July 01, 2010

The Redemption of Elizabeth Gilbert

LIKE MANY WOMEN, my reaction — or shall we say relationship? — to Elizabeth Gilbert’s juggernaut bestseller Eat Pray Love (first published and 2006 and by 2008 a global sensation) was complicated. On the one hand, the book is mildly embarrassing; Eat Pray Love falls squarely in the chick lit category, a schmaltzy fairytale-like admission to the feminine hankering for fairytale-like love (someone even recently quipped on Twitter that the first problem she had with it was how to hide the fact that she was reading it). On the other hand, however, it’s a rather good read, a true story, a real woman’s memoir of overcoming a comparatively small yet personally overwhelming struggle. In its own fairytale-like way, it is irresistible — but this was also the source of its doom.

Now, for the few of you who may insist that you know nothing about Eat Pray Love, here it is in a nutshell: a financially successful but not particularly famous author finds herself getting divorced, going into depression, and then taking a year to travel in order to reinvigorate her life. In Italy, she indulges – eating her way through the first third of the year. In India, she joins an ashram (the book is extremely spiritual, and this section is so heartrendingly painful that you wonder why anyone would call this book fluffy… until you get to the next). And finally, in Indonesia, tying up the circle in perfectly fairytale style, she finds love.

All of this is a true story, told in a fashion that is alternately charming, mildly annoying, and deeply honest.

So when the sequel came out, of course I had to read it. Snarkily, with some of usual disclaimers, but with some real excitement about its subject matter (which trumped any reservations brought on by my passive-aggressive crush on the earlier book). Committed: A Skeptic’s View of Marriage picks up where Eat Pray Love left off – i.e. the author and her Brazilian-born, Bali-discovered lover float off into their happily ever after. Until the US government interfered.

As a foreigner whose trips into the country were not only frequent, but whose exits themselves were only border runs for visa renewals, Gilbert’s partner Felipe finds himself in trouble with Immigration. Fortunately, they are given a choice: if they get married, they can continue their lifestyle (sans border running, too!). Desperately, they agree — but both having survived divorce, the idea of remarriage is significantly terrifying. But the process is so complex that the couple essentially has to spend almost a year outside the country, waiting for the fiancee visa to come through, and Gilbert spends this time confronting her traumas and issues about the institution of marriage, its history in American society (paradigms which are increasingly emulated around the world), its relevance to contemporary life, and how it compares and has evolved (or not) based on cultural and religious circumstances — ruminations and research that eventually became Committed.

Committed is a feminist memoir, make no mistake about it. It is an empowering, thought-provoking read that I would recommend to anyone who 1. wants to marry, 2. doesn’t want to marry, 3. is concerned about civil rights and international affairs (in all senses of the term!). It’s important that the events it describes happened prior to Eat Pray Love‘s insane success. Not unlike the happy coincidence of having met her new love at the end of her first book’s journey, a happy coincidence which resulted in an almost too-perfect book, everything that happens therein was spontaneous. Gilbert leaves little doubt that nowhere during her ten months of bad traffic and matrimonial panic wandering around Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia could it have occurred to her that she might exploit this bout of hard luck. She went through the experience with no guarantee of a platform to discuss, let alone capitalise on, it. Because of this, it is all the more relevant. This isn’t a celebrity memoir, but an ordinary couple’s absolutely commonplace struggle in a world that loves and enforces its borders even as it claims to have none.

Now, this sort of gets back to the problem with Eat Pray Love. Which was not, strictly speaking, a real problem with Eat Pray Love itself, but with exactly how the memoir got co-opted into the chick-lit category. Not chick-lit as in light and fun, but chick-lit as in delusional-inducing, Prince-awaiting, hearts-a-breaking. And that problem was that many – many, many, many – of us are where Gilbert was at the start of that book. Lying on the bathroom floor bawling. And in the course of a few hundred pages, in about a year, she was both literally and figuratively somewhere else altogether. And the book was so engaging that it made it look easy.

