Julia Roberts Eat Pray Love.jpg
‘Cause If You’re Dying To Be Led, They’ll Lead You Up the Hill in Chains To Their Popular Refrains


Eat, Pray, Be Superior / Courtney Enlow

Think Pieces | August 12, 2010 | Comments (89)


A few years back, I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love on a flight from Chicago to San Diego after being promised by a friend that it would change my life.

A quick list of things I’ve been told would change my life: Eat, Pray, Love, pilates, Garden State, “Glee” and deep fried Snicker bars at the Illinois State Fair. Only one of those things was actually life-altering, and it’s fair time, bitches.

That greasy, chocolatey instance aside, I am wary of anything that promises to change the way I think. For one thing, it never does, and, secondly, I like the way I think.

This is what seems to separate me from people like Elizabeth Gilbert.

Eat, Pray, Love was a perfectly fine airplane book. It got me from the Midwest to the coast and had its enjoyable moments, then I took it back and exchanged it for Consider the Lobster. It wasn’t great, it wasn’t life-affecting (or -affirming, for that matter). It was just fine.

It’s what it represents that bothers me.

Bitch Magazine did a great piece a few months back about “priv-lit” - the phenomenon of women (it truly is predominately women) attempting to “find themselves” and attain spirituality through trendy and often very costly means. Whether it’s a week-long Bikram camp or the hiring of a life coach, this strange notion of empowerment through spending, a strange combination of misunderstood feminism mixed with latter-day yuppiedom, is incredibly bizarre to me. But in a world where Oprah tells us we’re not complete until we understand The Secret and Jennifer Aniston tells us to scream at the ocean until our dreams come true, how else are the unhappily bored who are too unoriginal to change things supposed to change anything?

What is infuriating to me about Eat, Pray, Love and other self-helpy, I’m-rich-and-WASPy-and-I-found-myself-through-Eastern-meditation is this: the idea that I need to be found at all. What is this obsession with finding ourselves? What the fuck does it even mean? Why is the “Sex and the City” generation so freaked out by being temporarily bored or melancholy? We all get bored. We all get sad. We find a way out of it. That’s how it works. But taking a trip, reading a book or taking a class is not going to do the trick. If you hate your life, going to Italy isn’t going to make you hate it less. It will just mean you had a sweet vacation and will hate yourself again in a little while. If you’re unhappy in your marriage, just get a fucking divorce. It sucks, it’s painful, it’s devastating, but people do it every day and they go on with their lives, go back to work, move on. They don’t take yearlong trips to foreign lands to whine about how miserable their rich comfortable lives are and talk about eating carbs like it’s some revolutionary idea.

I don’t need to be found. I don’t need help. I don’t need rules to guide my life. It’s fucking existence, and I resent the idea that I somehow don’t know how to do it.

There is no secret to happiness. There is no mystical key that will unlock this better inner-self you think you possess. If you’re genuinely depressed, please, by all means get help. But if you’re bored or tolerably unhappy, change things. Get a new job, get out of your shitty marriage and get a hobby. If you go to Bali for a year, your problems will still be around when you get back, and you probably won’t get your trip paid for with a cush book deal.

Follow Courtney Enlow on Twitter, and read her other stuff at HoboTrashcan.com.


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Comments

Ha! As Chris Rock said so well: "no-one in Somalia is lactose intolerant".

I was bombarded by people (women) telling me to read this book when it came out. I am sure I will now be bombarded with people (women) telling me to see the movie. How does one tell ones neighbors that one would never see this film because one despises the demographic it targets when said neighbors are said demographic and they love it?

Posted by: PaddyDog at August 12, 2010 2:36 PM

My life could be a million times better...if I was Julia Roberts.

Posted by: clocker at August 12, 2010 2:40 PM

Ooooo! Bitchy AND scathe-y. I love it. I assumed from the title that this book was rubbish. Glad to have my assumption confirmed. Love your style Courtney.

Posted by: Scully at August 12, 2010 2:41 PM

Preach it, sister.

Posted by: Louise at August 12, 2010 2:44 PM

i second scully's comment; loved the tone of this review which is ever so appropriate for what it skewers

Posted by: splinter at August 12, 2010 2:47 PM

Miss Enlow:

You don't know me and I don't know you. But this was fucking awesome, and should the two of us ever meet, I owe you a Coke or Sprite or coffee or a glass full of gin or whatever the hell you dig drinking. Thanks for putting into words the reason I hate shit like this...

"...and Jennifer Aniston tells us to scream at the ocean until our dreams come true..."

Actually, not only does this work with oceans, but also with:
- Bellhops
- Girl Scouts
- Crosswalks
- Rain
- Expired Milk
- People that think red clam-chowder is acceptable
- Grocery Store Baggers
- Pencil Sharpeners
- Brown Napkins
- Crunchy Chewing Gum(s)
- God
- Gods
- Shitty Radio Banter
- Misleading All-You-Can-Eat Places
- Shauna
- People who tell you to just toss your coat in the spare bedroom
- Goddamed Toaster Ovens
- Albinos. Especially Albinos. Even better if they're frail...

Posted by: Skitz at August 12, 2010 2:48 PM

Finding yourself seems like a rich person problem. The real life problems of food and shelter aren't there so a problem is created.

And when I travel it is much more about learning about where I am and the people there than about myself, so it seems weird to travel to find myself - when myself is really at home.

Posted by: harleymom at August 12, 2010 2:48 PM

*gets down on one knee, holds up $1 million ring*

Marry me, Courtney, and we'll eat, we'll pray, we'll fuck each other's brains out ...

