People keep asking.
I understand the reasoning behind the question. I am a writer and I’m taking a long trip. Surely I must be running from/trying to find something.
But the truth is less glamorous. And while I’m certain that the journey we are about to set out on will feel as epic to us as Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat,Pray, Love did to a nation and that there will be epiphanies (personal and professional), whether I’ll come to the conclusion that they need to be in book form is iffy.
And so I usually answer with, “I don’t know yet.”
That usually leads to a discussion of Eat, Pray, Love. When I admit that I have a “love – less love” relationship with the book, brows get raised even higher.
It wasn’t the words – she’s a brilliant writer and if you get the chance to read some of her essays you shouldn’t miss it.
No, my issue with Eat,Pray,Love was expertly articulated in this weekend’s NY Times Sunday Magazine by Sam Anderson. And I quote:
For me, the most profound moment in “Eat, Pray, Love” comes early on, when Gilbert reveals that her year of healing and self-discovery was, in an important sense, manufactured. “I can actually afford to do all this,” she writes, “because of a staggering personal miracle: in advance, my publisher has purchased the book I shall write about my travels.” (The word “miracle” is particularly sneaky here: vaguely spiritual jazz hands waving away complex issues of class and authenticity.) Gilbert paid for the year described in “Eat, Pray, Love,” in other words, with the book advance she got for proposing to have the year described in “Eat, Pray, Love.”
The author nails the discomfort I’ve had with the book from the beginning. And it’s why my answer to the question of whether our family trip is “book worthy” has to go unanswered for now. The truth is “We don’t know” and I like it that way.
I don’t want this year to be predetermined. I don’t want to script out for editorial consideration the emotional issues I’ll face and the life-changing moments I’ll have, before I’ve even left home. What spontaneity would be left? What would be the point of having a round the world adventure if we knew what needed to happen to match my promised plot lines every step of the way?
The author goes on to say:
This doesn’t necessarily invalidate Gilbert’s magical year of healing, but it certainly complicates it in a way the book doesn’t acknowledge. When Gilbert howls to the universe about her solitude, for instance — “I am alone, I am all alone, I am completely alone” — it’s a paradox: she’s self-consciously performing that aloneness for hundreds of thousands of readers.
And so, yes maybe when we return from this year there will be a story to tell that is worthy of a few hundred pages and the time necessary to reflect and write them.
But I’m not going into this trip with that as an end goal.
I’m going into this trip with an open heart and mind, a promise to detail our adventures and emotions as best I can and with three of the people who mean the most to me on this planet.
For me that is more than enough.
Did you read Eat, Pray, Love? Did the fact that she had the book deal first bother you?