Bookish Matters

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love: There's Nothing Wrong with Inspiring Middle-Class Wives

It may seem a bit late to talk about Eat, Pray, Love. The book came out five years ago, the movie came out four months ago, and I read it over two months ago. But I was talking about it on the phone with Rhiannon today, and it's still a much-bought book and much-watched movie (I know since I work at a book/movie store).

In this post I'm going to address complaints against the memoir. Some have complained that Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, is spoiled. That she over-estimated the problems she faced in her life and that she dealt with them in a very bourgeois or even upper-class way. Most people can't pick up and travel the world whenever there's a problem on the home front. Someone called Gilbert a rich woman speaking to discontent middle-class wives.

It is my opinion that everyone is allowed to a personal crisis once in a while. And that if you have the opportunity to do wonderful things--like travel to Italy and India and Indonesia--you shouldn't refuse these opportunities because there are others who don't have these opportunities, who don't have the same privileges. Should I stop eating because there are people in the world starving?

And Gilbert wasn't necessarily rich. She lost most of her money in the divorce at the beginning of the memoir. And she was able to take a year to travel the world because she's a travel writer. That's her job.

So what's the actual issue with Gilbert? Is it envy? Are the complainers simply angry they didn't or can't do what Gilbert did? It's not Elizabeth Gilbert's fault we don't have publishers paying us to travel. She's just lucky enough to have a job that allowed her to spend a year in self-discovery. (I know at least one of the complainers simply wasn't paying attention when he read the little bit of the book he did; he was making an opinion with misinformation.)

Gilbert is inspiring. What's wrong with inspiring discontent middle-class wives? I find that when people bad-mouth chicklit and the stuff that appeals to middle-class wives, they are really bad-mouthing middle-class wives. So just stop.

I was telling Rhiannon that I want to read more books like Eat, Pray, Love. Not books about women who go to Italy to eat good food, or books about women who meditate, or books about women who fall in love (though I like all those things). I want to read books that make me feel the way Eat, Pray, Love did. Books that make me feel inspired, that make me feel spiritual, that make me feel motivated, that make me feel like there are forces of good working in the world.

If you know of any books like that, do let me know.

1 comment:

  1. "Books that make me feel inspired, that make me feel spiritual, that make me feel motivated, that make me feel like there are forces of good working in the world."

    Hallelujah. Unfortunately, I tend to gravitate toward cynical, tragical, misanthropic books. About murder and stuff. So I'm not sure that I can help you out.