Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Elizabeth Gilbert: Living a Life Uncommon and Unashamed

I had the privilege of attending Elizabeth Gilbert's debut reading of her new book  September 21 at  Carnegie Music Hall. The exact title of it now escapes me, but it's something like "Committed: Making Peace with Marriage" where she explores the mysteries of just what marriage is and isn't. It's due in the bookstores in December . . . or is that when the film version of "Eat, Pray, Love," starring Julia Roberts is released?

My memory fails me. I should have written this down. The new book continues where she ended in
"EPL," in which  she chronicles her quest for spiritual healing and renewal through Italy, India and Indonesia after a divorce.

A woman whom I'd met through DivorceCare in Manhattan Kansas shortly after I moved there three years ago told me about "EPL." We didn't have a clue who Elizabeth Gilbert was, but nevertheless, I was persuaded, and the earth stopped in its rotation for almost five days as I cried, laughed and underlined and dogeared pages all the way through. I can't speak for any other readers, but it inspired me to rethink and form a new paradigm about God in my previously unsuccessful attempts at "finding Him."

Although it wasn't a full house, her first words expressed genuine surprise and sincere gratitude to an audience of 98 percent women for showing up. She told a story of someone very excited to meet a certain author. Gilbert assumed this reader meant herself. No, this reader was much more interested in Barbara Kingsolver. Gilbert then went on to tell a story about how she missed a flight to another speaking engagement even though she had arrived at the airport five hours early. She may not consider herself a stand-up comic, but she definitely had us roaring with laughter at her scatterbrained and disorganized state of mind on that particular day at the airport.

Not only is she a beautiful strawberry blonde who can make you feel like you're her best friend on the page, she's also a wonderfully eloquent reader and speaker. Even when she's got a head cold and apologetically popping cough drops  every few minutes, you just want to give her a hug. 

During the question portion, someone asked her if it was difficult to get so personal in "EPL."  Gilbert puzzled over this for a moment and then said,

"There's not one unspoken thought in my  head. If I ran into you at the drugstore, I'd tell you whatever medication I may be taking." As if it had never occurred to Gilbert to not write every detail and that's part of what makes her so endearing and likeable. She's an open book.

When asked to give advice on writing, Gilbert said, "Personalize an experience and then universalize it." Interesting. That's more or less exactly what my creative nonfiction professor was teaching us last week.

I couldn't wait in line for hours behind other fans for your autograph and to thank you, so I'll do it here. Thank you, Elizabeth, for offering me hope in the midst of my despair. Thank you for not missing your flight to Pittsburgh last night. Thank you for coming, despite your cold.

1 comment:

manhattandoula said...

I read that book (EPL) a few months ago! Loved it! It was the library's copy, so I couldn't mark it up, but I really wanted to. Maybe I'll find a 50-cent copy at a book sale sometime. Anyway, she inspired me to honesty, too. I watched a clip of her lecturing on creativity and genius. Check it out: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html. Wish you were around, and we could discuss the book over a cup of something.