Being ever so late to the party, I spent last weekend reading Elizabeth Gilbert's 2006 bestseller, Eat Pray Love. With the movie based on the book now in theaters, I wondered not only what all the hubbub was about, but . . . Hollywood turning a spiritual memoir into a major motion picture?
This I've got to see.
Or maybe not.
One of my Facebook friends called it "long and annoying."
And the book was laborious enough.
To make a (way too long) story short, Gilbert (who is actually a great writer), spent months on the bathroom floor crying out to an ambiguous god/being/universe/Jiminy Cricket, begging for communion. She decides, after one particularly emotional episode, to take a year off to find him/her. She just wants God, she says, more and more of Him. Filled up and flowing over. The rub, being, of course, that she isn't looking for God as much as she's trying to create Him from scratch:
"I think you have every right to cherry pick when it comes to moving your spirit and finding peace in God. I think you are free to search for any metaphor whatsoever which will take you across the worldly divide whenever you need to be transported or comforted. . . . If humanity never evolved in its exploration of the divine, a lot of us would still be worshiping golden, Egyptian statues of cats. And this evolution of religious thinking does involve a fair amount of cherry-picking. . . . That's me in the corner, in other words. That's me in the spotlight. Choosing my religion."
Sounds more like a kid in a Build-a-Bear store than a spiritual quest---but with more fluff.
Part two ("Pray") is where the reading really bogs down, partly because, being done with the "Eat" part of the book, she is no longer writing about fun stuff like gigantic Italian mozzarella and tomato pizza pies. But mostly it's because she goes on ad infinitum about her "spirituality," about the attributes she wants in a god (I couldn't begin to sum her "perfect god" checklist in this short post), what she doesn't want (absolutes or anything intolerant of her Build-a-Bear process), how she will get it (visiting an Ashram in India for four months, for starters), and a breakthrough she has on an Indian rooftop where she meets with her husband and the two of them forgive each other for their nasty breakup a couple of years back. The rub being that her husband isn't actually present, but 10,000-plus miles away in America nursing his wounds. Not to get bogged down in minutia, though . . . the point is, after the rooftop "meeting" of their "spirits," she feels better. Now we can all relax.
I don't mean to mock the sincerity of Gilbert's spiritual quest. Admittedly, I have a hard time taking her chatty navel-gazing seriously. (If I could, I'd retitle the book Me, Myself, and I). But warning bells about her spiritual sincerity start to go off when she admits she is willing to look everywhere (apparently in the whole wide world) for God, except in anything resembling orthodox Christianity.
Of course, for a self-proclaimed drama queen, going a block down the street to the local church isn't quite as glamorous as circumnavigating the globe in search of meaning. As such, neither is it as likely to win a writer a lucrative book and movie deal.
I don't think so.