Eat, Pray, Love’s Elizabeth Gilbert talks to Intelligence Squared

Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love seems, to me, to be one of those Marmite-like dividers of women. Whilst the Sunday Times has declared the memoir to be some sort of feminine gospel, saying ‘Eat, Pray, Love has been passed from woman to woman like the secret of life’, there are still those who are reluctant to fall for its charms. Bitch magazine, for example, accused the book of being ‘priv-lit‘  - saying that Gilbert’s path to enlightenment is greatly smoothed by her wealth – which is fine for her (and her equally privileged readers) but rather annoying for anyone else who can’t afford to traverse the globe to find themselves.

And then there are those who, like me, seem to be almost allergic to the self-help genre. When a considerate friend kindly offered up a quote from the book, in a bid to help me through a break up, my cynical soul simply refused to take it in – I refused to become one of those simpering women who find quotes that ‘resonate’. An ‘Eat, Pray, Lover‘, if you will.

Still, there’s obviously something about Eat, Pray, Love that attracts readers time and time again; The book has sold over 7 million copies and is about to be unleashed on to our UK screens as a major motion picture (starring saccharine sweetheart Julia Roberts, natch) on September the 24th.

It is for this reason that Gilbert finds herself on a new journey that will bring her slap bang into the spotlight for an event hosted by Intelligence Squared (IQ2) on September the 15th. Speaking with host Paul Holdengräber, Gilbert is sure to pass on plenty of pearls of wisdom from her travels… but I am also expecting a little light grilling too. Is ’spiritual journey’ travelling a new form of colonialism? Does self-help culture perpetuate selfishness? And where can us poorer gals go to eat, pray and love?

In readiness for the talk next month, I have finally bought a copy of the book (online, to avoid blushes at the book shop!) and I can actually admit that I’m glad to have the excuse to read it. Perhaps I am being overly negative. Perhaps a little Eating, Praying and Loving will be good for me… I’ll be sure to let you know in my review of the IQ2 event!

Elizabeth Gilbert speaks at Cadogan Hall, London, on Wednesday September 15th. The event will begin at 7.00pm and finish at 8.30pm. Tickets are from £20 and all details can be found here.

Ooh, and before you see the film, take a look at these great reviews over at Bust and The Salon!

By: Sarah Barnes, 27.08.2010 | Comments (5)
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  • tanya
    September 8th, 2010
    2:54 pm

    I’m reading this book at the moment. Seeing as I’m traveling, I’ve taken to the book. But I see what you mean. It’s hard to feel ’spiritual’ or ‘enlightened’ when you’re stuck on the tube on a friday night with a raging drunk about to be sick (or some such context of a big city). Also, I kinda like self-help books but don’t like to admit that I need self-help! x

  • Sarah Barnes
    September 14th, 2010
    1:52 pm

    Hey Tanya,

    Have just finished reading this book and HAVE found it enjoyable… and yet also frustrating in places! Will be writing about my thoughts on the book after the talk tomorrow.

    On the subject of self-help; To be fair I can actually get quite into those books which aim to give guidance, it’s just when it starts getting ’spiritual’ – THAT’S when I switch off. I am far too cynical, sometimes ;)

  • Corrina Gordon-Barnes
    September 15th, 2010
    6:59 am

    My partner and I spent a few happy weeks reading ‘Eat Pray Love’ to each other and were quite distraught when it ended; we loved witnessing both her inner and outer journey and are a little too excited that it’s now been made into a film with the stunning Julia Roberts.

    Also went on to read ‘Committed: A Sceptic Makes Peace With Marriage’ – again, first person non-fiction but which read more like a dissertation than a novel. Equally enjoyable, just quite different. And one of the strongest arguments I’ve read in support of same-sex marriage – especially nice as coming from a heterosexual view point.

    I’m going to this event tonight; maybe see you there Sarah!

    Corrina Gordon-Barnes

  • Sarah Barnes
    September 15th, 2010
    12:28 pm

    Hey Corrina,

    I’d heard about Gilbert’s follow up book on marriage and I’m quite intrigued. Being the cynical feminist that I am I, too, am a sceptic when it comes to marriage… yet, with societal pressures and the need for financial stability to support a family (gee, I’m romantic, aint I!?) I imagine a time will come when I, too, have to ‘make peace’ with marriage and just get on with it.

    Reading the book’s blurb, I imagine Gilbert might have the same sceptical marriage doubts as me; a ceremony infused with patriarchal values and religious overtones that I don’t believe in, gender based assumptions as to your given roles in marriage, the fact that homosexual ‘civil partnerships’ aren’t afforded the same ‘value’ by society as heterosexual ‘marriages’… so maybe I’ll have to add this to my reading list! Thanks for the recommendation.

    Looking forward to tonight, maybe see you there? I’ll be the one with the short hair and a cynical look on my face!

  • Anna Gaskell
    September 17th, 2010
    12:48 pm

    Writing from Intelligence Squared, the event organisers, check out the video highlights of Gilbert and Holdengraber (from their shared love of literature and Xavier Bardem to the crazy anecdotes of Gilbert family meals and storytelling) – . Enjoy!

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