I am probably going to offend you. I'm sorry. I love you.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I tried to pinpoint the exact reason Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love" annoyed the shit out of me from the very first page, but I have had a hard time picking just one reason.

The most obvious one is that most anything dubbed "spiritual journey" is going to be hard for me to swallow. Such a notion puts me on squinty-eyed, folded-arm HIGH ALERT. My immediate response is: Why should I be listening to you?

And Elizabeth Gilbert just does not have a good enough answer. By a mile.

If her book were framed as a travelogue, I'd have at least been able to tolerate it. But the "my life was so hard and then I found the way" angle makes me all shivery with...well, as Em of Bemily calls it "douche chills." I was hesitant to even begin it.

BUT, I thought, Elizabeth Gilbert is supposed to be funny and likeable, so why not try? I mean, the premise of the book from like, thirty trillion feet away isn't awful: Woman goes on a year-long expedition to figure herself out following a personal crisis, plus eats food.

Okay, okay. Maybe not SO douche-chilly. I can dig it, right?

Here is the actual premise, though:
Cute, tall, blond woman who is moderately talented but hugely successful marries the seemingly perfect man and is juggling life as a travel writer who has an apartment in Manhattan AND huge home in the New York suburbs, woe is her.

One day, she realizes she is totally bored and filled to the brim with White Guilt, and wants to divorce her husband though she doesn't have the balls to even admit this to herself, so she spends a lot of time crying and then starts asking the universe for help.

Then she spends all these pages explaining why her divorce was so, so horrible.

She is infinitely passive-aggressive in speaking of her husband, blaming him without blaming him but blaming him, and trying to convince us (her) that he was absolutely horrible in the divorce proceedings, but won't tell us why because, she says, to do so is petty. But she works up the her-as-victim with all her might...so that when she then mentions how she moved in with her lover the second the separation started, we don't blink an eye. She's awfully obtuse about how and when she met this lover, because certainly that would only muddle the story.

Ahem. Back to the premise.

Divorce for her is very, very hard, very very very hard, and her lover isn't the answer, which makes everything even more hard. Eventually she asks the universe to end her divorce and it says yes, and then she decides to go on a year-long trip to Italy, India, and Indonesia. Except OH NO! All her money's gone from her trying to keep up the bills on the Manhattan apartment and house and divorce and so how will she do it?

Ohthatsright.

And I can actually afford to do this because of a staggering personal miracle: in advance, my publisher has purchased the book I shall write about my travels.


So it is really just her premise that I hate.

Let me be as wise as I can be, understanding that I say this while wearing pink Crocs and a giant salsa stain on my shirt (mmm, wise): Every human being probably believes that they have experienced tragedy, because every human being HAS experienced tragedy. If the worst thing that has ever happened to you is that your pet iguana died when you were a kid, then that is the worst tragedy you know.

I'm saying for individuals, it's relative.

On the continuum of Human Tragedy, however, some things are just more tragic than others. And we all of us know this, inherently: What's divorce compared to Darfur? But -- sure -- we still have our everyday lives to lead, too. We need to think about and discuss our beliefs and religion and work and relationships and how we get through each day. Absolutely we do.

What I cannot abide by is not knowing the difference.

Not knowing the difference between tragedy and Tragedy; not knowing the difference between suffering and Suffering; and mostly, not knowing the difference between being a "soldier" and being unbelievably blessed and fortunate in the first place.

Bottom line for me: she had nowhere near the modesty or humility or perspective needed to make her spiritual "journey" interesting to me.

Don't try to convince me how hard your life is, when by objective standards it's anything but. Be honest with me: You were bored, dissatisfied, unclear, and guilty and embarrassed about feeling that way. Don't overplay your drama to win sympathy -- the harder you work to convince me how horrible your life was, the more you sound defensive about it. Nothing
could undermine your Spirituality Credibility more than being disingenuous. I can't take spiritual suggestions from someone who doesn't even seem to know herself.

So that's my real, big issue with the book. Ms. Gilbert has seemingly no idea how lucky she is, or how self-centered and right, self-indulgent, her entire perspective remains. (I'll quote some of her more irksome passages below.)

It should not go without noting that I also found the book to be sloppily written. Rather than work her learnings into the story, so that the format of the book would become self-evident, she spends the preface explaining it to you. Her tenses shift throughout the first 50 pages, jumping forward and backward without rhyme or reason. And every time she goes to make a bold statement, she backtracks through heavy-handed use of self-deprecation.

Plus (and what's much worse), I don't think she commits to what she's writing. Is Eat, Pray, Love a spiritual guidebook? I'm sure she'd say no. Does she hope that people will glean lessons from her writing? I'm sure she'd say yes. So um, what was the point? I'd love to hear Ms. Gilbert answer that very question without a passive response. The idea that it's "just one woman's journey" seems very wishy-washy to me. Either you have a point of view and a purpose, or you don't.


* * * * * * * * * * *

I know, I know. Pot, kettle much?

I went through the same divorce at the same time (literally), for maybe similar reasons. I wrote about it on my personal blog. (Helllllooooooo self-indulgence therapy!) I have been that puddle on the bathroom floor. I even used the term "puddle" and detailed my bathroom-floor wailing.

Except I don't have any advice at all.

Okay, that's not true. Here. Here is the entirety of My Book On Divorce: "Divorce sucks big donkey doodoo and but life goes on anyway, damn it, and then so do you, eventually. In the meantime, here's a cocktail and a pair of sweatpants -- you'll be needing both."

And I should totally get a bazillion dollars for that.

I'm getting side-tracked.

I love blogging and I love reading blogs and the point (or one of my points, whatever) is that I read more genuine, more inspirational, and more well-written tales from normal, non-funded everyday people on my Google Reader than this "#1 New York Times Bestseller" and I just have to wonder if publishers will ever get it.

Why was this book so noteworthy?

Why was this author paid to go find herself and write about it? About a hundredteen billion people would KILL for that opportunity -- OF COURSE ME TOO -- and would at LEAST have the good sense and graciousness to recognize it as something to be a thousand percent humble and thankful about.

Rather than recognize that she was fantastically lucky for getting an opportunity like she did, she took what I consider to be a fairly low road. She treated the funding/publishing aspect as an after-thought, and then expended all kinds of energy trying to convince us just how deserving and in need of this journey she was.

Yes, well. It's really easy to be Spiritual when someone else is footing the bill and you've already got the book deal.

Woe, indeed.

* * * * * * * * * *

Where I quote some parts of the book without permission.

I don't actually think that I would dislike Elizabeth Gilbert in person at all. I just -- man, oh, man. Blogging has opened my eyes to what naked/brave/real/genuine writing is like, and this book isn't it.

Maybe I'm just being bitchy.

...my one mighty travel talent is that I can make friends with anybody. I can make friends with the dead. I once made friends with a war criminal in Serbia, and he invited me to go on a mountain holiday with his family. Not that I'm proud to list Serbian mass murderers amongst my nearest and dearest (I had to befriend him for a story, and also so he wouldn't punch me), but I'm just saying -- I can do it. If there isn't anyone else around to talk to, I could probably make friends with a four-foot-tall pile of Sheetrock. This is why I'm not afraid to travel to the most remote places in the world, not if there are human beings there to meet. People asked me before I left for Italy, "Do you have friends in Rome?" and I would just shake my head no, thinking to myself, But I will.


Okay, now that I've quoted it I can see how it's not so bad. But if you're all into reading this and you're trying to understand why you're supposed to feel sorry for the author and you then come across this paragraph about how she makes friends with EVERYONE, can you see how I might be all, "YOU POOR THING YOU."

Lastly, let me reprint what appears on page 32. I think it shows quite well the kind of spirituality that Ms. Gilbert is about. It is cute and accessible, and I get it. Except for where I don't at all.

Here is her "petition to God" that her friend insisted she write -- because she would NEVER have done it on her own. Only because her friend made her. Because of her humility.

She wanted her husband to sign the divorce papers. Clearly, there was nothing more she, personally, could do to end the conflict, so she asked God.

Dear God,
Please intervene and help end this divorce. My husband and I have failed at our marriage and now we are failing at our divorce. This poisonous process is bringing suffering to us and to everyone who cares about us.

I recognize that you are busy with wars and tragedies and much larger conflicts than the ongoing dispute of one dysfunctional couple. But it is my understanding that the health of the planet is affected by the health of every individual on it. As long as even two souls are locked in conflict, the whole of the world is contaminated by it. Similarly, if even one or two souls can be free from discord, this will increase the general health of the whole world, the way a few healthy cells in a body can increase the general health of that body.

It is my most humble request, then, that you help us end this conflict, so that two more people can have the chance to become free and healthy, and so that there will be just a little bit less animosity and bitterness in a world that is already far too troubled by suffering.