Ah, hell, sorry, can't do that, I forgot all about ,mama. She's threatening to drag me to this. Fortunately, her dad died a couple weeks ago and she's had a lot on her mind, so maybe she'll forget about it. If not, I'll be forced to arrange the untimely demise of some other close relative, I guess.

*Gets out family album*

Posted by: , at August 12, 2010 2:50 PM

I enjoyed this book purely as a travelogue, not as a self help book. I absolutely agree with everything you've written, though I have to wonder if perhaps we are just the lucky ones not to have these kinds of existential crisis'. I'm almost 30 and consider myself still very young and naive, though I can't say I ever really had the problem of not "knowing" who I am. While I don't necessarily understand it, that doesn't mean there aren't people out there with that problem - and I didn't get the sense the author expected that of all of us. Personally, if someone is financially able to embark upon some pretty cool adventures in that search, I'm sort of glad that a few of them have the chops to write books about it. I did find her pretty arrogant some of the time, but the audio book version of this provided me with a couple nicely entertained days at work, and sometimes that's enough for me.

Posted by: Eva at August 12, 2010 2:51 PM

How does one tell ones neighbors that one would never see this film because one despises the demographic it targets when said neighbors are said demographic and they love it?

Remind them of the saying attributed to the ninth-century Buddhist master Lin Chi, "if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him."

Then give them a sinister look and say "Hi, Buddha" in your most subtly evil tone of voice while idly toying with the nearest dangerous implement.

Works for me every time.

Posted by: jeem at August 12, 2010 2:53 PM

Once again, Eva, I'm agreeing with you on this book. I don't think of it as a self-help book - it's a memoir. And I think this differs from many of the examples given because it's about spending time on experiences.

While not everyone may have the "luxury" to travel extensively (it can be done pretty cheaply, and if you want to, you'll figure out a way to) - there's no denying that it IS a great way to step outside of a rut, and that it can change a person.

(do people bitch about the books of E.M. Forster? How is Room With a View that different?)

Posted by: Sara Tonin at August 12, 2010 3:00 PM

I accepted long ago that boredom and melanchoia is essentially the fundamental state of the human existence. Wish it weren't so, but it is. I think media/marketing make it worse, b/c they always show us things we should want and show us unrealistically tidy stories/happy endings. But I'm a consumer so I can't really complain. I've been annoyed with the preachy, faux-englightened tone of the ads for this movie so I'm glad to know I'm not alone in that!

Posted by: Katie at August 12, 2010 3:01 PM

Yeah, I cant stand this kind of crap. I am a the demographic, and have no problem telling people I hate this and Oprah's book club. I've gotten a lot of bad reactions, but I dont care.

Posted by: Eibmoz at August 12, 2010 3:06 PM

Fuck yeah!!!

Some girl at work just today handed me the book because "you just got a divorce, you should read this". She's sweet but I got a divorce coz I was MISERABLE and NOW I'M NOT ANYMORE!

Posted by: SarahReznor aka Barkai at August 12, 2010 3:07 PM

I suggest punching, Paddy.

Fabulous post, with bonus points for the Okkervil River quote.

Posted by: TK at August 12, 2010 3:08 PM

"misunderstood feminism"

I think it's not so much that they misunderstood as that they're entitled twits. New York is sadly filled with well-educated women who totally understand that feminism is about choice yet still expect guys to play the 1950s archetype. He still carries all of the financial responsibilities but she has no domestic ones. It's so anachronistic. As a vagina-bearing Gothamite myself, I'm really tired of hearing these women whine about how men don't respect them, while they give away all shred of respectability by acting (and expecting to be treated) like daddy's little princess. I blame Candace Bushnell.

This film seems like the spawn of that way of thinking. I deserve to be happy and for everyone to work their asses off making me happy because . . . . umm. I got nothin'.

Posted by: hindulovegod at August 12, 2010 3:10 PM

but you're just preaching a gospel of suck it up and get on with your life just as strongly

all it represents is a book written by a person relating their experiences, with however much honesty you're brand of cultural cynicism will allow you to give an author/narrator - see David Mitchell on the cynicism 1.0 to 2.0 transition.

the meaning attributed to it by those who read it and talk about it and describe it as life changing is what bothers you

but if that gets them through the day - who the fuck are you to tell them they shouldn't have that?
an it harm none so be it
i really can't see this type of literature as damaging to society, in fact given that it is women talking about their own experiences surely it performs a positive function in a world where the male experience is still primacised so its pretty darn hard to see where your bile comes from.

Posted by: PyD at August 12, 2010 3:10 PM

Damn I love your articles, Courtney. You've hit it right on the head: I LIKE the way I think. I don't need some self-help book written by someone whose life is the exact opposite of mine to figure out how I should live or think.

And it IS a rich people problem. The rest of us are too damn busy trying to, you know, LIVE to be able to afford to go on self-discovery trips of enlightenment--which usually involves trying to appropriate someone else's culture and make it your own without having to actually live it. If you have the money to do so, then by all means take the damn trip, but shut the fuck up about it and keep it to yourself. No one cares.

Posted by: figgy at August 12, 2010 3:13 PM

You know what I want to read about? Deep fried Twinkies wrapped around snickers bars....

no but seriously, how about a book about the over educated bitch who finds herself having to start at the bottom and save her own ass from shit we all face?

I always was a Scarlett O'Hara Fan.

Posted by: Juice in LA at August 12, 2010 3:14 PM

- Rain
- Skitz at August 12, 2010 2:48 PM

No.

I don't care what the friggin' song says, you don't gotta blame it on the rain.

