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Eat, Pray, Love (Gilbert)

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia
Elizabeth Gilbert, 2006
Penguin Group USA
338 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780143038412


Summary 
This beautifully written, heartfelt memoir touched a nerve among both readers and reviewers. Elizabeth Gilbert tells how she made the difficult choice to leave behind all the trappings of modern American success (marriage, house in the country, career) and find, instead, what she truly wanted from life.

Setting out for a year to study three different aspects of her nature amid three different cultures, Gilbert explored the art of pleasure in Italy and the art of devotion in India, and then a balance between the two on the Indonesian island of Bali.

By turns rapturous and rueful, this wise and funny author (whom Booklist calls "Anne Lamott's hip, yoga-practicing, footloose younger sister") is poised to garner yet more adoring fans. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—July 18, 1969
Raised—Litchfield, Connecticut, USA
Education—B.A., New York University
Awards—Pushcart Prize
Currently—Frenchtown, New Jersey


Elizabeth M. Gilbert is an American author, essayist, short story writer, biographer, novelist and memoirist. She is best known for her 2006 memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, which spent 200 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list, and was also made into a film by the same name in 2010.

Gilbert was born in Waterbury, Connecticut. Her father was a chemical engineer, her mother a nurse. Along with her only sister, novelist Catherine Gilbert Murdock, Gilbert grew up on a small family Christmas tree farm in Litchfield, Connecticut. The family lived in the country with no neighbors, and they didn’t own a TV or even a record player. Consequently, they all read a great deal, and Gilbert and her sister entertained themselves by writing little books and plays.

Gilbert earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from New York University in 1991, after which she worked as a cook, a waitress, and a magazine employee. She wrote of her experience as a cook on a dude ranch in short stories, and also briefly in her book The Last American Man (2002).

Journalism
Esquire published Gilbert's short story "Pilgrims" in 1993, under the headline, "The Debut of an American Writer." She was the first unpublished short story writer to debut in Esquire since Norman Mailer. This led to steady—and well paying—work as a journalist for a variety of national magazines, including SPIN, GQ, New York Times Magazine, Allure, Real Simple, and Travel + Leisure.

Her 1997 GQ article, "The Muse of the Coyote Ugly Saloon", a memoir of Gilbert's time as a bartender at the very first Coyote Ugly table dancing bar located in the East Village section of New York City, was the basis for the feature film Coyote Ugly (2000). She adapted her 1998 GQ article, "The Last American Man: Eustace Conway is Not Like Any Man You've Ever Met," into a biography of the modern naturalist, The Last American Man, which received a nomination for the National Book Award in non-fiction. "The Ghost," a profile of Hank Williams III published by GQ in 2000, was included in Best American Magazine Writing 2001.

Early books
Gilbert's first book Pilgrims (1997), a collection of short stories, received the Pushcart Prize and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. This was followed by her novel Stern Men (2000), selected as a New York Times "Notable Book." In 2002 she published The Last American Man (2002), a biography of Eustace Conway, a modern woodsman and naturalist, which was nominated for National Book Award.

Eat, Pray, Love
In 2006, Gilbert published Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia (Viking), a chronicle of her year of "spiritual and personal exploration" spent traveling abroad. She financed her world travel for the book with a $200,000 publisher's advance.

The memoir was on the New York Times Best Seller List of non-fiction in the spring of 2006, and in October 2008, after 88 weeks, the book was still on the list at number 2. Gilbert appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2007, and has reappeared on the show to further discuss the book and her philosophy, and to discuss the film. She was named by Time as among the 100 most influential people in the world. The film version was released in 2010 with Julia Roberts starring as Gilbert.

After EPL
Gilbert's fifth book, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, was released in 2010. The book is somewhat of a sequel to Eat, Pray, Love in that it takes up Gilbert's life story where her bestseller left off. Committed also reveals Gilbert's decision to marry Felipe, the Brazilian man she met in Indonesia as recounted in the final section of EPL. The book is an examination of the institution of marriage from several historical and modern perspectives—including those of people, particularly women, reluctant to marry. In the book, Gilbert also includes perspectives on same-sex marriage and compares this to interracial marriage prior to the 1970s. Gilbert and Felipe are still married and operate a story called Two Buttons.

In 2012, she republished At Home on the Range, a 1947 cookbook written by her great-grandmother, the food columnist Margaret Yardley Potter.

