Eat, Pray, Love, Hype.
(I realize I am late in writing this by US standards, but the movie has just released here in Spain and I finally had to write something about this.)
A friend gave me this book shortly after my husband died. I remember thinking at the the time that the story in general was interesting, although a bit self indulgent, too wordy, a little naive and sometimes even dull. I read it, then probably left it on an airplane somewhere.
But then there was a movie. And the hype that surrounded that movie made it suddenly the best thing ever written. I tried to ignore it because I was in another country and the hype just didn’t exist. But then I went to the US for two months and was totally bombarded with posters of Julia Roberts face on every corner and constant trailers for the movie on every channel. Eat Pray Love style in magazines! Eat Pray Love home decor! Eat Pray Love music from the movie! I could not get away from this book that by this time, I really wanted to forget.
I returned to Spain. And the movie was released here. Dear God, Julia’s face with the gelato spoon in her mouth all over the damn city. Please, please let me get away from this…
By this time, I heard there was a lot of criticism going around regarding this book. Oh goody, I thought, I am going to go indulge myself on the negative comments surrounding this book, because by now the hype and praise were calling Eat Pray Love “a brave, inspirational journey of recovery and self discovery” which floored me. I can draw some parallels in my life to this mediocre story and in every one, my life is so much more interesting! My challenges greater, my risks much higher and my adventures far, far more exciting than say, spending four months in Italy eating and taking a few language classes. So I really needed to fuel my fire of rage against something so successful that I could have done so much better – but did not, have not.
But to my dismay, I found in the critical reviews, people were critical of the author, not of the book. They complained that Elizabeth Gilbert got paid to travel around for a year because of the book advance. And that they would do the same thing if they also got paid to do it, but they couldn’t just take off because they have responsibilities. That her journey is supposed to be inspiring but it isn’t because normal people aren’t able to just, just up and leave.
I want to respond to every one of these idiots with this: You could never do the same because you have responsibilities? Like what? Car and house payments? Turn in that fucking leased SUV. Downsize from your McMansion if the payments are too high. Stop living beyond your means. You have choices, nothing is stopping you. Oh what, you have children? Well in that case you cannot complain because your life is no longer yours. You realized you were giving up your freedom forever when you decided to make babies, didn’t you?
Others criticized her for running away from her problems. For not staying and facing her shit, but running off, away from “real life”.
To those I shall respond: Real life is whatever you create, not what is handed to you. Ms. Gilbert found a way to deal with her problems, figure herself out and change her life. She stopped bitching and moaning and took steps to make a change instead of sitting home, stuffing herself with Oreos and watching reality TV. And it worked. What are you doing to better yourself? What risks are you taking?
So while I cannot wait until I no longer have to look at Julia Roberts face with a spoon in it on every corner, and am still critical of the book for every reason I listed before, I am not critical of the author for having this experience and sharing it.
And if I think I could write a better, more interesting story along the same theme, then maybe I should listen to my own advice.