Posted by: Rykker at August 12, 2010 3:17 PM

There is no secret to happiness.
________________________________________________________________
BULLSHIT. There's always The Grilled Cheese Sandwich made with Fried Mozzarella Sticks at Denny's or WAFFLE HOUSE!!!!! (Don't ask)
________________________________________________________________
There is no mystical key that will unlock this better inner-self you think you possess. If you’re genuinely depressed, please, by all means get help. But if you’re bored or tolerably unhappy, change things. Get a new job, get out of your shitty marriage and get a hobby.
________________________________________________________________
Well Said. The problem is that most people don't know a good thing even if it clubs them over the head and buys them a drink afterward. Everyone is trying to become fulfilled and enriched or trying to forget all the bad things.

Screw that. I'd rather be happy, but I know SHIT HAPPENS.

I'd like to have someone appreciate me for the person I am. Most people I know and that know me don't. I'd like to be able to say I am truly enlightened. I'm not that smart. Never have been. I'd like to be rich. So would everyone else playing the lottery, and that's really working well isn't it? I'd like to be successful. I will say that I am. I haven't been unemployed in 8 years, the people who know me at work don't consider me a complete and total idjit based on what I do, and I manage to get what I need to do done. May not be the way they wanted me to do it, but it got done.

I try and treat people the way I want to be treated. Mind you, I've said I'm not the smartest person alive, and I screw up from time to time, but I try. Not everyone understands and appreciates that.

My $0.02 (Plus $50,000 Shipping & Handling):
If you want to be the best person you can be, just be yourself. And if they can't hack it, then f--- 'em.

Posted by: Kahntahmp at August 12, 2010 3:17 PM

I don't think of it as a self-help book - it's a memoir.

Well I'm sick of memoirs. That is, memoirs by people whose only job is....writing memoirs....because I don't give a shit. And they never write just one. Their life is changed by the book coming out...changed so much that...they gotta write a book about it. The author of "Julie & Julia" decided to cheat on her husband...but that's okay, cause she found herself whilst training to be a butcher...and writing a book about it.

Oh and good for you that you got sober...or didn't...but what else do you do besides alcohol and/or narcotics? Well, besides, writing about them. Anything? No? Then shut up.

Some people need to get a blog and get a job and leave us alone.

Posted by: Jay at August 12, 2010 3:20 PM

Boiled down to its essence, all the "priv-lit" is about empowerment through narcissism.

It's all about what I feel, what I experience, what I get out of this. The poor indigenous people of this mystical land I've come to have my moment in? Fuck them. They should really work on understanding themselves -- and showering once or twice. The thousands years' old culture that surrounds me can be distilled into whatever is the latest fad in fashion or cuisine; so that I can regale my bffs on what I learned and seemed worldly -- those bitches hate that. The thick, swarthy, dark-skinned men who treat me like a goddess because of my pale skin, bony legs and lack of ass surely won't demand I submit myself to them and behave like they force their women to behave. I am unique and different and shining because I have sampled the world and now am a citizen of it!

Posted by: Fredo at August 12, 2010 3:26 PM

My level-headed, powerful, no-nonsense wife wants to see this shit. I want to rent "Under the Tuscan Sun" and tell her it's the same thing. Luckily, she isn't taking me because I will ruin it for her with comments of logic and Moon-Colonizing Eye-Rolling(TM).

As for rich people recommending asinine vacations/purchases to spoil depression's clutch on your delicate soul, I play basketball every week and carry that natural buzz around for days at a time. You don't need a $10,000 trip to another continent or a $1,700 handbag to make yourself feel better. Go buy some sneakers from Payless, take a sprint around the block, get some endorphins going, and donate that "enlightenment" money to children with cancer, you bourgeois cunt. That'll make you feel a million times better than traipsing around a country calling everything "quaint" and "divine" as the locals seethe with hatred for your Westernized ass.

Posted by: Kballs at August 12, 2010 3:27 PM

The only way something like this would impress me is if the rich, white woman decided to find herself through helping others. Instead these were adventures in serving only herself. It's pretty easy to find meaning and put your life in context when you open yourself up to the extreme suffering of billions of people in the world. Did she somehow miss this in her world travels? And I have no pity for people who are bored. I haven't been bored in five years, since I started having kids. I long for a time when my life affords boredom again, which I'm guessing should be in, oh, about 15 years or so.

Hell, I would even cut her some slack if she had found herself through physical and mental endeavors, like hiking the PCT for a year, or the Appalachian trail. Get dirty, live off the land, etc. Use your whole body, not just your senses you soft, spoiled American.

Posted by: katy at August 12, 2010 3:29 PM

When this book came out, I avoided it like the plague, because everyone and their grandmother's grandmother was reading it. Eventually, my sister-in-law sent it to me. I read it and I loved it. I didn't identify with her in anyway other than I love pizza and gelatto. I don't think I would be friends with her in real life, but I don't dislike her and I love how she writes. Her conversational style is what I really liked about it. I do, however completely agree with your assessment of Oprah & Aniston. I think the only reason I like Oprah anymore is the way she announces really big things.

"You've won a brand new caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar!!!!!!!!!!"

She could have a lucrative retired career of announcing lottery numbers. I'd play lottery every week if she did that.

Posted by: Megan at August 12, 2010 3:29 PM

You know what book 'uplifts' me? Fried Green Tomatoes. I always feel better after reading that for some reason. This one doesn't appeal to me in the slightest.

Posted by: snapnhiss at August 12, 2010 3:32 PM

Excellent piece, made more excellent by the Okkervil lyrics.