I thank you for your kind attention.

Respectfully,
Elizabeth M. Gilbert

71 comments:

  1. And with a blog, you can watch someone (or yourself) go through a traumatic event or troubling times and you (usually) get to see them come out on the other side a better person. You get to see growth. If you've been reading someone for years, you see this growth process and you compare it to your own and it connects you in some way. That's spiritual to me.

    A book like this, however, ought to have all the parts present including climax and conclusion. If she starts out selfish and ends selfish then what is the point of that? Where's the growth, really?

    I'd been thinking about reading this. But I have little time to read for pleasure. Thanks for helping me cross one more off the list.

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  2. that book was awful. terrible. maybe she slept with her publisher? and was good at that?

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  3. You know I actually liked the book when I first read it but now that I've read your take on it, you make some really valid points. I almost want to re-read it but . . .who am I kidding, I won't. The Texan guy is my favorite character in there. He's got some good quotes even if he is borderline Dr. Phil.

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  4. I hated that book too. Blech. Kudos for you for taking it on!

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  5. I've been lurking here for a while (still lurking, hence anonymous) but thought you would get a laugh out of her Wikipedia page. It's either written by her in the third person (eugh) or by an extremely sycophantic agent. I mean admirer. I'm Scottish, so I have an even lower tolerance for the Spiritual Finding of Oneself by Crossing the Atlantic, and I have to say the whole premise makes my toes curl. Yuck.

    Btw, I love your blog. It's one of only two others on my Favourites list, I check it even more often than Lolcats :)

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  6. I bought the book because it had a quote on the cover from Anne Lamott. If anyone is looking to read someone who has been through some shit and lived through that shit in the same way the rest of us have to - by living through it - Anne Lamott is a much better choice.

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  7. I loved the book, but I also loved your post. I totally get why many disliked the book and I'm cool with that. I liked it simply because by reading about her dealing with her life, it helped me get better insight into mine. And I liked her writing style, which I also know put many others off. Hey, YMMV, right?

    This, however, you definitely deserve an overly large book deal for:

    Here is the entirety of My Book On Divorce: "Divorce sucks big donkey doodoo and but life goes on anyway, damn it, and then so do you, eventually. In the meantime, here's a cocktail and a pair of sweatpants -- you'll be needing both."

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  8. Erm...maybe you'd prefer her sister's book about a girl who wants to try out for the guys football team in high school even though her sort of boyfriend is on the rival team? ;)

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  9. I'd been contemplating reading this one, since everyone has been gushing over it. Hadn't really seemed like my sort of thing, so thank you for this post. I seriously doubt I'll be reading it.

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  10. Thank you so much for posting this. I have been incredibly dubious about this book but one person after another keeps telling me how great it is. You are the first person I've seen criticize it, and what you talk about is exactly why I didn't think I'd like the book in the first place.

    I'd read your book, though.

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  11. ROFL. I still have not read this and finally decided I wouldn't because of all of the hype. I knew I could not pick it up without hating it.

    So thanks. You've just given me the support I needed to not feel guilty for refusing to read such a GREAT book.

    I love you.

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  12. Many, many thanks for the review! Now, I definitely won't read the sucker! With this post you have totally helped make my, ahem, spiritual (ha!) journey that much better.

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  13. Um, I love your blogfabulous self for composing this post.
    I stopped reading this book well before even page 50.
    Also, I wish we could be friends on Google reader so I could find further delight in your shared items.

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  14. suffer the rich, for they are perenially bearers of your cupiditous disdain.

    but it does sound like a pretentious book though.

    Love,

    Boo

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  15. Thank God other people hate this book as much as I did. I thought it was because I like to read trashy novels so much and all my intellect had been sucked dry by mothering. Perhaps it true, but to know smart, funny people hated it as well makes me less like a philistine.

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  16. Wow, pretty persuasive. Not only do I now hate that book despite never having read it, but I also think that even if I had read it and loved it, I would hate it now after reading your review.

    Also, "most remote"? You mean "remotest," Elizabeth M.? That genuinely pisses me off.

