Why I’m not going to see "Eat, Pray, Love"

I have a truly great circle of friends.  They are loyal, loving and we share many of the same interests, including similar tastes in books.

When Eat, Pray, Love was all the rage a couple of years ago, it flew through my circle of friends (most of us 40- or 50-somethings) in the way that the Twilight series caught like wildfire with some of my high school students.

Two of my very closest friends adored it, and they were both excited to find out what I thought.

By the end of the first chapter, I was untouched.  By the time Liz Gilbert had left her perfectly kind, loving husband, taken up with a man who was clearly a jerk and decided to spend her year traipsing around the world looking for “fulfillment”, my skin was crawling.  I got through Italy and the first couple of chapters that took place in the ashram, in part because my sister, brother-in-law were followers of Gurumayi and I was curious.  I finally reached the point, though, where I couldn’t stomach Gilbert’s self-indulgence anymore, and I ended up returning the book to the library early.

I’m at the age where life is too short; I don’t finish books that I don’t like.

My friends were circumspect about this – there are areas where we agree to disagree and that’s one of the many reasons why I love my friends.

I might still have seen this film just for the eye candy, and I’m not talking about Javier Bardem (who is fine eye candy indeed).  I love travel reels, food blogs, great, hedonistic photography, and Italy is one of my favorite places on earth.  I’ve seen A Room with a View more times than I can count.  Italy, alone, might have pulled me in.

But there was also Julia Roberts.

I think the casting is perfect – the self-indulgent author chooses the uber-self-indulgent actress to play, well, “her”.  Julia Roberts of the mega-watt smile (does anyone else see the resemblance to a cartoon horse, or is it just me?), the husband-stealing, the perfect children and the “Hindu” lifestyle.  Hindu? 

Really? 

Do you think she follows domestic worship and purification rites, which are an integral practice for many followers of the various branches of the Hindu religion, does she revere Ganga Maiya, or is she really referring to something much more Western-palatable such as the Siddha Yoga that her author doppelganger followed in India?*

I can see this movie as a guilty pleasure for many of my age-something friends who might fantasize about a year of eating, praying and falling in love with their “soul mate”, especially since their realities don’t reflect Gilbert’s lifestyle at all. Stealing a peaceful bath occasionally might be all the self-indulgence they have time for. 

As far as I’m concerned, I just don’t have patience for Gilbert’s ramblings, either on paper or on the big screen.

I’d rather spend my free time enjoying and being grateful for my not-perfect husband, my not-perfect son and my not-perfect life.

It seems apropos to start this blog by discussing a very different spiritual journey from my own.  Everyone has a right to his or her own journey, and I shouldn’t put down Elizabeth Gilbert or Julia Roberts for seeking theirs.

Mine is just more of a mix of pragmatism.  I think there are still beautiful sights, spiritual teachers and delicious, fresh foods where I live in the Midwest of the U.S.  I love travel, but I love home, too.  

Let the life that you lead be all that you need” – Ryan Star “Breathe

So tell me – where are you in all of this media frenzy?  Does Eat, Pray, Love float your boat or make you want to run screaming in the other direction? 


*Note: This is not in any way, shape or form a put-down of Hinduism.  I’m just surprised that Roberts has embraced this religion, which is very much a product of its culture and region.  I’ll probably be covering my feelings about religion, and cultural perspectives on religion, quite extensively in future posts.

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26 Responses to Why I’m not going to see "Eat, Pray, Love"

  1. Great to see you writing! I flew through the book, but the farther I get away from it, the less I seem to like it. In my defense, this was back at a time when English reading material was *really* slim pickings around my house! I don't know whether I'll see the film or not–definitely not in a theater, but ever? Probably at least the beginning of it, just out of curiosity. I don't have strong feelings one way or the other on this one.

  2. Ambassador says:

    I didn't read it, and won't see the movie – it falls into the same category as "Titanic", when most everyone on the periphery of my life positively gushed over the movie and how I simply MUST see it.I avoided it until the guy I was dating begged to take me – I relented. It was our last date; apparently my inability to stifle my giggles and snorts during what were supposed to be the most moving scenes was unacceptable. I honestly didn't care which characters lived or died – hell, I was rooting for Billy Zane's character most of all.Oh, and the bit at the end? I would have snatched that necklace out of Rose's withered hands and pushed her overboard. OK, so that's harsh – but it was the sum total of my reaction to all the hoopla and unwarranted press.Twilight is damaging an entire generation of young women – I think the women who wrote the blog on which Julie & Julia ranks only a half step above harpy for how she cheated on her husband.OK, rant over. Glad to see you are writing again!!

  3. Jen says:

    Michelle, I'll leave it to you, after it comes out on video, to let me know what you think of the Italy section – that might be my only viewing.Ambassador – I agree with you wholeheartedly on your comments about Twilight and Julie and Julia! I can't even comment on Titanic because I never saw it. Never wanted to. 😉 I would have been snickering right there with you. I got into massive trouble with Soviet friends when I was teaching in the Soviet Union when they took me to a Bollywood movie and I was laughing at the melodrama, rather than weeping, as they were.Thank you both so much for commenting!