The problem, essentially, was the expectation created. I encountered this personally in my own life, and practically every woman friend who has read it has admitted to the same rues. Some of them had become especially resentful toward Gilbert. This was not a phenomenon restricted to my circles — a real backlash against Eat Pray Love and its author occurred among its disenchanted readership. Its most common contentions, as discussed on comment forums all over the Internet, were that Gilbert was selfish, and as a white American with some wealth, she was operating from a place of privilege and entitlement. “Not all of us can give up our lives and jetset for a year” was a common refrain — as though if only we could, we would also land ourselves true love and astronomical book sales (a phrase Gilbert’s own sister, married with children and obligations of her own, sarcastically echoes in one email exchange in the book).

But here’s the thing. I don’t think – especially having noticed Committed‘s incredible redemptive powers – that Gilbert meant for her memoir to have anything to do with typically misguiding light literature aimed at women. How Eat Pray Love has been marketed – even by readers who recommend it – has not done it justice.

On its own steam, Committed is an important book, completely relevant to our world today and the choices we are faced with as thinking women who sometimes have no alternative but to acquiesce to a fundamentally patriarchal institution (even if we believe we want it, with eyes open or closed). But it’s also a most marvellous redemption for Eat Pray Love‘s unintended consequences (and there were some). As she points out almost guilelessly in the introduction, prior to Eat Pray Love, Gilbert was mostly known for writing about men. Her three prior books – Stern Men, Pilgrims and The Last American Man – were explorations of masculine life — fiction and nonfiction about “supermacho characters: cowboys, lobster fishermen hunters, trucksters, Teamsters, woodmen”. As a journalist, Gilbert had even gone as far as dressing in drag for a week, complete with a birdseed filled condom stuffed in her pants.

She doesn’t mention this in this book, but it occurred to me that even before Eat Pray Love, it is ironic that the most lucrative of her projects was probably when a magazine article she wrote about her bartending experiences became the basis for the decidedly fluffy rom-com flick Coyote Ugly. Sadly, between that and Eat Pray Love, her broader scope of work was overshadowed. Call it Gilbert’s chick-lit curse. And Committed, quite decisively, breaks it.

The truth is, I am still bawling on my floor. And I do wish I hadn’t ever heard the word-of-mouth that hyped Eat Pray Love as some sort of semi-prophetic text, because it did result in a few regrettable actions for me at the time (oh hey, a few good anecdotes too). But Committed‘s redemptive powers are such that not only does it completely absolve Gilbert of any hand played in the prolonged miseries of some of her readers, but it also elevates her, in a way that Eat Pray Love couldn’t possibly, to the role already assigned to her by the same masses of sad readers: that of the high priestess, the knowing one, a Solomon-like figure who could provide a solution.

Marriage, whether we like it or not, is a necessary decision for many of us. Whether the larger bodies we aim to please are governments, families, societies or own guilt-tripping demons, it can be an inevitability. Committed does two things, and does them beautifully — it strips the institution of its veneer of romance. And then it reinstates it, at a far more meaningful level.

Committed will probably help many more women’s hearts and choices than Eat Pray Love did because there is absolutely nothing here but gritty realism — the facts of the world and its requirements, and how a relationship must necessarily be an accord of solidarity in negotiating these facts and requirements. It will also, hopefully, further the cause of same-sex marriage. As Gilbert most unselfishly points out in the book, she and Felipe are fortunate to even have this choice. Across the world, most lovers of the same gender do not. And when it comes to the paperwork — immigration, insurance, death and taxes – they suffer in ways that heterosexuals can take for granted that they won’t have to.

And Eat Pray Love, that old bugaboo? Let’s just say I am really looking forward to the film. Aren’t you?

23 comments to The Redemption of Elizabeth Gilbert

  • I had no idea Eat, Pray, Love was supposed to be/marketed as chicklit. Not that I have any problem with chicklit, I love it in fact. But EPL didn’t strike me as particularly chicklity. In fact, the Italy and India sections were the most powerful, and the finding love bit was just an unexpected (and slightly unbelievable) twist at the end. When I heard it was going to be a movie with Julia Roberts though I pretty much expected the romance to take centrestage.

    Glad to hear Committed is a satisfying read.

