While shopping online for an ottoman for my front porch, Google suggested I look at World Market. So I headed over to their website and was hit with this message:
World Market’s Eat Pray Love Shop Has Arrived!
If you don’t know what Eat Pray Love is -Â if you’ve been living on a remote island, meditating, or maybe if you’re a man – it’s a memoir written by Elizabeth Gilbert. For reasons unknown, probably even to the author herself, this book became the Harry Potter for women in a certain age demographic. Maybe those in their late 20s through 40s. The book describes the journey Gilbert made from Italy to India to Indonesia after a rough divorce. Yes, she was trying to “find herself.” And she succeeded. And she found the man of her dreams in the process. It’s a completely romantic book. It’s very cool that it happened to her but for the rest of us it probably serves the purpose of escapist fantasy.
The appeal of the book could lie in the whiff of possibilities it extends to its readers. “I could do that,” one might think after reading it. “I could quit my job and move to Berlin and fall in love with a conceptual artist even though I don’t know what ‘conceptual,’ used in that context, means.” OK, so you’re in your late 30s, have 3 kids, a job and a husband but… it’s not too late! You can still… find the real you? Or maybe it’s the other way around – you’ve made your choices, you’re basically happy but this is a way to “live” the other side. What if… without having to leave your couch.
I read the book when it came out. I heard about it on NPR, when Gilbert was on doing an interview. She was talking about pizza in Rome. She’s very charming. I read the book and I enjoyed it very much. I’m not above escapist fantasy. After all, I hated my job. I wanted to have pizza in Rome. I wasn’t looking for love (got that) but I wouldn’t have minded a few weeks on the ol’ ashram, thinking things over. Or, uh, not thinking things over, as the case may be.
So, yes, this book deserves readers. It has a unique voice. The author had a unique experience. Books have been written about less. However, what is up with this Eat Pray Love merchandising? There is even special Eat Pray Love tea. Can a perfume be far behind?
Perhaps the next step will be seminars held for women throughout the U.S. “Join us for an Eat Pray Love weekend and find yourself. Reconnect with your inner voice. Journal! Buy a t-shirt. Have a glass of wine and some Indian food.” It worked for Oprah. So many women wanted to be their best selves.
Of course, this ramp-up for Eat Pray Love is connected to the movie version, which comes out on August 13th. It stars this little-known actress named Julia Roberts and another guy you may have heard of named Javier Bardem. Theaters, prepare yourselves to be mobbed. I admit I will go. Why, we ladies haven’t had this much fun since SATC II and that movie sucked. Imagine if this one is actually… good?
I can’t resist the movie although I want no part of the other merchandising. It’s like if The Great Gatsby was your favorite novel (no, I’m not saying the two books compare in terms of writing prowess) and then there’s suddenly The Great Gatsby Shop inside Crate & Barrel. Merchandise, merchandise, merchandise. Make money, make money, make money. How does this fit in with Eat Pray Love? Or have we moved on to version two, which comes with an addendum – Eat, Pray, Love (and Bank)?
I did read Gilbert’s follow-up to E.P.L. (I’m finally tired of writing the title out) called Committed. It was an entertaining read but none of it stayed with me and it seemed to add up to a bunch of nothing – she freaks out about marriage and then she does it. Of course, how do you follow a raging success like E.P.L.? Rather like Def Leppard trying to top Hysteria, don’t you think? Maybe Gilbert should have taken a cue from Harper Lee and let E.P.L. stand as her To Kill a Mockingbird. You’ll never be able to pull out another one like it, so why bother?
Oh, except you won’t make any more money selling merchandising and movie rights…
Side Note: I was a bit saddened to see that Hyperion has now canceled the deal with Gilbert’s ex-husband, Michael Cooper, for his side of the story. It was to be called Displaced. I love a good “She Said, He Said.”