  4. Karen Olson says:

    I won't be seeing it, either. I didn't read the book, it just didn't sound like it would float my boat and so passed on it. The movie looks, well, eh, and I don't see many movies these days so am very picky.I'm thrilled to discover this new blog, and I look forward to your insights.

  5. Jen says:

    Thanks so much for the kind words, Karen. I was curious to know what you'd thought of Eat, Pray, Love – it didn't strike me as your kind of book. I don't see many movies these days, either – we sort of go by "does it have to be on the big screen" criteria. We may, however, see Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, just because it looks like it *might* hit big screen criteria, and well, our humor tends to be somewhat puerile. Waiting for the reviews, though.

  6. Pat says:

    Jen, were you channeling my thoughts? 'Cause you've pretty much nailed my feelings about the book, although I do think I tossed it earlier than you did.Love your new blog. It's always great to catch up and see what's going on in your life.

  7. April says:

    SO glad I'm not the only one! I didn't make it as far as you did in the book and have NO desire to see the movie.

  8. One, I'm glad you're back to blogging. Two, can the choir say AMEN loudly to this post. Not a fan of it at all.

  9. Acedog says:

    Good to "see you" again! As coincidence would have it, I'm currently rereading After the Ecstasy the Laundry and enjoying it.And while I've thought to do so, I've never re-read Eat, Pray, Love. While I found it entertaining–the basic romance structure of the memoir was, while obvious, wielded effectively. Yet what I can be entertained by in print may, I fear, not be the case in film. Translating a somewhat predictable tale to the large screen will likely involve pushing the "scenic aspects" of the narrative to the detriment of spiritual aspects(such as they are).I'm not so wild about Julia Roberts….I wonder how the move would have played if, say, Courtney Love had been cast in the lead role? 🙂

  10. Patchwork says:

    I'm here. :)Good to see you.Also, I haven't read or seen the movie, but it just didn't seem to be my thing. Now, from what you've said, I know it definitely isn't.If you want a good one, go see Inception.

  11. Jen says:

    Pat, it's interesting; I didn't expect so many of you to agree with me about the book. I have a feeling you and I have discussed this at some point.April – I think you were one of the folks I was thinking of in terms of having time to even bathe being a luxury – um… that might not have come out quite right, but, I mean I can't see you having much empathy for Gilbert's predicaments.Los A – I saw some of your comments about it via FB – and yes, I agree with those as well. Amen and amen.Ace – I agree that your concerns about the movie might well be true. The American movie scene seems one of the most cowardly scenes in the arts, these days, IMHO.Patchwork – I'm dying to see Inception. I was babbling about Scott Pilgrim, but Inception truly IS on the list.Again, thanks, all, for the support!

  12. Wanda's ODAT says:

    Jen,Didn't read the book, don't plan on seeing the movie, and did you ever hit the nail on the head with the description of Julia R. and her looks. :)Look forward to the new blog.

  13. Jen says:

    Thanks so much, Wanda! Doesn't surprise me this wouldn't be your thing. We really need to catch up.

  14. A few years back, a co-worker of mine raved about this book, so I looked it up, at which point I was all: Wha …? She leaves her husband … why? And does what? Huh? Did somebody pay her to do this? I was confused. Of course, this is me. If I wrote something along the lines of Eat, Pray, Love, I’d feel compelled to include MREs, slit-trench latrines, and incoming artillery. So, I can’t really say anything about the book since I haven’t read it, and don’t plan to. Same for the movie. Oddly enough, her sister Catherine Gilbert Murdock is also a writer and has a terrific YA series revolving around a high school girl athlete/football player. The first is called Dairy Queen, and I suspect readers who didn’t like Eat, Pray, Love would like these books.

  15. Goofball says:

    As you might remember from my post on the book, I really didn't like it either. I was irritated by the egocentric Gilbert. As enriching travelling may be, the way she did it seemed a guarentee to me not to find yourself at all and by the end of the book I really wondered how she would have found herself and how she would have benefitted from her trip. It didn't seem to lead anywhere at all. So I'm not interested to watch the movie either.I'm surprised though by your negative comments on Julia Roberts. I felt she was one of the more sympathetic Hollywood stars, but then again I don't really know a lot about her. Fortunately the book has not been as big a hype here as it was in the States. I only read it because it was recommended on so many blogs. Good to see you back online!

  16. anno says:

    So good to see you back! Loved the book the first time through, found it considerably annoying the second time. For me, Gilbert worked best when she turned her attention away from herself; if she had felt more secure about writing the book without having to justify or explain herself, it might have worked much better. While Julia Roberts seems like a great match for Gilbert's character, I think I'm going to pass on this one…

  17. Jami says:

    I got the book as a gift and felt duty-bound to read it. I didn't finish it and ended up putting it in my VA book donation that year. There were a number of reasons for my not liking it, but I think you've touched on the biggies. I won't be paying money to see the movie, either. I may end up watching it the same way I watched "Titanic": nothing else is on TV and I need some mindless distraction.I'm glad to see you back. You might just have inspired me to blow the dust off my own long-neglected blog. Maybe.