Posted by: Alex at August 12, 2010 3:35 PM

Abraham Lincoln once said, "People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be."

In other words, you make yourself happy. Other people, things, trips, food, religions, etc. do not make you happy.

Rant: I'm so sick of people who take a year off to "find themselves," "live within their means," "live according to the Bible," "not buy anything from China," "cook everything in Julia Child's cookbook," etc. etc. and then get a book and a movie deal out of it.

I've lived within my means all my live. I have no debt. My house and cars are paid off. I'm saving for retirement. I have my health and access to good food and health care and my family. Where's my fucking book deal? Where's my fucking movie deal? AND WHERE'S MY FOOKING FLYING CAR, dammit?

Posted by: BWeaves at August 12, 2010 3:42 PM

Brava Courtney! Well said! And Jay, I completely agree with your comment. I studied writing, want to be a writer and have started and ripped up a jillion memoir-style manuscripts because honestly, who the hell cares about my do-nothing life - even if I were to dedicate a year to mastering the art of whatever the fuck someone told me I should spend a year mastering - besides a few close friends and possibly my family? Memoirs should be reserved for the people who Do Great Things and Make A Big Difference. Not bored, divorcees with cash to burn.

Posted by: JenVegas at August 12, 2010 3:44 PM

And one more thing.

Julia Roberts boob is falling out of her top and someone obviously took a picture of it, because there it is at the top of this post. She was asking for it.

Posted by: BWeaves at August 12, 2010 3:46 PM

Bravo. Well said Courtney.

Posted by: Danielle Lilly at August 12, 2010 3:54 PM

"How is Room With a View that different?"

Because "A Room With a View" is about the conflict between the repressed Victorian values of the upper class and the freedom that education was beginning to confer on the, still wealthy, but more educated and liberal-thinking middle class. It's really quite a brave metaphorical story for repressed homosexual desire finding a glorious release in a time when actually writing about that would have resulted in imprisonment. How the fuck is that similar to a memoir about a self-indulgent Manhattanite traveling to Bali and eating some rigatoni?

Posted by: PaddyDog at August 12, 2010 3:58 PM

Is it just me, or does "priv-lit" sound like the new middle-class word for the bog? "Excuse me, but may I use your priv-lit? I feel a BM coming on."

Posted by: Sulphuraceous at August 12, 2010 3:59 PM

TK:

Thank you for that very judicious use of a comma.

Posted by: PaddyDog at August 12, 2010 4:01 PM

HA!

Posted by: TK at August 12, 2010 4:06 PM

What I find most offensive about these sorts of stories is that it supposes that you HAVE to travel somewhere or do something extreme to find yourself.

Anyone who does any sort of introspection or self reflection will have moments of existential crisis. It's the plight of the well educated, furiously curious types. Trying to "find yourself" is a stupid way of saying "resolve this crisis" but it shouldn't be discouraged.

Posted by: Lennon at August 12, 2010 4:07 PM

The only way something like this would impress me is if the rich, white woman decided to find herself through helping others.

katy nailed it. Which isn't to say that people are somehow obligated to help save the world (though it'd be nice if they felt that way, but that's just me), but it would certainly make her seem less self-serving and ignominious.

Posted by: The Other Agent Johnson at August 12, 2010 4:11 PM

I've read the book a couple of times now and enjoyed it - it isn't my favorite, nor did I find it life-changing, but I think one should be wary of conflating Gilbert's reasons for writing the book with the goofy reasons certain fans may have found for loving it. Writing is her career, and this book was a huge departure from her typical output. I never got any sense that she was writing it from a place of condescension, or that it was meant to be some kind of self-help, you-go-girl manual. As far as I can tell, she's worked hard and been quite successful as a writer, and earned every cent herself; and according to the author herself the book deal helped her get back the assets she gave away in her divorce. That just looks smart to me. And it looks pretty sour-grapey to complain about someone clever enough to make a deal like that. And why would it be somehow better for her to go hiking for a year than eat pizza/do yoga/help a friend buy a house? What if she doesn't like to hike?

All that being said, I have no desire to see the movie. I'd rather watch Gilbert's TED talk about genius again instead.

Posted by: manders at August 12, 2010 4:12 PM

Wonderfully put, Fredo. That's pretty much why this type of 'self discovery' bugs the shit out of me.

Posted by: figgy at August 12, 2010 4:23 PM

OMG. I love you. Brilliant.

Posted by: Sbrown at August 12, 2010 4:33 PM

I should add, a person can get a lot of mileage out of me if they're funny. If a person's only job is telling me really funny anecdotes about their life, that's okay, I'm down with the humorous essayists. Comedy is comedy. I just don't want to hear about goddamn brave or enlightened someone is through their book-length struggle with _____. At that point, I'm definitely requiring that your book-length struggle with _____ be a hobby, and that you've already made some really good albums that I like. Then I wanna hear your dirt. If you're not a True Hollywood Story, Behind The Music or even Biography, then fuck off to This American Life and go about your business.

Posted by: Jay at August 12, 2010 4:35 PM

Jay:

I assume you've read "Take it Like a Man" then?

Posted by: PaddyDog at August 12, 2010 4:43 PM

Hell. Yes.

Posted by: dsbs at August 12, 2010 5:14 PM

@manders: My thoughts exactly. I enjoyed the book for what it was--not a life-changing, earth-shattering experience, but a pleasant, funny memoir by a good storyteller. I didn't know about the huge backlash against it until later, but I guess that's what happens when something gets too popular.

Posted by: Purvis at August 12, 2010 5:31 PM

The movie, however, looks really terrible.