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  17. I'm offended by her letter to God. It kind of puts God into a tiny little human box. The thing about God, who I obvkously believe in, is that, despite all the enormous things that are happening in the world to bring Him/Her sorrow, I believe S/He also genuinely cares about each of us as individuals, and doesn't need to be persuaded that by helping us S/He is helping the bigger problems in the world. This is a very condescending letter that totally misses the point of God loving us.
    Okay, I know not everyone believes in God. But if you do believe in God, then you need to believe that S/He is smart enough to figure out why S/He should help you.
    (I haven't read the book. I wanted to. It was on my list - the one in the back of my mind that sometimes gets lost there- but I'll definitely move it to the bottom- when I find the list.)

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  18. obvkously must mean in a sort of eastern european way. (obvk being a non-English consonant cluster. I guess I should have written-
    in whom I obviously believe. (I am an English teacher, for grammar's sake!)

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  19. I love the idea of personal blogging raising the authenticity bar.

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  20. Thanks for commenting on my blog and posting about E Gilbert. So many things in this book made me cringe. My posting on it wasn't nearly as honest and raw as yours.. I guess I was worried about offending people, but why? I haven't actually reviewed it yet and probably won't.. not sure, but I had so many of the same feelings as you. My book club's discussing it Sunday and I know a few people loved it (LOVED it) so I'm interested to see why.

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  21. the letter to god is obnoxious. i haven't read the book (and wasn't planning to), but that excerpt alone makes me shudder.

    probably if she wanted less animosity and bitterness in the world, she could have figured out a constructive way of approaching her soon-to-be ex-husband.

    frankly, i am pretty sure the health of the planet was not affected by the fact that her husband had not signed the divorce papers. unless he was off throwing trash and pesticides out the window of his Hummer while smoking cigarettes and running over innocent people...instead of signing the divorce papers.

    i don't think her self-absorption is cute. i don't think she really believes that there are greater tragedies than her personal issues; i think she sees greater tragedies only the abstract, not getting it that lots of INDIVIDUALS are in the midst of those larger tragedies. and those individuals do not have all the privileges she has and is unable to acknowledge or appreciate.

    yuck.

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  22. Thank you for articulating the feelings I couldn't put into words. This book rubbed me the wrong way. You approached it from "hey, I've been divorced, I know how much it sucks" whereas I approached it as "Hey, I've worked for matrimonial lawyers in NY, here's how to resolve this particular divorce problem."

    I am surprised at how many people went anon to agree with you.

    I think she would have found a lot more "spirituality" had she just gone to Harlem and volunteered, or anywhere in the city and worked with people less well off than she was/is. Certainly would have gotten her to appreciate what she had. I hope.

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  23. a)"Divorce sucks big donkey doodoo" caused me to reverse-snort my blueberry smoothie onto my keyboard.

    b)Having been through a divorce, I agree, although I do wish someone would have handed me a cocktail.

    c)Thank you for seeing through this ridiculous book.

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  24. Bah, how can you not write entire posts on things you dislike? It's what made the internet great. This post was great. And there was absolutely no correlation between this post and the kinds of posts that are made by a vampire.

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  25. A friend recommended this for our May book group, too. As it's the kind of book group that is much more about the wine and snacks than the book, I think I will have to keep my hands busy with said wine and snacks, lest I whip out a copy of Kristy's post and wave it around in lieu of wasting time or money on EPL.

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  26. I recently read this book and had some internal arguments about enjoying parts and hating parts.
    While I was in the early stages of the book I read a rant on another blog by a married blogger who made it all about selfish single people which put me on the defensive (being a selfish single person myself, I guess). I kept hoping Elizabeth would redeem herself from that judgment but it never happened. I liked some of the travelogue portion (although I was jealous that anyone can afford to just flit around the world doing essentially nothing for a year) but for me, you quoted the part I hated the most - the I-always-have-friends quote. This just felt too pretentious and rubbed me completely the wrong way.
    I love memoirs (and blogs) for the reality of them - struggles of real people sorting through their messy lives to triumph in small and large ways. But I feel like her biggest hang-up in the book is that she didn't want to actually expose any of her real vulnerabilities or weaknesses. I suffered through the India and Indonesia sections waiting for the epiphany and it never came.
    Sorry for the long comment but your rant really helped solidify how I felt about this book. Thanks.

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  27. i can't tell you how many times i have picked up this book in the store and then put it down again (usually in the wrong place). i couldn't pinpoint what it was that was making me leave it, but in any case, i did.

    reading your reviews and opinions about the book has totally made me realize that God (or maybe it wasn't him because he's so busy with all the wars and bad stuff and Elizabeth) was telling me it wasn't worth my time or energy. :)

    however, if you wrote a book, i'd preorder it in a heartbeat, wait anxiously for it to arrive, sit and read it in one sitting and then go buy copies for all my friends. yep.