  • As someone who believes that much of the ire directed at Gilbert has to do with her gender, let me point you to this piece by Jessa Crispin (of Bookslut).
    “The most common [accusation], however, was “selfish.” How dare she? How dare she leave her husband to travel? How dare she write a book about it? How dare she fall in love again? And with a Brazilian! How dare she… what? Attain happiness? Or at the very least, put a stop to her death wish? That bitch, that dyke, how dare she walk away from her man?! Doesn’t she understand that this is the shameful masculine territory? It’s just as bad when men do it — we’re not saying it isn’t! — but women are supposed to be above all that, all of that free will stuff. Really. How dare she?”

    This is from Crispin’s column at The Smart Set : http://www.thesmartset.com/article/article02041001.aspx

  • Sharanya Manivannan

    The Bride – If only the focus was on the self-realisation struggle, and not the boyfriend! When did you read it? By the time I came to hear of it, in early 2008, I could not think of it as anything but chick lit. It was how it was described to me by word-of-mouth, it was how I read about it in the press, everything was about boyfriend, boyfriend, boyfriend. The spiritual epiphanies became just a means to an end (“she prays and gets a boyfriend! It’s like The Secret!”). But I think that the romance was just naturally appealing, you know? A true life fairytale heroine – “if it could happen to her, it could happen to me” kind of thing. My feeling is that if the book had not been promoted or pigeonholed a certain way – if the focus had been on overcoming divorce and depression and not frolicking and fun, this sort of backlash could have been avoided. Less moolah, and probably no Hollywood flick, though.

    Niranjana – I don’t disagree that some of the backlash is gender-related, because Eat Pray Love’s unfortunate categorisation as chick-lit certainly makes this so. But I also think that Crispin has taken things to a hyperbolic level. I’m sure that while there were some detractors who genuinely begrudged her good luck, even as described by Crispin, the vast majority of Eat Pray Love’s readers saw Gilbert as a role model, a true life heroine of a fairytale. And this was dangerous. It’s impossible to emulate someone else’s journey, without every necessary resource and twist of fate. So no, not “how dare she”, but “why not me”. Much more subtle.
    As for selfishness, I actually think Gilbert was extremely gracious for the most part in the books. The one bit that had me truly appalled [spoiler alert!] was when she called out her Balinese friend Wayan for less-than-upfront requests on the land-purchase idea, even while acknowledging that this was pretty much the norm in Ubud. I thought that was frankly quite insensitive and made this woman look very bad, with no regard for the cultural and circumstantial context.

  • I read it last year (2009) when my sister visited and happened to have bought the book. I had never heard of it before and generally don’t gravitate towards this spiritual-quest stuff but I think I was in need of a few epiphanies myself at that time. Gilbert had me at the bawling on the bathroom floor. I began to mark out parts of the book and copy it into my own “book of wisdom” until I realised it might be faster to use a photocopy machine or just buy my own copy …instead I kept my sister’s :). But yeah, I guess I was living in a hole because only read the reviews later and mostly they were synopsis type ones.

  • I agree that the expectations the book raises is indeed an issue, but as I recall (I reviewed the book when it was first published, waaaay before the buzz began) Gilbert never sets up her choices as a template for happiness–that is a position (some of) her readership has adopted, engendered at least in part by the sheer accessibility of her writing, I suspect. My point actually is that the resentment Gilbert generates isn’t about the book alone–a lot of it is about who she is, and her gender is a big part of that.

    And yes, Crispin’s middle name is hyperbole, but I gotto say, I love her style.

  • Sharanya Manivannan

    The Bride – 🙂

    Niranjana – Yup, that’s pretty much what I meant 🙂 I don’t think Gilbert intended for the book to be taken the way it (for the most part) has been taken. “Committed” is a fabulous follow-up in that it both corrects this misconception, and is an excellent read on its own.

  • sunita

    No choice but to get married?
    NO. You can choose to put up with the hassle from your culture if you have a child with a
    man and co-habit unmarried. The bond of love and comittment may be even stronger with such a couple than a formally sanctioned -by- society relation, though they may have to relocate distantly and be disowned by their families.
    Please tell me why marriage is fundamentally Patriarchal. Women in the United States usually get custody of the children and payments from the ex. How is marriage a Patriarchal trap if women want the security of a formal relationship backed by government contract when they have children? How more of a trap for women than men?
    Yes, I know, India is not the United States. Women in the states aren’t drafted into the husband’s family to serve at the pleasure of the mother in law.
    But in principle, women have the choice. You sound resigned, subjugated, when you say women have no choice.
    Women have a choice!
    If for women marriage is such a trap in its present form, how would you change it?
    You are so strident at times on the topic.
    Let us see what is behind that stridency.

