October 22nd, 2010

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Elizabeth Gilbert

I have a confession to make. I have a new favorite book.

Those of you that know me well know that for the past fourteen years of my life, my favorite book has been The Princess Bride. I still love the shit out of the book, and it remains the only book I've read so many times that I can't count anymore, the only book I've read so much that it literally fell apart and I had to buy a new copy.

Then I read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. A friend of mine had posted a TED talk of hers on his Facebook, loved what she had to say on spirituality, purchased the book, read a few pages and promptly gave it up as a "girly book". I saw it lying around his house for months, and for no reason other than the fact that I really liked the cover, I wanted to read it. Finally, right before I left to go to Carrboro, NC (on what was supposed to be a big four-month long journey to study hooping and find myself or something), I asked if I could borrow it.

I didn't crack open the book until a week and a half into my trip, when I was in downtown Durham looking for a job. I'd just applied to a place that seemed promising, as "me" as a job in a completely different state than I was used to living in could be, and I was stopping at a nearby deli to grab a sandwich for lunch. I remember this because, when I grabbed the handle to pull open the deli door, my stomach out of nowhere dropped into my feet and I felt the overwhelming urge to go back home. Stuck in this bizarre, unexpected emotional conflict, I ordered my damn sandwich and settled into a booth as far away from any other human beings as possible, which is my "eating alone at a restaurant" custom. Nine times out of ten, some obnoxious family of six manages to sit in the only table I can actually see (and can therefore see me*) despite my careful selection of the most remote locale in the place. They then proceed to eat and ignore their horrendously behaved children running amok, completely distracting me from my aloneness and wishing they would all simultaneously explode and leave me to enjoy my meal in peace. Needless to say, this is exactly what happened.

Obnoxious family notwithstanding, I pulled out Eat, Pray, Love to begin reading it. Over the course of the next week, I finished the thing, completely sucked in and hoping that somehow it would magically never end. So much of Elizabeth Gilbert's journey and personality felt like a reflection on myself. And if there's one thing I absolutely love, it's a reflection on myself. I love anything that makes me look at myself or aspects of myself in such a way as to say, "See? You're not the only one. You may even be this way for a reason." It also helped that she was on a journey like me; granted, mine ended up being a three-week trip to the Carolinas while she managed to survive a whole year between Italy, India and Indonesia.

As soon as I finished the book, I felt the overwhelming urge to read it again. So I did. This time, safely returned home (after much internal struggle on the whole matter of coming home so much earlier than planned), I went through my second read through a little slower, forcing myself to read another book at the same time, but really only wanting to read Eat, Pray, Love. As soon as I read the final page for the second time, I found myself immediately cracking it open again, not wanting to read anything else. The same friend who had initially loaned me the book asked me what I was reading, as he always does, and I meekly held it up to reveal the cover. He looked at me, his face a blend of surprise, confusion, bewilderment and perhaps a bit of awe, and said, "Again????" With exactly four question marks. I counted them.

I don't know what it is about the book that makes me want to read it, keep reading it and never stop reading it. There's something about Liz that feels like she's not some unreachable, distant author, but rather a friend sending me encouraging e-mails that everything's going to be okay, and I'm not as crazy as I think.

I've finally taken a break from Eat, Pray, Love, however, to read her new book, Committed, A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage. And by "read" I mean "listen", because I downloaded it from Audible FOR FREE taking brazen advantage of an initial sign-up offer. I started listening to it yesterday. As of right now, I've only got forty minutes left of the eight and a half hour book. When I'm done with it, I'll more than likely resume my third read-through of Eat, Pray, Love.

I don't know what the point of all this is. I know that I desperately love the book in a way I can't fully describe. I know that I would really love to meet Elizabeth Gilbert, possibly do lunch with her and have a one-on-one conversation with her. I don't know much beyond that, other than I may eventually get tired of reading this book, but for the time being, I just want to keep reading it, over and over, until the book falls apart.

*the family, not the table