Posted by: Purvis at August 12, 2010 5:31 PM

Eh, I don't care either way. If someone wants to regale the sweaty masses with tales of their glorious travels, whatever. People have been writing about travel for a long, long time. Really, for as long as people have been traveling. Thousands of years. Some of the tales kinda suck, and others are really entertaining.

I do agree about the "finding yourself" bit. If you have to go to another country to "find" yourself, you're probably looking in the wrong place.

Posted by: Slash at August 12, 2010 5:39 PM

I agree and disagree with your viewpoint, and here's why:
- The WASP feminist literature that spawned this movie is condescending. No one below the 50k annual salary range can leave career, life and responsibilities to embark on a life-altering eastern meditative year long trip all over the world. Most of us wish for that kind of cash.
- The tone of the book is about finding our true inner selves: this was the author's experience and I applaud her for finding the courage to step out of her very expensive and comfortable box. Here's how I see it: she had the means, the opportunity to relinquish old ties and I see the value in that. If this was a story about a woman who was poor, who feels constrained to the point of suffocation, took the responsibility to change her situation, I think, the tone of this review would be different. I believe the past few years we see excess as selfishness. The economic melt down has warped or changed our viewpoint about money which in turn has highlighted the differences between those that can afford and those that cannot.

Ultimately, we see this movie as drivel, fluff, feminist self-help from the view point of a rich white girl. Most of us here, well I assume so, are not rich and we find it offensive and contemptible that someone rich is preaching to a majority that isn't.

Her message is altruistic. It's just hard to relate to it, is all.

Posted by: Tallulahc at August 12, 2010 5:58 PM

I love this so hard that my vagina just lost itself. I better go to India and find it.

Posted by: stopthemadness at August 12, 2010 5:58 PM

I really don't understand what "finding one's true inner self" means. It sounds like self-help jargon for white women who have just been dumped by some douche bag. Strike that. I guess "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" suffers the same problems.

Women who are so wrapped up in their partners that they don't know who they are and are left devastated when their man leaves them need to get a fucking grip. Go get some book learnin'. Go eat a meal by yourself. Go sit in a park. Get a dog. You don't need to go to a third world country and see how the poor brown people live to feel better about yourself. So many people do that and it bugs me.

Having been to India three times (once when I was a baby and I don't remember it, although I have photographic evidence; once when I was 12 and I remembered being dragged around India and Nepal by my parents for two weeks (and being teenagerily annoyed about it), and then again for my study abroad program in college for 6 months.) I went because all my friends were studying abroad, most were going to lame places like Italy and France (the countries aren't lame, but I felt that if I was going to go live somewhere for 6 months, I was going to go someplace different--my best friend at the time went to Ghana.) I went to India and did some amazing women's rights shit.

Plus, samosas, like ALL THE TIME.

The most annoying woman on my program was this chick, let's call her Jane. I met Jane at the airport in LAX (after having flown from Philadelphia.) I asked her why she chose India. She said, with a very hoity toity "I go to Mount Holyoke" white girl attitude: "I don't know. I guess it was a visceral pull." I will never forget that phrase and I will never forget how hard I wanted to punch her in the face.

It was at that point I realized that I would hate this girl for the rest of my life. And as luck would have it, when we got to New Delhi, she was my assigned roommate.

The first thing this bitch did was run out and get henna tattoos, buy a bunch of saris and started wearing them all the time. That in and of itself is fine. I wore a sari or two. But it was the way that she wore it. With this uppitiness that made me want to set her on fire. She was always bowing and namaste-ing everywhere. I couldn't STAND it.

We learned Hindi... just enough to be conversational. If I recall correctly, the Hindi word for "please" is "kripaya." (The only phrase I remember how to say in Hindi is "Go to hell," (kya kar rahai hain) [my english translated spelling may be off] which, if you know me, is pretty appropriate.)

The thing is, Indians don't use the word "kripaya" the way that Westerners do. And we kept telling her that. But she was too busy being holy and evolved to listen. She wanted to seem so honorific of the culture, she was kripaya-ing all over the place and people were laughing at her.

Oh god, I think I'm having an aneurysm just remembering how awful she was.

At any rate, I soon ditched her, met my friend C, went foraging the streets of India looking for hash with her, and 15 years later C is one of my best friends. I went to India for the samosas. I'm still not sure why C went to India. She hated the food and made me eat Chinese food with her practically every day. She just wanted to go somewhere cool and experience something different.

None of this "visceral pull" bullshit.

I don't why I'm rambling. I guess if you want to go and experience cool shit, go out and do it. But framing it as some sort of "finding your true self" journey smacks of shit, bull. You don't need to go anywhere to find yourself. Just look in a fucking mirror.

::end brain ooze::

Posted by: stopthemadness at August 12, 2010 6:18 PM

and by the way, i'm rich enough to q

Posted by: stopthemadness at August 12, 2010 6:19 PM

oops...

i'm rich enough to quit my job and go "find myself." i just find the whole concept to be ridonkulous.

yeah, i'm really going to go outside now.

Posted by: stopthemadness at August 12, 2010 6:20 PM

I assume you've read "Take it Like a Man" then?

No, but man...why haven't I??

Posted by: Jay at August 12, 2010 6:24 PM

RE I really don't understand what "finding one's true inner self" means. It sounds like self-help jargon for white women who have just been dumped by some douche bag.

Bingo. At least from my observation.

Posted by: Slash at August 12, 2010 6:28 PM

During the writing of this piece @courtenlow tweeted that "Pajiba may run red with the fuck word tomorrow."