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  28. I've read the book. I loved it. But you're right too. We can't all have the sam opinions. If someone is offended by your opinion - it says way more about them.

    Do I feel sad and sorry for author - not at all. But I appreciated the story of "loss" both through events and of self....and seeing someone finding a way to work through it.

    If you published a book - I swear it would be a best seller and I would read it too. And probably laugh a heck of a lot more than I did with the other one...

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  29. I knew it!! This is exactly the kind of book I hate, and it's exactly the kind that gets really popular.

    I can usually tell because it's a shoe-in for an NPR interview. So, when I heard her on the air, I knew the book would annoy the crap out of me.

    Now you've not only validated my unfounded opinion, but you've made me laugh and think.

    These excerpts are a crack-up! You are making me want to start a blog so I can write about this post. That's how much I love it! :D

    Thanks!

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  30. Love the post, love you. Glad to have you back posting again! :)

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  31. When I was changing channels a while back and saw Oprah gushing ridiculously over the author, I felt my eyebrow automatically raised. I just felt...cooties. The author seemed very into her own cuteness. I went over to Amazon to check out the book, and after a reading a few reviews that gushed like Oprah, I clicked on the 1-star reviews and read half a dozen of them. I came away thinking, this is not my kind of book. Let's just say, they said what you said. You are not the only one.

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  32. Oh God. Is THAT what it's about?

    You have convinced me to not read that book. Sounds awful.

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  33. Ok, so both the letter and the "friends" quote sounded completely pretentious. Plus the writing style? Bugs the fuck out of me. I squirmed reading that friends quote, I don't think I'd be able to read a whole book written that badly.

    Thanks for the review!

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  34. Lomagirl is right - that letter to God is super pretentious and obnoxious. To me, it reads:

    In writing this to you, God, I am obviously assuming that you are the ruler of all and have the power to fix things. And yet, I will use MY brilliant and indefatigable logic to instruct you WHY this is a good idea. Because, you know, otherwise you totally wouldn't get it. Good thing you created me!

    Ugh. Disgusting.

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  35. Thanks so much for posting your opinion! I read that book after people told me how much it changed their life and it was so amazing, etc., etc.

    I enjoyed the read, but it definitely did not change my life.

    I think ambivalence is the name of the feeling I have about the story in Eat, Pray, Love.

    What I really love is the myriad of strong reactions that everyone has about it.

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  36. well....that's approx. 37 people who hated the book.


    Not bad, not bad!

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  37. Pa ping.... pa ping!

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  38. if I threw a small dinner party would you and your boyfriend come?

    what about if I threw a small dinner entre...would you duck?


    it's me...Boo

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  39. At the risk of sounding shallow/immature/selfish/single/unread/unintelligent/corny, I LOVED that book. I have never enjoyed reading about eating so much, and spent the first third of the book wanting to eat large amounts of Italian food and drink red wine on patios. But, to each their own, to be sure. I've never traveled to Indonesia by myself...I thought it was kind of brave. It's weird that I never noticed the verb tense changes though. I'm sure if I read it again that would drive me crazy.

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  40. actually, it would be more of a highly informal afternoon/evening barbeque-pot luck- in the relative safety of many others, all in a safe, open and beautiful sanctuary,

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  41. I'm with you: I couldn't stand this book either. I couldn't stand the protagonist and never finished the book. Thanks for putting into words what I felt reading (as far as I did).

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  42. I saw her on Oprah. (I watch Oprah like other people watch bad accidents: I just can't look away, even though I should)

    So the fact that it got Oprah's stamp of approval made me leery. Seriously: Remember The Secret? ohh please.) Then the fact that she came across as pretty much benign on the show and useless to furthering my mental health, made this book easy to ignore. More babble...

    I like when you have strong opinions! If people are offended, then they will have to work it out for themselves: You did not post an offensive post.

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  43. I am one of the people who requested this review, and I am so glad you wrote it, and agree with what others have said about what annoyed them.
    And also:
    If you believe in a God omnipotent enough to lend a hand in your divorce, can't you also believe in one competent enough to multitask and work on your divorce AND war, who might not be too busy for that kind of thing?
    And also:
    "I can make friends with the dead. I once made friends with [someone], and he invited me to go on a mountain holiday with his family. Not that I'm proud to list [him] among my nearest and dearest (I had to befriend him for a story, and also so he wouldn't punch me), but I'm just saying -- I can do it. If there isn't anyone else around to talk to, I could probably make friends with a four-foot-tall pile of Sheetrock."
    I am really glad that she and I have different definitions of friendship, and also that I don't think of her as a friend. If you did, how would you feel after reading this?