Gilbert returned to fiction in 2013 with The Signature of All Things, a sprawling 19th-century style novel following the life of a young female botonist. The book brings together that century's fascination with botany, botanical drawing, spiritual inquiry, exploration, and evolution. Kirkus Reviews called it "a brilliant exercise of intellect and imagination," and Booklist a "must read."

Literary influences
In an interview, Gilbert mentioned The Wizard of Oz with nostalgia, adding, "I am a writer today because I learned to love reading as a child—and mostly on account of the Oz books..." She is especially vocal about the importance of Charles Dickens to her, mentioning his stylistic influence on her writing in many interviews. She lists Marcus Aurelius' Meditations as her favorite book on philosophy. (Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 9/16/2013.)



Book Reviews 
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in possession of a broken heart must be in want of a good meal. Elizabeth Gilbert takes Jane Austen's maxim to extraordinary lengths in her smart, delightful book. On a year-long quest for inner peace, she first heads to Italy, where she eats four-months worth of pasta, gelato, calamari, stewed rabbit, pickled hyacinth bulbs, and the best pizza in the world.
A LitLovers LitPick  (June '07)


The only thing wrong with this readable, funny memoir of a magazine writer's yearlong travels across the world in search of pleasure and balance is that it seems so much like a Jennifer Aniston movie.
Grace Lichtenstein - Washington Post


At the age of thirty-one, Gilbert moved with her husband to the suburbs of New York and began trying to get pregnant, only to realize that she wanted neither a child nor a husband. Three years later, after a protracted divorce, she embarked on a yearlong trip of recovery, with three main stops: Rome, for pleasure (mostly gustatory, with a special emphasis on gelato); an ashram outside of Mumbai, for spiritual searching; and Bali, for “balancing.” These destinations are all on the beaten track, but Gilbert’s exuberance and her self-deprecating humor enliven the proceedings: recalling the first time she attempted to speak directly to God, she says, “It was all I could do to stop myself from saying, ‘I’ve always been a big fan of your work.’
The New Yorker


Gilbert (The Last American Man) grafts the structure of romantic fiction upon the inquiries of reporting in this sprawling yet methodical travelogue of soul-searching and self-discovery. Plagued with despair after a nasty divorce, the author, in her early 30s, divides a year equally among three dissimilar countries, exploring her competing urges for earthly delights and divine transcendence. First, pleasure: savoring Italy's buffet of delights—the world's best pizza, free-flowing wine and dashing conversation partners—Gilbert consumes la dolce vita as spiritual succor. "I came to Italy pinched and thin," she writes, but soon fills out in waist and soul. Then, prayer and ascetic rigor: seeking communion with the divine at a sacred ashram in India, Gilbert emulates the ways of yogis in grueling hours of meditation, struggling to still her churning mind. Finally, a balancing act in Bali, where Gilbert tries for equipoise "betwixt and between" realms, studies with a merry medicine man and plunges into a charged love affair. Sustaining a chatty, conspiratorial tone, Gilbert fully engages readers in the year's cultural and emotional tapestry—conveying rapture with infectious brio, recalling anguish with touching candor-as she details her exotic tableau with history, anecdote and impression.
Publishers Weekly


Gilbert (The Last American Man) grafts the structure of romantic fiction upon the inquiries of reporting in this sprawling yet methodical travelogue of soul-searching and self-discovery. Plagued with despair after a nasty divorce, the author, in her early 30s, divides a year equally among three dissimilar countries, exploring her competing urges for earthly delights and divine transcendence. First, pleasure: savoring Italy's buffet of delights—the world's best pizza, free-flowing wine and dashing conversation partners—Gilbert consumes la dolce vita as spiritual succor. "I came to Italy pinched and thin," she writes, but soon fills out in waist and soul. Then, prayer and ascetic rigor: seeking communion with the divine at a sacred ashram in India, Gilbert emulates the ways of yogis in grueling hours of meditation, struggling to still her churning mind. Finally, a balancing act in Bali, where Gilbert tries for equipoise "betwixt and between" realms, studies with a merry medicine man and plunges into a charged love affair. Sustaining a chatty, conspiratorial tone, Gilbert fully engages readers in the year's cultural and emotional tapestry—conveying rapture with infectious brio, recalling anguish with touching candor-as she details her exotic tableau with history, anecdote and impression.
Library Journal