Sorry, hon but 3 "fucks" doesn't equal a fucking bloodbath.

Good article, though!

Posted by: mswas at August 12, 2010 7:01 PM

You'd think Gwyneth Paltrow wrote this, it's right up her alley. I'm extremely uncomfortable with the idea of essentially exploiting another culture so that you can feel warm fuzzy feelings have a "omg life is sooo beautiful" moment, especially when so many people in that culture live in poverty. Eating the food and meditating on the balcony of your 5 star hotel does not make you enlightened or worldly, it just makes you a privileged tourist.

Posted by: Dingles at August 12, 2010 7:46 PM

I LOVE THIS ARTICLE. I have such a big fucking problem with the incredibly offensive idea that going on an extended vacation is some sort of honorable quest. Travel is something that rich people have been taking for granted for too-ass long. I went to Europe for the first time this past April (at age 24, after saving a tiny portion of my tiny hourly wages for literally a year), but before that, people would find out I'd never been out of the country and would act like I made some sort of choice to culturally isolate myself. Umm, NOT EVERYONE'S RICH FAMILIES CAN SUBSIDIZE THEIR GALLIVANTING ABOUT THE GLOBE. Travel like that, especially such food-centric travel, is FUN. It's a vacation. It's not a sacrifice.

And, to agree with everyone else, if your biggest problem is that you feel lost and need to go not work for a year to find yourself, then get some goddamned perspective.

P.S. Courtney Enlow, I love you.

Posted by: K-Gold at August 12, 2010 8:45 PM

Seeing y'all whine about a "whiny white woman" is amusing.

I liked her book. Not all of us come out of the womb with the world all figured out. I know I didn't. I read it at a time where my life was in the middle of great change. After losing my third POS job I was depressed and aimless when I was given the opportunity to go back to school and pursue my passion. I am privileged and fortunate because I have a place to live, food to eat and basic comforts. I'm also single and have the luxury of self reflection. But being single and childless (like Gilbert at the time) I only have myself and if I'm unhappy what's the point? Why shouldn't I be invested in my own self-interest? And if I write a book and it becomes successful then don't fucking read it.

Posted by: Debbye at August 12, 2010 9:09 PM

I like the rant, but I call hijinks if this counts as the review. I was waiting to see which one of the boys drew the short straw. MAKE THE MEN SEE IT!

I wouldn't read the book, I won't see the movie and Oprah can stick Julia Roberts up her ass.

Posted by: Cindy at August 12, 2010 10:06 PM

I just spent ten minutes screaming at my expired milk. It didn't make all my dreams come true, but it did scare the cat who knocked over a stack of books and I found my iPod that has been missing for weeks.

Thanks, Skitz! What do you mean my "misleading all-you-can-eat places"? I'd like to try that next.

Posted by: malechai at August 12, 2010 10:34 PM

Why does this "travelogue" get made into a movie and none of Bill Bryson's do?

Posted by: , at August 12, 2010 10:47 PM

I'm about halfway through the book right now. I like it. I like it as a travel story. I like it as a chronicle of depression: fighting it, resting, remedying, understanding it. In fact, she's doing exactly what this reviewer prescribes to treat depression and unhappiness/boredom: she gets help from a therapist and medication, she gets a new job (settling into foreign countries and writing the book vs. her typical essays, scrubbing the floor at the ashram), and she gets new hobbies (learning Italian, yoga/meditation). When she left the US, her divorce was over and she left a fairly clean slate behind her in New York. If escapist travel only results in hating your life again when you return, at least hers was a new life. Also, she never claims to have exorcised lingering problems (e.g. post-divorce boyfriend) and (me being halfway through the book) it seems she finally ends up crashing at her sister's place, maiden aunt style. There's no magic here. If more enlightened or worldly, she still has worries of being the batty childless, orange-haired auntie. It's really a kind of gritty, sad, normal story.

I've never felt infuriated while reading the book that she's not working at an orphanage or doing something more selfless. She is a human, and a proactive lady. Her publishers had faith in her based on her prior work.

It's unfortunate if some people think mimicking her trip step for step will settle their own lives (my flaky cousin has visiting an ashram on her bucket list now). It's unfortunate if people get down on themselves if they can't afford it ::I'd be happy if only I could...:: It's unfortunate that some people see this story as a Path when quite clearly the path ends in a not-so-solid place. But the majority of airport, bus stop, after-work readers, I'll bet, have just been inspired to think in a new way, try meditating, learn more about Italian culture, etc. Nothing wrong with that. In fact probably much good.

The marketing of the book has spun it as a Self-Help sort of thing, and it is, but not in that capitalized, The Secret sense. I think the book has very good messages about compassion, and hard work, and meditation, and savoring experiences, and patience, and being curious and proactive.

So yeah I like escapist, travel books that introduce otherwise-obscure ideas and practices and include lots of descriptions of meals, beating up sofas with baseball bats, building up meditation endurance. High times, low times. Unmagical, if more enlightened endings. I like the book, and I'll go see the movie because I'm going with my friend and it will be fun.

Posted by: Giv at August 12, 2010 11:01 PM

Fun story: I was on a jury where the plaintiff was a woman suing her co-workers and public-sector employer for discrimination for being straight (no kidding). Spoilers: She was a lying, gambling-addicted, delusional waste of space. Anyways, while taking a month of sick leave to recover from a faked pregnancy, she traveled to Amsterdam and Italy. Her excuse?

"I bought a copy of Eat, Pray, Love from Costco before I went on my trip to find myself."

You cannot possibly understand how satisfying it was to deny this bitch of $2 million from honest people and her publicly funded employer.