  • Sharanya Manivannan

    Sunita – You toss off the line “though they may have to relocate distantly and be disowned by their families” with such ease it made me laugh in disbelief. In the naivete of your idea of the world, losing your whole life and starting from scratch may be the clear and preferable alternative to avoiding marriage. In reality, however, the idea that marriage is always a choice is disproved in many ways. If it helps one’s child get into school, if it keeps you from being deported, if it reduces your tax burdens, if it keeps you on good terms with relatives, if it helps you rent a house without hassle, if it helps with your emotional security — of course one would get married, even if one didn’t necessarily want to. In these cases, marriage is the pragmatic option, even if it’s not the desired one.

    I don’t recall using the words “patriarchal trap” anywhere. Those are your words, so why don’t you explain them? I do believe that marriage is still fundamentally patriarchal, however – most of all because feminist principles of equality within a partnership are only a few decades old, whereas marriage as we know it — women as chattel, marriage as business strategy, controlling female sexuality to ensure purity of lineage, etc — has been practised for centuries. The difficulty for women like me is to reconcile the high likelihood that a circumstantial need to marry may crop up, regardless of personal sentiments about the institution. I think how to engage with the institution and evolve it is a highly necessary discussion.

  • LOL

    I didn’t like “Eat Pray Love” and couldn’t finish reading it but not because I was resentful that the author could leave her marriage, etc (as a single woman in my 20’s, I have nothing to be resentful about). I read about the first half of the book a few years ago and don’t remember details of the book, only themes that stood out to me. I couldn’t finish reading it because the life she chronicled seemed to revolve around consumption and a focus on romantic relationships to the exclusion of family, friends, and other healthy, normal human relationships. Her solution to her problems was to jump into romantic relationships (like the one she had after she left her marriage) or consume-whether it was “culture”, food, or “spiritual experiences.” This parallels the American culture in general of consumption as a panacea for everything. And I don’t recall there being a theme of an important network of friends and family in her writing-her life just seemed so devoid of the things a typical woman would have…
    Your review does, however, make me somewhat interested in reading her new book, although there are other books discussing marriage that I have heard strips it of its romanticism.
    Also, I tend to agree with the commentator who said that for many women, to marry or not to marry is still a choice–the benefits of marriage can be foregone by those in the right circumstances (ie, someone who is truly free to choose, ie there will not be an honor killing if they refuse to marry, or they will not be destitute if they choose to remain unmarried, etc–in other words, they will actually be alive and free if they remain unmarried). But to say that in other cases, a woman is not free to choose to stay unmarried is a bit less than honest. Women in a certain socioeconomic condition, and certain family condition, etc, are certainly free to choose to be unmarried, and to purport otherwise is a gross generalization and therefore false.

  • LOL – Yes, of course a woman in a certain set of conditions is always free to not marry. Where on earth did you get the idea that I said no woman can choose at all? All I have said is that in reality, the number of women whose circumstances allow that choice is smaller than we think. It’s very easy to fall into a falsely empowered state and assume that “no honour killings” + “I make my own money” = truly no need to marry. That’s just delusional. There are many other factors that contribute to the ideal circumstances under which marriage would be truly an act of free will. I’ll have to repeat what I said earlier: “If it helps one’s child get into school, if it keeps you from being deported, if it reduces your tax burdens, if it keeps you on good terms with relatives, if it helps you rent a house without hassle, if it helps with your emotional security — of course one would get married, even if one didn’t necessarily want to. In these cases, marriage is the pragmatic option, even if it’s not the desired one.”

