It’s always been a rule of mine, when I see that a book is being made into a movie, that I must read the book before seeing it played out for me on film. So since last summer when I was gallivanting down Smith Street in Brooklyn and got word that Julia Roberts was down the block (filming Eat Pray Love), I moved finishing the story’s written version into a top spot on my to-do list. I missed the boat when the whole craze began, having received it while my head was in and out of three other bestsellers, and then, always having another more important one to get through before I could commit to it. I guess I didn’t believe it was really so good, as everyone was saying.
And finally, here I am, twenty pages from finishing, just about ready to cross it off my list as completed. So why am I not reading it now? Well, a) this blog, which I will deny having ever abandoned, is desperately begging for my attention and b) I might just be trying to hang on so that my time sharing in this stranger’s wonderful journey might never end. Just as unexpectedly as they say true love comes, I have fallen in love with this book.
And so I was late to join the party. It doesn’t matter really. It seems everyone still has something to say about it. ‘Love the book, hate the movie.’ ‘Love the movie, hate the book.’ ‘Love both, hate both, or frankly, not really interested in either.’ Beyond all of those comments I might hear throughout a day, apparently this journey-turned-story-turned-fountain of success for one lucky lady has generated both a ton of buzz and a lot of criticism. But I’ve stayed out of the debates. Not that I’ve been hiding from them. More like I’ve been living underground these past few months, with little exposure to the Eat Pray Love rage, to the forums in cyberspace, or even knowledge that they exist. It’s been just little me, wrapped up in this woman Elizabeth’s travels to Italy and India and Indonesia, all throughout, feeling as if I were right there with her.
One morning this past weekend, I went to brunch by myself to satisfy a craving for lemon ricotta pancakes and a mimosa. Sounds horrible I know, brunch alone in New York. But when you have something good to read, who cares if you’re alone. So it was just me and my book, and the girl next to me asks, as her friend gets up to go to the restroom, “What are you reading?” I showed it to her and she nodded. “Ah!”
“Have you read it?” I asked her. “Or seen the movie?”
“Neither,” she replied, and then proceeded to ask me my thoughts on the subject, because suddenly it’s no longer just a book or a movie, but a ‘thing’. Didn’t I think anyone could manage to spit out a bestseller if they were paid 230-something dollars in advance? she asked. And was it really all true? And wasn’t Elizabeth Gilbert supposed to be a bitch in real life?
It didn’t take me long to respond because I’ve been thinking this all along…on the subway while I try to read as many pages as I can fit in before the doors open and close and I miss my stop, and in line in the grocery store, impatient waiting, relying on it to help me pass the time. And the answer is that really, I don’t care about any of those things. So what if Elizabeth Gilbert’s motivation was money? So what if she embellished to keep our attention. That’s what good writers do! And so what if she is really a bitch (and again, you might say I’m naïve, but I really doubt that part is true). Whatever anyone has to say about it, plain and simple, the book has touched me. It’s made my eyes water and more than once, it’s had me choking for breath. It’s made the hair on my arms stand straight, and it’s made me want to toss up everything and move to an Ashram for a few months of nothing but prayer.
I realize that it’s easy for me to relate to a lot of what this Elizabeth lady has written, because I have always been a person of faith. It has never been strange for me to get down on my knees and lift my hands to heaven in a prayer. But because I know not everyone feels the same way I do when it comes to faith, or belief in a higher power, I say fine, hate the book if you want to. But let me and the others who want to love it, love it.