An unsuccessful attempt at a memoir from novelist and journalist Gilbert (The Last American Man, 2002, etc.). While weeping one night on the bathroom floor because her marriage was falling apart, the author had a profound spiritual experience, crying out to and hearing an answer of sorts from God. Eventually, Gilbert left her husband, threw herself headlong into an intense affair, then lapsed into as intense a depression when the affair ended. After all that drama, we get to the heart of this book, a year of travel during which the author was determined to discover peace and pleasure. In Rome, she practiced Italian and ate scrumptious food. Realizing that she needed to work on her "boundary issues," she determined to forego the pleasure of sex with Italian men. In India, she studied at the ashram of her spiritual guru (to whom she had been introduced by the ex-lover), practiced yoga and learned that in addition to those pesky difficulties with boundaries, she also had "control issues." Finally she headed to Bali, where she became the disciple of a medicine man, befriended a single mother and fell in love with another expat. Quirky supporting characters pop up here and there, speaking a combination of wisdom and cliche. At the ashram, for example, she meets a Texan who offers such improbable aphorisms as, "You gotta stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone oughtta be." Gilbert's divorce and subsequent depression, which she summarizes in about 35 pages, are in fact more interesting than her year of travel. The author's writing is prosaic, sometimes embarrassingly so: "I'm putting this happiness in a bank somewhere, not merely FDIC protected but guarded by my four spirit brothers." Lacks the sparkle of her fiction.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions 
1. Gilbert writes that "the appreciation of pleasure can be the anchor of humanity," making the argument that America is "an entertainment-seeking nation, not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one." Is this a fair assessment?

2. After imagining a petition to God for divorce, an exhausted Gilbert answers her phone to news that her husband has finally signed. During a moment of quietude before a Roman fountain, she opens her Louise Glück collection to a verse about a fountain, one reminiscent of the Balinese medicine man's drawing. After struggling to master a 182-verse daily prayer, she succeeds by focusing on her nephew, who suddenly is free from nightmares. Do these incidents of fortuitous timing signal fate? Cosmic unity? Coincidence?

3. Gilbert hashes out internal debates in a notebook, a place where she can argue with her inner demons and remind herself about the constancy of self-love. When an inner monologue becomes a literal conversation between a divided self, is this a sign of last resort or of self-reliance?

4. When Gilbert finally returns to Bali and seeks out the medicine man who foretold her return to study with him, he doesn't recognize her. Despite her despair, she persists in her attempts to spark his memory, eventually succeeding. How much of the success of Gilbert's journey do you attribute to persistence?

5. Prayer and meditation are both things that can be learned and, importantly, improved. In India, Gilbert learns a stoic, ascetic meditation technique. In Bali, she learns an approach based on smiling. Do you think the two can be synergistic? Or is Ketut Liyer right when he describes them as "same-same"?

6. Gender roles come up repeatedly in Eat, Pray, Love, be it macho Italian men eating cream puffs after a home team's soccer loss, or a young Indian's disdain for the marriage she will be expected to embark upon at age eighteen, or the Balinese healer's sly approach to male impotence in a society where women are assumed responsible for their childlessness. How relevant is Gilbert's gender?

7. In what ways is spiritual success similar to other forms of success? How is it different? Can they be so fundamentally different that they're not comparable?

8. Do you think people are more open to new experiences when they travel? And why?

9. Abstinence in Italy seems extreme, but necessary, for a woman who has repeatedly moved from one man's arms to another's. After all, it's only after Gilbert has found herself that she can share herself fully in love. What does this say about her earlier relationships?

10. Gilbert mentions her ease at making friends, regardless of where she is. At one point at the ashram, she realizes that she is too sociable and decides to embark on a period of silence, to become the Quiet Girl in the Back of the Temple. It is just after making this decision that she is assigned the role of ashram key hostess. What does this say about honing one's nature rather than trying to escape it? Do you think perceived faults can be transformed into strengths rather than merely repressed?

10. Sitting in an outdoor café in Rome, Gilbert's friend declares that every city-and every person-has a word. Rome's is "sex," the Vatican's "power"; Gilbert declares New York's to be "achieve," but only later stumbles upon her own word, antevasin, Sanskrit for "one who lives at the border." What is your word? Is it possible to choose a word that retains its truth for a lifetime?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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