love it or hate it?

I don’t think I’m supposed to like Elizabeth Gilbert. Eat, Pray, Love is a sort of sarcastic self-help book with a little bit of chick lit thrown in. And it is really popular (which usually means the cool kids don’t like it). And it is about a woman with a huge book advance traveling around the world. But I kind of did like it, and now I feel righteous in that enjoyment because the Bookslut liked it too. Here is part of what she said:

These are the accusations against Elizabeth Gilbert I have read: treacly, annoying, feminist, insincere, spoiled. Then there are the more brutal ones: bitch, dyke, cunt. The most common, however, was “selfish.” How dare she? How dare she leave her husband to travel? How dare she write a book about it? How dare she fall in love again? And with a Brazilian! How dare she… what? Attain happiness? Or at the very least, put a stop to her death wish? That bitch, that dyke, how dare she walk away from her man?! Doesn’t she understand that this is the shameful masculine territory? It’s just as bad when men do it — we’re not saying it isn’t! — but women are supposed to be above all that, all of that free will stuff. Really. How dare she?

And then she says this brilliant thing at the end:

Like a lot of people who care about books and writing and sentence structure, I was initially horrified at the success at Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Then I realized what it meant: 80 million people read a book about the removal of femininity from the Catholic Church, about how Jesus liked women and prostitutes and screw-ups and freaks, about how the Bible was edited by men in power, about how Jesus’ divinity was not universally accepted. They read the book, and now it’s in their brains, like a vaccination against patriarchal monotheism, even if they don’t do anything with the information. Even if the people who read Elizabeth Gilbert’s books now only toss them away and grumble ”How dare she?,” Gilbert’s sincerity about figuring out a new way to be in the world are now out there. It won’t rid the world of its Lori Gottliebs, the fearmongers and the scolds, but the books can create little antibodies in the culture, boosting our immune system against them.

You should probably just read the article now that I have quoted half of it to you. But you have got to admit, she really does have a point.

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February 2010
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