  • LOL

    I’m not sure if you overlooked it, I put “etc” after the honor killings and socioeconomic conditions…ie, of course there are reasons other than freedom in these two aspects, for being free to marry. As for your repeated statement that “If it helps one’s child get into school, if it keeps you from being deported, if it reduces your tax burdens, if it keeps you on good terms with relatives, if it helps you rent a house without hassle, if it helps with your emotional security — of course one would get married, even if one didn’t necessarily want to. In these cases, marriage is the pragmatic option, even if it’s not the desired one” I will repeat my previous statement, which is “benefits of marriage can be foregone by those in the right circumstances” ie, women must prioritize–is it really so important to a woman to not marry, if the issue of whether their kids can get into school is more important to them than staying unmarried? Is staying unmarried more important than being in a certain country to not be deported? Is it more important to me to remain single than to be on good terms with my relatives? In these cases, and the others you mentioned, if the woman’s answer is no, then basically all it comes down to is she VALUES these things more than remaining single. That cannot be called a “lack of empowerment” or “false empowerment.” That is called prioritizing and making choices that place singlehood below every other “benefit” that some women think is necessary for their happiness!

    By the way, marriage should not be equated with helping with one’s emotional security as you stated–studies show that women tend to be unhappier in marriages than men.

    Far from feeling falsely empowered, I would like women not to feel falsely victimized. And be honest. If someone is choosing marriage because EVERYTHING else is more important to them than staying single, then they should just say so!

  • LOL – You’re not making any sense. First of all, choosing marriage because it makes things easier for you is not false empowerment. Thinking that you won’t ever have to marry just because you have a job and a less than orthodox family background is. As Liz Gilbert’s case shows, sometimes life gets in the way. Secondly, no matter what studies say, there is plenty of empirical evidence that many people believe when they get married, that their emotional security heightens. Hello, take for example a common situation in India – a couple wants to marry because they want to live together and not have to hide their sexual relationship. By cutting out the secrecy and fear, their emotional security is certainly heightened. You’d be surprised how common this is in India; many people marry young for exactly this reason.

    You seem to have missed the point of this article entirely. And that point is: sometimes one has to marry, regardless of how one feels about the institution, so as feminists, what are we doing to evolve the institution? And what exactly are you going on about with regards to being honest? “If someone is choosing marriage because EVERYTHING else is more important to them than staying single, then they should just say so!” Err, yes. Obviously. I’d really like to meet a woman who wants to stay single at ANY cost. Would that be you?

  • LOL

    First of all, sorry if my writing is not as understandable as yours–my field is medicine, not the arts/humanities, so I am not that great at writing. Second, my comments didn’t pertain to my own personal background. What I find troublesome is your categorization of there being “no alternative but to acquiesce to a fundamentally patriarchal institution (even if we believe we want it, with eyes open or closed)” and “whether the larger bodies we aim to please are governments, families, societies or own guilt-tripping demons, [marriage] can be an inevitability.” You are extreme in saying there are no alternatives but to acquiesce to marriage, and that marriage is an inevitability. I know of several Indian women in India (my relatives) who are unmarried, and are not ostracized by their immediate or distant family members, and are (oh my god!) emotionally secure! They are not missing the tax benefits of marriage, etc. Also, what you mentioned about evidence that people believe that their emotional security will be heightened after marriage- belief is not tantamount to the actual results- studies on women who actually are married, do not show that their emotional security is heightened, regardless of what they might have believed prior to marriage would be the case.
    As for going on about your being honest, what I mean is that to portray women as having no choice, and marriage as being inevitable for these pitiable young feminists who just can’t forego the tax benefits and social and parental approbation of getting married, I say, such women deserve no pity (self-pity or the pity of others) or false categorizations as being victims of a choiceless world. I mean seriously…there is a choice. Enough with the victimhood already.
    Finally as to whether I want to stay single at any costs, actually I am on the fence about marriage. But if and when I decide to get married, I won’t be saying it’s just because “marriage is inevitable” and even as a thinking feminist, “there is no alternative but for me to acquiesce to marriage”–I know there is definitely an alternative. Before I decide whether to marry I intend to be honest with myself (and others) about the pros and cons marrying and the value I place on those reasons, because I don’t perceive my life to be choiceless and myself to be a victim.

