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Elizabeth Gilbert: More Interesting Than I First Thought

abstract:OK, I'll admit it. I have been boycotting Elizabeth Gilbert. You remember her. She’s the author whose book all your girlfriends were reading and raving about two years ago. Yes raving. Like Oprah's book picks, I was highly skeptical and quite frankly annoyed. I mean, she charged over $10,000 plus first class travel expenses to come speak to a community not far from where I live, and the topic wasn’t something really very earth-shattering. Side bar: the highest paid writer-speakers are presidential biographers. Apparantly they can command $25,000 USD per talk, which is more than most authors make in royalties for the entire print-run of their book. But back to Elizabeth Gilbert and Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia (Viking 2006). I surmised that her book too easily became a popular (make that run-away) success, and was defacto best suited to the masses. The jacket blurb described a woman in pre-midlife crisis moaning about her ex-husband, traipsing around and gorging herself in Italy (Diane Lane already did that in “Under the Tuscan Sun”) and then channelling the divine in some remote cliché location, where again, the Beatles have been-there done-that, then she magically falls storybook-style in-love before the conclusion. Does that breath "fluff" to you? People were saying, “It’s so easy to read, and it incorporates travel with history and spiritualism. Oh, and it’s funny too.”


March 27, 2009
“Yeah, right,” I thought. "She’s no Robert Dalek. She’s no Dalai Lama. She’s no Steve Martin." And she charges $10,000 a pop? That's half as much as a presidential biographer gets who spends like, 10 or 15 years pouring over documents in musty archival places getting aspirgila, a sore neck and writer's cramp. And they have to be accountable for the accuracy of all manner of minutiae; with footnotes. So I quietly avoided the book and privately scorned anyone who continued to say how wonderful it was.

LIGHTENING BOLT. Then I watched Elizabeth Gilbert give a 19:29 minute TED talk on the topic of "A different way to think about creative genius" and realized, my God, I may have completely misjudged this writer, this woman, this descent human being! I'm going give her another chance. (Yeah, go back and click on the link and watch for yourself.) Maybe I should have clued-in when I saw that her first book nominated for a PEN award. Maybe she really did have something interesting to say in a creative way? So I am offering my apologies up to the ethers in the name of Elizabeth Gilbert (and to my friends—you know who you are), and I am retracting my judgments - at least until I've had a chance to do two things: read a copy of Eat Pray Love and follow that up with her other books as penance. She is about to release a new title. If you read it, drop me a line and let’s chat. More on EG...

Author Bio

Born in Connecticut in 1961 (that makes her 48 years old) and educated in Political Science from New York University, Elizabeth Gilbert then began a self-imposed tutorial in life, taking odd jobs, which she describes as her self-imposed MFA.

When a piece submitted to Esquire Magazine was accepted, she became the first unpublished author since Norman Mailer (publicists love to draw these quaint analogies), which led to a stream of other notable magazine publications in GQ, Spin, the New York Times Magazine, and Travel + Leisure. Her first book Pilgrims (Houghton-Mifflin 1997), a collection of short stories, received the Pushcart Prize and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. This was followed by her novel The Last American Man (Houghton-Mifflin 2000), selected by the New York Times as a "Notable Book" and was also a finalist for the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award. Here third book Stern Men came out in 2001, a bittersweet novel about lobster fishing territory wars off the coast of Maine, which was also a New York Times Notable book. Eat, Pray, Love (Viking, 2006) made the New York Times best seller list of non-fiction in the spring of 2006.The book has been a worldwide success, now published in over thirty languages with over 7 million copies in print. It was named by The New York Times as one of the 100 most notable books of 2006, and chosen by Entertainment Weekly as one of the best ten nonfiction books of the year. In 2008, Elizabeth was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World, by Time Magazine.

The moral of the story is of course, "Don't judge an author by her popular cover."

Additional Links

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