I must admit, I’m a reluctant latecomer to the Elizabeth Gilbert phenomenon. But here I am. Recently, at the urging of journalist friend Selina, I succumbed to reading Eat Pray Love. *GASP* Can you imagine? But this week, I had the privilege of attending an Elizabeth Gilbert event with Selina, where Gilbert read from her latest book: The Signature of All Things. A couple weeks ago, Steve Almond recommended it for a summer read on a recent NPR interview, so I’m hopeful Steve’s right. The Candyfreak author and former Rumpus editor usually is.
-image courtesy elizabethgilbert.com
But months ago Selina had to drag me into the Elizabeth Gilbert realm. I’d lamented how I wanted to access deeper psychological bearings in my memoir. “Well, have you read Eat Pray Love, yet?” She’d asked to my obvious eye roll.
Even without picking up Eat Pray Love years ago, I’d convinced myself it wasn’t my bag. Why, though? Elizabeth is my demographic—a middle-aged, world-traveling, intellectual—(did I just say that?) –- a soul-sister in the realm of seekers of something, be it food, experience, connection, creativity, spirituality, adventure, etc. I suppose I’d fancied myself more of a literary snob, eschewing popular writings—much to my own loss—along the way for the likes of more modern classic authors such as Pico Iyer, Frances Mayes and Isabel Allende. Interestingly enough, Elizabeth Gilbert suggested much the same about herself—that swerving away from one-hit pop wonders.
But, to my chagrin Eat Pray Love sucked me in, and much like the male readers Elizabeth Gilbert described at this week’s Arizona book signing, I kind of read the book in secret. Kinda like the guy who read EPL tucked between the pages of Penthouse on the subway, I read it tucked between the sheets when my husband was out of town. *GASP.* (I suppose I razzed my hubby way too much when he got uncharacteristically sucked into Me Before You.) “Who, you reading chick lit, really?” I teased. Too much. So, I wasn’t going to get caught in my jammies with Eat Pray Love in my hands… .
But, more compelling to me than getting sucked into Eat Pray Love, is finding myself caught in the Elizabeth Gilbert vortex. Centered and self-effacing, the modest and gracious Gilbert spoke of wishing to distance even herself from the Eat Pray Love phenomenon. When a reader in the audience said she’d avoided Eat Pray Love but could not resist The Signature of All Things, Gilbert quipped that TSOAT was more to her liking as well—an intellectual foray into mosses, history and botany.
-image courtesy Selina S.
“This book has been my most delightful book to write so far. I wrote it with the idea of creating what I would enjoy reading.” Addressing the audience, she said, “And you turned a novel about a 20th century virgin and botanist into a New York Times Bestseller. Thank you.”
You can watch a snippet of my very amateur iphone video of Gilbert’s reading from The Signature of All Things.
Gilbert said she’s currently working on a book about creativity and as an antidote to writing about a spinster who studies mosses in TSOAT, she’s at work on a second concurrent project about dancing girls and other working women in New York City.
I’m down with that. But first will read The Signature of All Things—between the sheets, at the doctor’s office, at the beach…and hopefully it sucks me in as a summer read should.
I now have to wonder if Steve Almond has read Eat Pray Love. And if so, was he public about it? The next time he comes to Arizona, I’ll just have to ask him how he feels about using Penthouse as a cover for chick lit.