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  44. when the author said that she can make friends anywhere with anyone, perhaps she meant that ...in a pinch, she has the ability to see, share and love our common humanity.... in a pinch.

    So she can make friends anywhere. Is that bad?

    most people call it "charm" and wish they had more of it themselves


    Don't mock her letter to God because it may be inconsistent with your rigid and narrowly sacrosanct notions of what God is or does.

    she obviously doesn't quite believe in your silly officious God.


    everything you see, hear read and think are repainted in the bright and shiny new colors of your own limitations.

    but It does sound tedious, and won't be reading the book, either



    Love,

    Boo

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  45. Thanks, everyone, for being so thoughtful and courteous and for making me feel like I'm not a soulless lump of clay for finding EPL more cloying than enjoyable.


    mamarati - that's a great point. She had all this bad stuff happen, but she glossed over it and crammed it into a few pages at the start, and the rest of the book was kind of along the same continuum without the kind of structure we're used to. No rising action, climax, falling action, etc.

    anon 9:43 - is *that* what i'm supposed to be doing?

    sizzle - please take my "review" with a grain of salt; it's terribly closed-minded. :) and i DO think there are things to be learned or enjoyed about it, i just got a bad taste in my mouth from the get-go, and couldn't get over it.

    anon 10:26 - thank you. And also heh on the word "blech." :)

    anon 3:32 - are you IN scotland or have you moved here? and checking here more often than Lolcats is just about the highest praise ever ever. so thankyou.

    superfantastic - good to know; i haven't read any of her stuff, and her stamp of approval made me wary.

    shannon - hi! if you happen to check back here, i'd like to know a little more about how you found the book helpful. (because i know my perception was incredibly limited by my being so off-put in the beginning, i'd be interested to hear what i'm missing.) and thanks re: the book deal; Oprah's not returning my calls just yet.

    sassymonkey - anything that should be an after-school special is okay with me. ha!

    azar - well, if you change your mind and do read it, i'd love to know what you think.

    jess - well, that's the thing. i would never normally read this kind of book because i just don't ever read books like this. so maybe i started off overly skeptical. but still. yeah.

    denise - no, i love you. and as liz articulates below about a thousand times better than i did, i think if you are a fervent blog reader, your authenticity radar/BS detector gets fine-tuned...

    bethany - thanks. er, "thanks."

    nicole - love you picture! and you're welcome. spiritual = martini :)

    staci speaks - we can be friends on Google reader! how does that work? send me an email!

    Boo @ 8:15 - oh, i have no such automatic disdain for the rich. "some of my best friends are rich." but being wealthy is no excuse for not having perspective.

    beth - right.

    jennie - i'm with you on the trashy novels. really, i have NO leg to stand on when it comes to dissing this book. i read fluff all the time, so you'd think my bar would be low. i guess the difference is that i feel like *i* know it's fluff, the authors (kinda) knew they were writing fluff, the publishers knowingly published fluff. we're all in on it. but when a book is TRYING to be lofty, ugh.

    fort knocks - oooh, i totally would've written "most remote" too. thanks for the lesson. :)

    lomagirl - mine is a waaaaaay super loose definition of "God" and i, too, was offended. but i'd like to hear more from people who have more well defined beliefs in God and who didn't find this letter (or this book) offensive. i want to know what i'm not getting.

    lizriz - totally! we should post about this on BH, too: how has blogging changed your tastes in what books you read/how you read them?

    lisamm - please fill us in on why they did love it. i was VERY concerned about posting this, and was afraid of the backlash. i'm shocked it's been so even-handed and/or supportive.

    anon 10:40 - exactly! her only "out" wasn't to pray to god, there were certainly other avenues. i get the notion of praying to god for strength, etc., but her whole letter is about trying to justify her asking for god to make someone else do something she wants.

    green - maybe i'm just jaded, but it did seem like she left out several details so as to make her divorce seem more impossible/unresolvable than it legally was. interesting about the "anon" thing. but glad to know i'm (we're) not alone!

    the girl - a) sorry 'bout that. totally true, though. b) i'm sorry i wasn't there. c) i guess we're just coming from the same perspective.