Posted by: Vince Noir at August 12, 2010 11:10 PM

I saw this movie at a screening yesterday, and though I enjoyed it (it was a free screening for me so whee!) I couldn't help but think, "Man this woman follows instruction really well." She did whatever the gurus told her to do, felt however her enlightened friends told her she should feel.

I glanced at the blurb when a year ago when my friend told me that I should read it and I was turned off by how self-indulgent it all was.

Posted by: denesteak at August 12, 2010 11:17 PM

EPL sounds like one of Gwyneth Paltrow's GOOP posts.

Posted by: John W at August 12, 2010 11:28 PM

figgy, you are most welcome.

And to the book's defenders, look, no one is telling you that you're wrong for liking it. Hell, many in American tuned in to Jersey Shore last night and no one came to turn off their TV and tell them they're bad people for ensuring there's another season of that show. I myself will partake on occasion of dumb entertainment and do so proudly. (Not that I'm saying the book is dumb, mind you. Just that in the scheme of things, liking a book is far from the worst cultural crime one can commit).

(Singing "California Gurls" on the other hand....)

And it may be a case that a simple tale of a woman traveling the world has been misappropriated by the Self-Help Industry to stand for something beyond its' author's or publisher's intended purpose. Forgive me for doubting it though.

Ultimately though, whether you think there is or isn't a message of "Spending your way to a Better You" may be irrelevant as it has been grafted onto it. More importantly, it is a move that appears to be approved of by the author and the people who paid her to go write it.

Aside: if we're filming travelogues, why is no one making a movie out of Robert Young Pelton's "The World's Most Dangerous Places" where he and various other guys travel to Chechnya, North Korea, Sierra Leone and Colombia?

Posted by: Fredo at August 13, 2010 4:15 AM

Why does this "travelogue" get made into a movie and none of Bill Bryson's do?

Now THAT'S a suggestion for those Pajiba-trawling studio types.

BILL BRYSON'S BOOKS WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE. Do you hear me?

Posted by: mswas at August 13, 2010 5:54 AM

I will second mswas, Bill Bryson's books will change your life. At least while you're reading them, and several weeks afterwards, because you'll be sure, I mean absolutely positive that you could totally, absolutely, without-a-doubt hike the Appalachian Trail.

Then you realize you could never, ever do it, not in a million years, because you would definitely fall off a cliff, be raped by hillbillies and then eaten by a bear, so you go back to eating small run ice creams and watching Jeopardy, convinced that you could pull off a Ken Jennings-style run if only you didn't smoke so much pot.

You'd only have to bone up on Shakespeare and Geography. No big.

You'll go out on the porch and smoke and think about the grand adventures you might have, from time to time, and laugh. It's as though years ago you were a child, such a silly child, full of fancy, even though you were looking at all-weather tents on the internet just 2 weeks ago.

Then, you'll want to read more Bill Bryson. And, when you do, it will happen all over again, because Bill Bryson is a great author. That's not because he changes the way you think, but because he fools you into thinking that you could overcome your schlubbiness and be greatish for a minute.

But you can't. Potent Potable for 100.

[In case it's unclear, I love Bill Bryson.]

Posted by: myjetski at August 13, 2010 9:02 AM

OMG BILL BRYSON. His travelogues are without par, but I'm also partial to his "topic" books like "The Mother Tongue" and "A Short History of Nearly Everything".

Posted by: jeem at August 13, 2010 10:00 AM

When not rich people decide to leave it all behind and travel continually in an attempt to straighten out their shit (or at least end up somewhere they weren't at the beginning, which is sort of the point of enlightenment, yeah?), we call them hobos and hippies. Just a thought.

You all make me want to re-read Bryson. Now I have a plan for the weekend! Not like I was going to see this movie anyway.

Posted by: Reba at August 13, 2010 10:35 AM

Wherever you go, there you are.

Posted by: Anne at August 13, 2010 1:01 PM

I love absolutely everything about this review. You have said everything I think about this whole genre and mentality. There is no miraculous happy place out there to take your problems away and make everything better.

I think I'm going to forward this to everyone I know that insisted I read this book RIGHTNOWRIGHTNOW!

Posted by: Girl With Curious Hair at August 13, 2010 2:04 PM

Was hoping for a legitimate review, so I'm disappointed to see this same old tired rant. I find it interesting that so many are quick to bash this book, especially those who haven't read it. I found this Entertainment Weekly (gasp, how low-brow!) article to be an interesting take on the backlash: http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20408498,00.html

Posted by: Jules at August 13, 2010 2:25 PM

The thing is, normally I would hate this lady, but a few months ago I met some super depressed, super wealthy white people who had turned to Buddhism to "find themselves" and "find The Meaning of Life" and whatever. And the thing is, they werent annoying or arrogant. I just felt really really really sad for them. I mean, they have nothing in their lives (except for a shitload of money and now the Buddhism.) I guess my point is, its not as much fun to make fun of depressed rich people as I though it would be. They were just sick, sad people. Then again maybe the book has nothing to do with what I am saying, as I never read it and dont plan to.

Posted by: bat at August 13, 2010 3:04 PM

It should be noted that this is not the review. This is just the mere tired rant. The legit review is coming from another.

Posted by: Courtney at August 13, 2010 3:34 PM

Ironically, reading this essay and the comments have made me want to see the movie and maybe even read the book--neither of which I'd had any interest in doing until now.

