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02 May 2007

Eat Pray Love Has anyone else read this? What'd you think?[More:]This book was so buzzed-about that I'm afraid I doubted it would be any good. You know, well-heeled white girl heals existential angst by traveling indolently for a year through Italy, India, and Indonesia. Yeah, the 60s called; it wants its self-centered boomer spiritual ideas back.

Except she's exactly my age. And I knew it was at least in part about food and travel, always big hits with me. So when I ran out of reading material on my trip last weekend I picked it up in the bookstore.

Ended up reading it all up in a couple days, and really enjoyed it. I'm afraid I had expected shallowness, and it wasn't shallow. It chronicles Gilbert's recovery from depression after a string of destroyed, hurtful relationships -- but it doesn't stop there; it goes far beyond recovery into her invented process for building a far more whole self, at peace with the world.

I identified very much with the writer and thought there was a tremendous amount of humor, humility, honesty, and wisdom in her tale. This interview with her is pretty good.

And I like what she says in her FAQ about the 'selfishness' of traveling for a year to work on herself, and about the importance of working hard on one's personal problems:

What is it about the American obsession with productivity and responsibility that makes it so difficult for us to allow ourselves a little time to solve the puzzle of our own lives, before itís too late? That said, yes Ė I did worry a great deal about selfishness. But after three years of despair and depression, I had come to believe that living my life in a state of constant misery was actually a pretty selfish act. Who would be served by a lifetime of my sorrow? How would that enrich the world? Going off for a year and creating a journey to pull myself back together, to rediscover joy, to face down my failings and rebuild my existence, was not only an important thing for my life, but ultimately for the lives of everyone around me. And itís not just my family and friends who are better off now that I am happy; itís everyone I encounter. Because the reality is that we human beings are constantly leaking our dispositions upon each other. When I was in such a dark state, everyone I passed on the street had to walk through the shadow of my darkness, whether they knew me or not. I remember once, during my divorce, crying uncontrollably on the subway in New York City. When I look back on that crying young woman, I feel great compassion for what she was going through. But I can also feel pity now, in retrospect, for those poor, weary New York commuters, who had to sit there after their own long days at work, watching this sobbing stranger. I didnít want to be that person anymore. Saving my own life (through therapy, medication, prayer and Ė most of all -- travel) was something I did for my own benefit, yes, but I canít help but think that it was ultimately also a little bit of a community service.
"Who would be served by a lifetime of my sorrow? How would that enrich the world?"

I finally asked myself those questions about a year ago concerning my heart disease. I could spend all my energy fighting my weaknesses every day, or I could spend a couple hours every day pursuing a closet PhD while further considered physical therapy as walking somewhere to grab a coffee or a drink.

I must read this book. Thanks for the tip, Miko!
posted by mischief 02 May | 10:04
Hah! I'm tenth on my library's hold list for this book. Hopefully this means many more women traveling the world in search for themselves.

Oh, to be a single man living in a popular resort town...
posted by mischief 02 May | 10:09
I've read about this book in various magazines and heard about it more than once on NPR. For some reason I dismissed it. I'm glad you liked it and reviewed it for us. It sounds like something I would enjoy. I'm going to pick it up.
posted by LoriFLA 02 May | 10:30
I haven't read it but I will now. Thanks for the rec, Miko!
posted by gaspode 02 May | 10:36
I know it's obnoxious || I hate stomach bugs.