  • LOL

    I wanted to add that I did enjoy your post aside from the few parts I took issue with above. Also, that I don’t mean to sound self-righteous-I do understand the familial pressures to marry, etc-but I would hope that no woman contemplating marriage would come away from your post truly believing that marriage is an inevitability and that she does not have a choice in the matter, if her circumstances afford an alternative. I see that you took pains to include the LGBT community in your post, but what about the women and men who choose to remain single and lead happy, emotionally secure, productive lives? I guess that remains even more radical and alternative of a lifestyle, unfortunately, than anything else…so much so that it is not even seen as a “choice” or “alternative” to marriage.
    I do agree with you though that marriage needs to evolve as an institution and that feminists need to engage with it more fully to ensure that it does not remain as patriarchal of an institution as it is.

  • winbutlerfan

    As a man, and several times jilted lover, my problem with the story arc is less her situational advantages, and more the fact that she glosses over the reasons for leaving her husband. In the US 2 out of 3 divorces are instigated by women (a relevant statistic since Gilbert is American). Your review works hard at positing that Gilbert’s work isn’t chicklit or that it doesn’t purport to achieve the same ends as chick lit does. What does it purport to do then?

    Second, why do the charges of solipsism not stick? Several of the commenters reference a review that derides accusations of self absorption, withouth substantiating (or even articualting) any reasons for its dismissal. In her case, the solipsism isn’t wrong because ‘she’s a woman’, but just because it betrays Gilbert’s shaky moral fabric, let’s say as a human being, seen through a lens of progressive social mores.

    Third, I find myself agreeing with several things LOL has to say on the subject. While the feminist label is stultifying and narrow, I sincerely support the goals of the broader feminist movement; consequently, I have the unshakeable feeling that this book is regresive and insults the collective intelligence of women of all ages everywhere. And the marketing is not to blame for the bridget jonesy faux emancipatory content of this book.

    As caveat, I shall add, that being a man, all of this is sticky territory for me, and I apologize in advance for any chagrin caused. The only reason I felt moved to post this, is that I feel it fractures the already riven nature of relationships between men and women, and that’s the last thing we need given how much currency unilateral isolationism enjoys in the world we live in (thank you America!).

  • winbutlerfan

    The 2 out of 3 divorces sounds a little ingenuous, so I’ll qualify it – of course presumably a large proportion of women opting out of relationships, do so because of perfectly valid reasons (destructive relationships, abuse, perpetuation of mental agony, etc), yet, from hearsay and personal experience a significant propotion do so for a failure of imagination or because of a complete lack of loyalty. This, far from denigrating women, humanizes them, I think. True suffrage cannot be achieved through fetishization. Gilbert bypasses any or all of these complexities, simplifying a narrative which has also suffered (left wingers, like me, would say) through the commoditization of feelings and relationships. Marriage, among other things comes to mind.

  • LOL

    I agree that Ms. Gilbert’s portrayal of why she left her marriage and what was so wrong with it was very shady. The only explanation she gave was “I don’t want to be in such a big house in the suburbs and expected to have kids.” Seriously, don’t most couples discuss these things before marriage? Like where to live, whether to have kids and if so, how many to have, etc. The way she portrayed it was if she was magically beamed down into that huge suburban house and situation without any prior discussion. It did seem like she was glossing over the reasons she was leaving her marriage.

    I think that women who are bawling on the floor about marrying someone should probably not marry that person, just to save themselves and the person they are bawling about from a lifetime of misery. I mean, there are definitely happy marriages out there, and if someone feels the need to cry over marrying someone, maybe the person they are bawling about is just not the right person for them.

  • LOL – What you project into this article is very telling. You use words like “patriarchal trap” and “victim”, which were neither used nor insinuated. While this certainly was not my approach at all, I felt it was fine – we all read into things what we bring to the table ourselves, so naturally you would project your own issues into it as well. However, I take issue with your vicious little aside about “women who are bawling on the floor about marrying someone”, because it’s clearly directed at me. Although I see no reason to reveal details about my private life on the Internet, let alone at the behest of someone who hides behind a pseudonym like “LOL”, I will take this opportunity to clarify. I am not bawling on the floor for any reason having to do with needing to marry. On the contrary, I am decidedly single, have problems with the institution, but am perfectly aware that I will in all likelihood marry at some point for pragmatic purposes. And when I think of pragmatic purposes, I think of only one thing — visas and taxes. And I think of visas and taxes because as a person who enjoys travel and makes her own money and has fallen for people who don’t share her nationality, these are issues that compromise the future of the relationship. Some years ago, I came up against this dilemma: marry or move. I chose to move. Whether this was for better or worse still remains to be seen, but the experience certainly shaped my views on the institution. And it’s unavoidability in many cases. Does that make a woman a victim? Not in my book, but apparently it does in yours. And frankly, that says more about you than it does about me.