    pmjg - i really do not understand the vampire thing. yay for hating stuff and venting about it on the internet! next up on things i hate: regis philbin, Delaware, california chardonnay

    akainnj - haha. well, it's entirely possible your club will have constructive things to say, instead of just bitching about the book's very existence. ahem. feel free to plagiarize as much as necessary, though.

    soul-fusion - i agree that the problem was that she never really exposed herself (I believe that she may have in her journeys, but she didn't share the "real" stuff with us). and that's why i feel like her "real" issues seeped out accidentally, in all of her self-justifying language and sub-text of defensiveness. i think she KNEW she was lucky and felt guilty about it, and rather than just own up to that part so we could move on, she spun it.

    shel - that is incredibly sweet, thank you.

    anon 4:37 - thank you for your honest opinion. as i said earlier, i'd love to hear more about what people got out of this book (other than a love for italian food...) :) and thank you.

    stacy - ha! and yes, you SHOULD start a blog. and i am completely biased when i say that.

    nikki - glad to be back, thank you!

    alix - i think that "cute" and "spiritual" do not go well together for me.

    angela - well, obviously i thought so...but feel free to try it. perhaps you'd come away with a different opinion?

    beach bum - i did pick those excerpts on purpose, but yeah. you're welcome!

    elise - it IS very cutesy. which, again, doesn't go well with "spiritual." i wonder how much of it was intentional, like, she's writing that way to be more accessible to the masses. which bugs me even more because i'd find that to be condescending.

    hamster_grrl - ambivalence, interesting. and good for you. i feel like this hit a nerve because of my own issues, but i guess that's how it works. (and yeah, the reactions are great!)

    anon 11:22 - yes, though i hardly think the sampling here is representative of EPL readers everywhere.

    anon 11:24 & 11:28 & 8:04 - i do believe that's the first dinner invitation i've gotten in comments.

    anon 7:36 - i don't think you sound like ANY of those things. i think it's great that someone could read it pleasurably and feel good about/from it. red wine on patios is never a bad thing. i think the verb tense thing in the beginning was just more fuel for my already burning fire. :)

    bunny - it IS good to know we're not alone...we're just hanging out here in our corner of the internet, far away from Oprah. :)

    anon 2:25 - oh, Oprah is what she is. we all watch. i'm very happy to hear that ms. gilbert came across as 'benign'. i think that's better than cute, under the circumstances.

    bzzzzgrrrl - i am so glad you (and others) see why this paragraph irked me SO SO much. friends with sheetrock? really? i get that she was using it to comedic effect, but that's exactly the kind of heavy-handed I AM BEING FUNNY NOW stuff she wrote throughout the book, except i almost always found it offensive instead of humorous.

    Boo @ 7:45 - i'm not sure if you're speaking to me or other commenters, but I will say that for my own part, i have no such definition of god and i still found her letter to be offensive. and as i put in my post, i think her statements on how easily she makes friends to be annoying. not because she's charming, but because i don't know very many charming people who announce their charming abilities. more to the point, however, she stuck this paragraph in right when she's building up this case for why she's supposed to be a sympathetic character. it seemed inconsistent and it bugged me.

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  46. oh, I see.


    I was speaking in general


    Love,


    Boo


    p.s

    so, will you come? I'll be real nice!

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  47. when I said

    "suffer the rich, for they are perenially bearers of your cupiditous disdain"

    It was addressed in general, to whoever it may apply to.

    but we- and you- do have unconcious biases and preconceptions.


    I think that if she were poor, you and most other folks would be able to appreciate her "stuggle" more


    it's easy and natural in a way to think that those who have managed to escape the fundamental issues of food /shelter/ money/time, are immune from any "real" struggles

    and I do read that between your lines.

    perhaps it's just my perception

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  48. anon 10:44 - i understood what you meant, and i thought i actually did a pretty good job of addressing the issue (in my post, not in response to your comment).

    my frustration is that she glosses over her financial security, even though without it, the book never would have been written.

    i *think* the whole point of the book is "i lived through this and so can you." except most people can't, actually, do what she did.

    but maybe i'm missing the point, which is why i've asked for more insight from the people who liked it and learned something from it.

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  49. you do deserve some kickback for your advice. publish a pamphlet. or a leaflet. or a booklet.

    that book? speaking of things i want to kick? i did not read the whole thing. i rather embarrassed myself by reading 5 pages of it a friend's house and throwing it across the room. it's trajectory took pretty much the same route as The Secret had a couple of years ago.

