Elizabeth Gilbert Stopped By for a Chat...

by - February 11, 2011

Elizabeth Gilbert is on her book tour promoting the memoir, Committed, that was just released in paperback.  This week, her visit to Durham was sponsored by the Regulator Bookstore. This past Monday evening, I was part of the audience at the Durham Armory listening to Ms. Gilbert read from her book and engage in discussions with a Q&A.

Until fairly recently, I had been unaware of just what her most recognized book, Eat, Pray, Love,was all about. I tend to make it a point not to read anything that has been, or looks like it could have been, on the Oprah Booklist. This probably sounds like I'm a book snob...but not so.  I really enjoy reading both contemporary literature as well as the lighter "chick-lit" fair. I've read several Oprah books and found a certain sameness with undertones of melodrama.  For me, Oprah's book choice formula became Oprah cliche.  I honestly do not know if Eat, Pray, Love is on Oprah's list, but when I saw the title it sounded very Oprahesque, so I didn't risk it.

I have to admit here, I still haven't read that book...though I did see the movie. Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem are both beautiful and I couldn't resist. For the most part, I enjoyed the movie. I enjoyed seeing the connection between Julia and Javier and the beautiful landscape they inhabited.  Though I must say I grew impatient with Julia's anguish before she decided to take that year off to "marvel at something".  

When I decided to go to Elizabeth Gilbert's reading I still knew very little about the author or her actual writing.  Curiosity pulled me to the reading.  Let me begin by saying that Ms. Gilbert is utterly enchanting. She read an excerpt from the fourth chapter entitled "Marriage and Infatuation".  Towards the end of her story I was hooked.  Ms. Gilbert's humor is exactly what my doctor ordered.

I'm sure everyone reading this blog has either read Eat, Pray, Love or seen the movie, so I don't need to do a spoiler alert here. At the end of the book/movie Elizabeth/Julia falls in love with Javier Badem (very understandable).  But as both were previously divorced, they planned on living happily, unmarried, ever after.  The sequel, Committed, begins with the US government forcing a decision of either matrimony or exile for the couple.  Technically, only Javier/Felipe would be exiled, but couplehood without actually living in the same country seemed doomed. This new book is about the research and soul searching that Gilbert did as she began to reconcile her fear of marriage with her decision to enter into it with Felipe.

In the chapter that Gilbert read on Monday, she explores the difference in infatuation and the gritty reality of what it takes to be truly committed and why infatuation is not enough for the long haul.  Gilbert's interviews and research seemed to show that the less romanticizing of a relationship the stronger the commitment may be. Caution against romanticizing is not to say there should not be romance.  In fact, Gilbert acknowledges the beginning of her relationship with Felipe was classically romantic.  As she said, "for pity's sake, we met on the tropical island of Bali". During the heady time of early romance with Felipe Gilbert wrote her sister who was back home with kids and a house renovation.  Her sister's response?  "Yeah, I was planning to go to a tropical island this weekend with my Brazilian lover, too...but then there was all this traffic."

Now I'm hooked. I will read this book.

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