  18. Jen says:

    Charity, I loved Dairy Queen and am so surprised to hear that. Wow! And yes, I had the same reactions you did, but went through that while reading. And yes, your version would probably have what you listed, Germany, Russia, the Electric Slide?Goofball – Julia Roberts is a talented actress, but she's as much into the whole Hollywood craziness as most of the A-listers are, and she's made some poor personal choices as far as I'm concerned. I'd forgotten that you shared my feelings about Gilbert's book. I think it's very much a love it or hate it thing.You know, Anno, that may be the very thing that irked me without me realizing it. I would have probably done better if she'd said something along the lines of, "I was married young to a nice guy, but it didn't work out. This sent me searching. I'd saved up money and decided to spend a year doing things I wanted to." Hmmm…Jami, I would SO love that! BTW… a movie I DO think you'd love is Scott Pilgrim, but that's going to be my next post. 😉

  19. Giulia says:

    Found you via Bleeding Espresso. I loathe the hoopla around this book (though Liz Gilbert is not some evil she-devil). For so many reasons (there are additional ones to what you write). But one thing that hugely cheesed me off was that friends (who should know better) sent it to me! As inspiration! I'm using exclamation points unnecessarily–always a bad sign.The thing is, I took myself off (paying my way, btw) to France when I'd just turned 17. To go to university (from the States). Then I spent the better part of 2 decades reporting, writing, in academic training (archaeology) on a Fulbright, all over the bloody world (though not in East Asia. yet, etc.). With lovely (& not so lovely) men along the way. This is not bragging at all, in fact I'm cringing as I type, but I must say why it was so very offensive to have 3 copies received via post. What on earth these friends were saying to me, when they knew I disliked this sort of thing plus the fact that, um, I never have lacked for inspiration in my life. Through illness or anything else. Now, what I would have loved were a few new books (updated) for travel to Italy & elsewhere, & so forth. I'm still formulating a response to these folks (they really are friends) & it's been several years now. Additionally, if I may take up some more room here, I cannot stand it when I see people "shrieking" on blogs that "I wish I could do" insert whatever. Well, unless they are totally downtrodden by forces out of their control (like they're in a camp in Darfur or treading water in Pakistan, for instance), they can do several things, even if they they are unable to do exactly as they please. Because not everyone can just do as they please; but they can do more than they realize, I think. OK, well, I'll be much less ranty when I return, I assure you. I had decided that my blogs would be EPL-free zones so as not to mortally offend some upon whom I rely for donations to charities. Still….it is tempting to write an essay. But unless I can make it funny, I won't. ciao & thanks again. I think you speak for many, really.PS: Lots of people don't know, or forgot, that this was Liz's fourth book…she had a hefty advance & I say in this day & age of being asked to write for free (practically), that can be a good thing. But many women are hitting themselves in the head, why oh why could she do it & I can't. 200,000 USD goes a loooooong way.

  20. Jen says:

    Giulia – Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. I know that Gilbert earned her money and this was her choice. It's interesting because Anno said that she felt that part of the issue was Gilbert's own consistent "excusing" herself – owning her choices would have made this stronger.Like you, I've traveled in many places, made travel and experiences priorities when I was younger and paid my own way, as you did and as Gilbert did. It can be extremely enriching. I do find it ironic that your friends all sent this to you. And you are so right on that most people can (and do) as they please. There are definitely exceptions, but we all make choices and usually those choices mean we have to eliminate other choices, but such is life. 😉 Please come by and visit anytime.

  21. Elizabeth says:

    If something is that popular, there's really no need to read it, because you already know what's in there. That's why I won't be reading it, either.

  22. Jen says:

    Elizabeth – Ha! I never thought of it that way. I am glad I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, though.

  23. i am one of the few who read the book and neither loved nor hated it. it was ok, and a diverting summer read, with good and bad parts. I'm willing to see the movie, but not dying to run out and see it NOW. Will probably wait for it to hit cable.

  24. Diane says:

    No desire to read it nor see the movie…I feel the same way about Angelina Jolie–what a whole lot of nothing!I hope you did read ALL THREE of the Seig Larsson trilogy. It took me a bit of time to get accustomed to the Swedish in Dragon Tattoo but I FLEW through the other two books…what an author and what a loss! Have you seen the Swedish movie?? I didn't even need the subtitles cause I knew the story…I hope the US producers don't ruin the books with their version!Nice to have you back and to be back.

  25. Jen says:

    PM – you do seem to be in a somewhat unique category – this book seems to bring passions out, for the most part. As I said, I might see the movie (on DVD) simply for the travel eye candy.Diane – I agree with you about the book and about Angelina! I haven't gotten through all three of Larsson's books yet – just the first. Then I was pulled into Tana French's Faithful Place. It was absolutely superb. What a great way to end the summer reading amazing books.

  26. Widneywoman says:

    As I read this entry, it made me think, several times, about how much I really like you, Jen.

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