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  50. fuck the book...

    but would/will you coming to my little soiree?

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  51. I'll take no answer as a "no" answer

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  52. Agreed. You are not the only one don't worry.

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  53. It's Anonymous 3.32 here again - no to both - I'm Scottish but I've lived in London for a decade (shit I'm old), although I was in California - LA and SF - for a fortnight last month! What a great state, I loved it, though I have to admit I've never seen so many crackheads as I did in the Tenderloin, it was like walking through a George A Romero film...

    Yep, you gotta love Lolcats, but they're not so hot on the ol' literary criticism...

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  54. I did read the book and I did love it. Of course many times during the book I said to myself, "I wish I could have a year off to recover from my life."

    But I set it aside because just like you and your post; I was inspired to maybe, just someday, I'll get published and I'll get permission and time and money to go on my spiritual journey too.

    But you're right never once did she ever write, I AM SO LUCKY AND I'M ABOUT TO FUCK UP MY LIFE.

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  55. the money doesn't afford the spiritual journey, only the room and board


    By definition, that one way ticket is always exactly as much, or more than one has on hand

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  56. I love you for this one.

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  57. I love me for that one, too

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  58. I liked the book. I think because I didn't see it as a spiritual guide, but more as a travelogue. Yes, she's a little self indulgent, a little egotistical, and her God-d'jour ala Oprah doesn't appeal to me, but I still thought it was entertaining. And some parts were down-right funny.

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  59. You totally expressed why I got fifty pages in (I really tried!), put it down, and let it get covered with dust and cat hair. When I was reading it, I was unemployed, broke, and living in my brother's garage with all his dogs. I'd have loved a big juicy divorce in Manhattan and a paid vacation around the world. Silly Elizabeth!

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  60. seriously, I thought I was the only one who didn't like this book. Eat, Pray, Hurl- Brilliant.

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  61. if you were really wondering who anon 11:03 and anon 3:43 are , of course it's me.

    Boo

    you can tell

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  62. I didn't study the rules, but I don't want to join the contest

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  63. while i loved the book, i can certainly appreciate why you hated it. honestly, when my cousin told me that i "needed" to read this "amazing" book about a "spiritual journey" i laughed and said no thanks. on vacation in cabo san lucas and desperate to read something, i picked it up. perhaps it was my frame of mind, perhaps it was my low expectations, but i devoured the bulk of it while out of the country. either my viewpoint changed or i grew tired of ms. elizabeth, but the 2nd half was harder to read.

    ANYhow, thanks for an open and honest review. you weren't mean and i appreciate that.

    all the best,

    becky

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  64. I liked the book, but honestly I found your account of your divorce much more relatable and introspective. I love your quote that another person cited. I'm stealing it and commenting on it in my own blog.

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  65. The book was dreadful. She's a self-absorbed, privileged woman who can't stand on her own two feet. And I agree with your blog reader who said, "If she's the same person at the end of the book that she is at the beginning, what's the point?" I was so disappointed by this dreck and that I bought it. In hard cover. I hate to disappoint her, but most of us do not have the ability to simply lie on the bathroom floor sobbing, then run off for an around-the-world adventure when life falls down around our ears ... the write about it! The women we should admire are those who stand up, dust themselves off and move on. Without whining. Through an entire book.

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  66. (a) I totally agree with.
    (b) You are SO on my Google Reader as of this instant.

    I came to this book with a pretty open mind, since so many smart, awesome people had recommended it to me, but I barely dragged myself through to the end. It was, as you say, sloppy. The dialogue was so horrendously fake that it made me cringe, her pseudo-spiritual-science made me laugh, and her story was utterly yawn-worthy.

    That said, I feel kind of bad criticizing her because she seems super nice, right? And parts of the book were funny.

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  67. This was fabulous, your writing is fabulous, your BLOG is fabulous... can i come back??

    found you on fivestarfriday.com

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  68. I think if she tried to befriend me for a story, I might have to punch her.

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  69. I never read her book, but from her first quote, I cannot see that she even knows what a friend is, she blatantly admitted to using that person for a story. Not to mention, she was afraid of him, or thought she should be afraid of him so we'd feel the necessity of their forced friendship. And the second quote is dripping with false humility and ersatz piousness. Just my not-so humble opinion, still you're a better person than I if you think you could stomach her in real life.

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