Sunday, February 08, 2009

BOOKS: Eat, Pray, Love

I recently finished Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. (I know, everybody was reading that last year, and I'm late to the party.) It turned out to be a terrific and enjoyable book, a unique travelog and spiritual journey bound up with a "chick-flick" plot of "oh, how will I ever get over this nasty divorce and subsequent messy break-up". I have to say, I was a bit wary at first, worried that it was going to be some hippie-dippie new-agey thing, and I was not reassured in the introduction when the author promised that her journey wasn't going to be some soft amorphous new-agey quest. (Such reassurances tend to have the opposite effect, like the line "this isn't a sales call", which is only ever spoken by telemarketers.) But I stayed with it, and eventually my hackles came down, and I really enjoyed the story as I got to know and trust the author better. On the audio version, the author reads her own book, and does a great job. When she slides into her more cynical side, she turns up her New York accent, which is somehow reassuring, an audible sign of her not taking herself too seriously. She also has a great ear for dialect, and does a good job of reproducing the speech patterns and accents of the various people she meets in Italy, India, and Indonesia. (The one chapter in which she recalls the patter of an old Italian man carrying on at a soccer game is a hoot, as is another chapter in which she captures her scattered trains of thought in her early attempts to meditate in an ashram.) And just as she found her sojourn in Italy, indulging in the simple pleasures of food and language, to be a necessary preparation for her more spiritual explorations in India, I found her stories of Italy, in which I got to know her and her situation, to be a good preparation for her accounts of the more spiritual part of her journey. Her time in the ashram was surprisingly down to earth at the same time as she was finding heaven. (It reminds me of hearing the Dalai Lama speak, and being impressed at how down to earth and pragmatic he was, constantly disappointing those who were expecting him to say more surreal things.) In all the places that she went, she met and befriended a variety of interesting characters, and captured them well in her prose, which is deliciously written. Her metaphors, whether describing the pain of a break-up, or the delight of the perfect pizza, are creative and vivid. It was truly a delight to read this book, and I was almost sorry when it ended. What a wonderfully creative and fulfilling way to get over a bad break-up!

No comments: