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The original cover of Eat, Pray, Love

Why We Can't Stop Talking About Eat, Pray, Love

 “I don't think I will ever write another book as raw, intimate and revealing as Eat, Pray, Love, which I wrote without imagining that millions of people would ever read it,” confesses Elizabeth Gilbert in an interview on her website.

The Phenomenon

Published in 2006 and translated into over 30 languages, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love has sold more than six million copies in the USA alone, plus one million abroad. It was at the number one spot on the New York Times paperback nonfiction bestseller for 57 weeks.

In 2007, Gilbert was on Oprah (twice!) and on almost every woman’s reading list. If all that was not enough, in 2008, Time Magazine named Elizabeth Gilbert as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

By 2010, we are awaiting her book in the form of a movie where Gilbert is played by none other than Julia Roberts. The film is scheduled to be released on August 13 in the States.

Felipe (whose real name is José Nunes), the handsome Brazilian businessman she falls in love with in Bali, is played by the Spanish actor Javier Bardem.

You may click here for a sneak preview of the film.

The Inspiration

As Eat, Pray, Love theme parties became increasingly common, many swore by the book’s life-changing capabilities. The more adventurous booked trips to ‘Liz Land’ in search of the people Liz met or the food Liz ate.

A 38-year old mother of two decided to participate in a marathon, some were motivated to learn a new language while others picked up new skills like skydiving and tap dancing, each attributing their new-found zeal to the book.

A new edition of the book features Julia Roberts on the cover.
A new edition of the book

The Oprah Winfrey Show “Why We Can't Stop Talking About Eat, Pray, Love!” nails the genesis of the book. According to Oprah’s O Magazine, Elizabeth Gilbert is delighted, honored, humbled and amazed that her book has affected so many lives.

"I wrote this book to kind of create a word ladder to pull myself out of a very deep hole," she says. "I don't need that ladder anymore, so it's just sitting there in book form. To think that other people are now using it to tip it up against their dreams and kind of climb on up there is just incredibly touching."

The Content

Something of a cross between chick lit and travel memoir, Eat, Pray, Love is more of the latter as is proved by its presence in the travel section of bookstores and libraries. Berated as “whiny and self-indulgent” by critics, with some even going so far as to call it “the worst in Western fetishization of Eastern thought and culture,”  the book of course, has its fair share of detractors.

As a reader, I am willing to look past all of that, because Gilbert does not try to be perfect; she tries to make conversation. At times, what her writing may lack in momentum, it makes up for in candor and wit. The inherent chatty tone adds to the book’s universal appeal and helps her establish an intimate relationship with her reader.

Eat, Pray, Love begins with the introductory quote from Sheryl Louise Moller: “Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth.”

Gilbert keeps her promise – everything from self-doubt, private conversations with God, a hankering for attention to dubious infections – nothing is spared.

Financed by an advance on the book she had decided to write before leaving for her year-long tour, her fairy-tale ending of meeting her Prince Charming in Indonesia has been taken with a pinch of salt by well, almost everyone.

The book chronicles her journey across Italy, India and Indonesia where she searches for pleasure, divinity and love respectively. Following a messy divorce and bouts of depression she embarks on a 12-month long trip to distant lands in search of happiness.

“Happiness,” Gilbert realizes, “is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it.”

Elizabeth Gilbert - photo by Shea Hembrey
Elizabeth Gilbert - photo by Shea Hembrey

Gilbert Guide

Readers have flooded her with questions after the success of Eat, Pray, Love. Some ask her for marital advice while some are simply looking for the best pizza to be had in Italy.

She claims she does not have all the answers. She is neither a spiritual guide nor a travel agent. She is just a woman who went on a quest and then wrote about it, as best as she could.

As her book says, she wanted “to explore the art of pleasure in Italy, the art of devotion in India, and, in Indonesia, the art of balancing the two.”

The ashram she stayed in during her India leg of the trip is another sought-after topic. Sorry, she cannot divulge its name or location because it’s a very hush-hush organization with absolutely no interest in publicity. Well, that hasn’t stopped the media from making random guesses.

But when it comes to tourism-dependent Bali, Gilbert can most certainly help. Her website explicitly states “If you need a guide in Bali, contact my sweet friend Mario at the Ubud Inn, at mariourip@yahoo.com.”

Homebound

It can be safely said that it is impossible to travel without experiencing a certain amount of personal growth. By her own admission, Gilbert hopes her readers “grow up with her” so they can appreciate her latest book Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, which was released in January this year.

As the title suggests, this book examines the institution of marriage in depth while reaching the predictable end to her relationship with her Brazilian boyfriend. Yes, they get married and settle down in an idyllic town in New Jersey.

As Gilbert puts down roots and looks forward to wedded bliss, her followers carry on the quest. Every day, more and more women are inspired to follow her footsteps. Whether they are looking for the creamiest gelato or struggling with existential questions, they are out there and they are paving the way for the next generation of women travelers.

 

 

Esha Samajpati




Esha Samajpati
is an advertising consultant who loves to travel and write. She authors a blog on advertising trends called The Business of Advertising and a travel blog called Miles to Go.

 

Visit our Esha Samajpati Page with links to all her stories.

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