Eat, Pray, Love/Hate

11
Aug
2008

Every so often a book or movie will generate strong feelings of loathing that seem to reveal much more about the critic than the work. “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elisabeth Gilbert seems to be just such a book. Over the past few weeks (and months) I have met several people for whom this book seemed some sort of personal affront. I read the book, enjoyed the writing style and the subject matter, and would recommend it whole-heartedly. It didn’t change my life, but I definitely appreciated it. But a number of people I have met recently who don’t like the book REALLY don’t like it. They take some very personal umbrage. Whether they believe it to be “self absorbed and narcissistic” or “fake” or “new agey”, it seems to touch a very deep anger for reasons that elude me. Just the other night was the most recent example. I was talking to some guy at a bar. We were making small talk and he asked me what I do (the classic American question). I started talking about my trip of the last months and as I was describing India he interrupted me with an abrupt “Have you read Eat, Pray, Love? I f*cking HATE that book!”.  I do think that the book was an easier read for me personally because of the nature of my own journey over the past couple of years. And I understand that not everyone will “get” the parts that are most foreign to their own personal experience, such as the description of time in an ashram in India. But there is something more, a kind of anger that the world (through its bestseller status) should reward this kind of thing. People I have spoken with feel that Elizabeth Gilbert is somehow “pulling one over” on the world with her memoir. They desperately search for any sentence or situation in the book that they feel is less than perfectly authentic or real and shout “aha!”. My feeling is “who the hell cares?” What, exactly, do they think this woman is duping the world with? Why does it bug them so very much? What does it say about their own hopes and fears and insecurities? Is it “unfair” that she got to take this trip? Is it “self-absorbed” any more than any memoir? I don’t know, but it is curious.