    Winbutlerfan – I actually feel quite ambivalent about Gilbert. It’s arguable that she glosses over her reasons for leaving her husband, and that could go either way — to protect his privacy, or for less noble reasons (incidentally, he also travelled around the world after their divorce, doing volunteer work – a bit of info that’s bound to bring glee to those in the “she’s a selfish materialist” camp – http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-08-19/elizabeth-gilbert-ex-husband-michael-cooper-profile/). But by the same token, while the book does begin with a divorce and end with a new love, everything in between is hardly chicklit. If marriages and relationships are the only criteria by which a book is defined as chicklit, then a large chunk of literary classics (including epics, the Russian greats, etc etc) would also qualify!

  • LOL

    Sharanya, I’m sorry that you felt my opinion that women who are bawling on the floor about getting married should not marry that person was a vicious attack on you. It definitely wasn’t meant as a vicious attack on you, but was meant to give pause to any woman who might be bawling on the floor crying about marrying someone, to think that maybe she just shouldn’t be marrying him. Regarding what you think are my “issues” such as saying that marriage is a “patriarchal trap” if you read more carefully, you’ll discover that the commenter known as “Sunita” was the person who referred to marriage as a patricarchal trap.
    As for your personal background, I honestly really don’t care what you are projecting onto the book/movie from your own experiences! I just don’t think that women who are bawling on the floor about marrying someone (and I never said that was you) should be getting married to the person they are bawling about. Some people just want to take everything as a personal insult and my guess is that you are one of those people, so this will be my last comment on this topic.

  • LOL

    I wanted to add, that it’s peculiar that you think my statement about bawling on the floor is about you–Ms. Gilbert wrote about bawling on the floor in her book–perhaps this gives credit to the theory that Ms. Gilbert and women who liked her book are actually navel-gazing self-absorbed and self-obsessed people who think everything is about them!
    No one asked you to reveal details of your personal life so doing so at my “behest” was quite unnecessary and frankly, that was TMI to me.
    As for “hiding behind a pseudonym” not all of us have absolutely nothing to lose by airing all our personal problems/issues on the internet under our real names. Maybe in your profession, doing so makes you seem more colorful, interesting or worldly, but not in mine.
    Now this will REALLY be my last comment on this topic.

  • LOL – I’ll respond only to this part of your comments, because now that you’ve clarified that it was not directed at me, I’ll explain why I thought it was. Gilbert was bawling on the floor about her divorce, not about having to get married. I mentioned in passing, a little self-deprecatingly, in my post that I was also bawling on the floor, and wrote at length about why I think marriage is the sensible and sometimes unavoidable choice in some cases. Unrelatedly, I was “bawling on the floor” (so to speak) and also worrying about marriage. I thought you had connected the two.

    Considering that your comments have been full of personal invectives, casting aspersions on everything from my honesty (which is a call for more personal details, if there ever was one) and why I don’t write under a pseudonym (this one, I’m not even going to deign to respond to), naturally, I assumed it was directed at me. If you didn’t intend this, then I apologise for my confusion. But I think I have made clear how easy you made it to think this.

  • Kaushiki

    My god! There are people who actually liked the book?? I thought it was extremely poorly written and boring! It had nothing new. The only thing Gilbert does is have copious amounts of food and sex!! And seriously, if someone thinks that staying in some random ashram in India counts as a great spiritual experience (without having set one foot outside the ashram), clearly needs their heads examined. And let’s be honest, if the situation was reversed ie the husband had divorced the woman on such flimsy grounds, all the women would have been up in arms screaming bloody murder! At least the ex-husband has been doing some useful work around the world. This woman is so self-absorbed that she travels to 3 amazing countries but we get to read only about her petty issues and boring love interests. If this is supposed to be a deep book about some kind of self discovery for a woman, I hope to god that most women are not as shallow as this one!

  • meeta

    What a great website and article.

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