Posted by: ariadne at August 13, 2010 3:37 PM

There's definitely a trend in this thread - people who haven't read the book OR seen the movie bitching about it, making assumptions and generalizations. And those who have read it seem mostly to be defending it (Courtney aside, obviously). I read it even though I was against it based on the hype, and it's not evil, folks. It's mostly funny and observant, and sad too. It's not preachy or self-helpy at all. And although I haven't seen the movie, I gather that it does glamorous what was really more like a late-life backpacking trip for Gilbert. Trust me, she didn't have a big budget for any part of the trip. And you know, it's not like she's some trust-fund bimbo. She earned the advance based on her previous work, as many writers do.

Also, for whomever speculated that Gilbert wasn't trying to help all the "brown people" she must have been sneering at on her travels, she did actually help to raise tens of thousands of dollars for a friend she made in Bali to buy a house. And even that didn't work out all glad-handy the way you think it would.

So, spare your judgment and rage until you've read the dang book. This backlash really is the fault of all the hype, not the story itself.

Posted by: AM at August 13, 2010 5:20 PM

@Kahntahmp...
After spending a lot of time composing a lengthy diatribe, I found yours... Well said!

Peace!

Posted by: ChinaCat at August 13, 2010 6:10 PM

I was against reading this book because the idea of going to India for a beautiful, spiritual journey of finding oneself disgusted me. You'd have to be missing all 5 senses to remain focused on yourself in a country a third the size of the US where 850 million made less than $2/day (in 2002; I went to India and it changed me, put me in quite a rich-girl depression when I got home and could kiss the street without getting worms in my lips)... But I read it anyway. It was enjoyable. While in India she never left her little meditation compound. She had a chance but didn't end up going so she didn't see it. Whatever. I don't know why it's so wildly popular. It was amusing and I liked her style. Definitely a good airplane read and I guess don't knock it til you try it. And the trip was paid for by her publisher based on her previous writing (like others said). She's quite lucky, but it doesn't piss me off like I thought it would once I'd read it.

Posted by: VK at August 13, 2010 9:27 PM

frankly, i blame the proliferation of yoga among yuppies (i'm not knocking yoga... i do it to keep my rage in check); everyone is all about going to ashrams in india and meditating and feeling evolved.

if you want to do something, go to india and DO SOMETHING. sitting in a guarded compound and asking your friends at home to send checks to build someone a house is NOT DOING ANYTHING.

i'm not saying that the little women's rights work i did really helped anyone. i really don't know. and honestly, i can say that i hated doing it because it was fucking depressing.

people always ask me about my experience in india when they are thinking about going. i ask them how long they're going for. anyone who says anything less than two weeks isn't serious about seeing india. they just want to be able to say they went and high five themselves.

actually, to really see it, you need to go for more than two weeks. the first week or two in india is HEARTBREAKING. so much so, that you want to leave.

during the last month of my study abroad program, i traveled around by myself. bribing train conductors with american pocket change so that i could be assigned to a train car either by myself or with a family. (being a woman traveling in overnight trains by yourself? SCARY!) it takes a lot of time to adjust to the culture. and i had been there twice before. hell, i was too scared to go to bombay (this was before the big name change to mumbai.)

staying at an ashram or at a fancy hotel in New Delhi and venturing out occasionally to dole rupees to the beggar children isn't DOING ANYTHING. it's not experiencing india. neither is popping over to the taj mahal via a group tour bus. neither is chilling in goa with all the ex-pats.


and that's what bothers me about this book.


honestly, you can experience more "real india" by reading Shantaram than you can by going for a week and staying at the holiday inn.

(but if you do go, make sure to go to udaipur and check out the lake palace. it's octopussy's lair! and it's gorgeous.)

and if you're black and you go, just be warned that everyone will think you're related to every other black person in town and they will think you are somalian even if you tell them you're not.

now i feel so evolved.

yay me!

Posted by: stopthemadness at August 13, 2010 11:10 PM

This is beginning to feel a bit Twihard-ish.

Posted by: Fredo at August 14, 2010 1:32 AM

"I don’t need to be found. I don’t need help. I don’t need rules to guide my life. It’s fucking existence, and I resent the idea that I somehow don’t know how to do it."

Thank you for this. I could not possibly have put this better. The few times I have read a book that influenced me (no one book or story or moment has changed my life), it was not because the author wrote the book with that goal in mind. If I want life advice, I will talk to my Grandma.

Posted by: Heather at August 14, 2010 1:32 AM

1. Fuck consumerism! However, if you want to change up your life (go somewhere new, learn a new skill or hobby, try new things, see a therapist), chances are good you're gonna spend a few bucks.

2. I don't know about "finding yourself", but some folks, like myself, find the things they used to like are boring now and don't know what new thing will inspire them (I assume that is about maturity and growth). Travel is one good way to be inspired, even across the street to the library or bookstore. Do you have to go to India? No. Could you go to India? Sure. The point is to go looking, but some people aren't even sure where to start.

3. Rich or poor? Who gives a fuck? You lived it, you tell it. Either one can be interesting on the strength of the writing.

4. If I had the money to take a year off to inspire myself, bet yer ass I'd do it.

Posted by: Chickaboom at August 14, 2010 2:26 PM

I'm sure that my husband is praying prayers of thankfulness that I will never drag him to crap like this.

Posted by: Lori Ingham at August 14, 2010 8:30 PM

So what did you think of Consider the Lobster?

Posted by: Danaë at August 15, 2010 12:06 AM

Having read the book (and avoided the movie), I have no problem with Gilbert herself. She started out a black hole of need, defining herself by whoever she happened to be dating at the time. Ripping herself out of familiar contexts and experiencing herself in new ones worked for her. She's probably a much more pleasant person to know these days.

But no, the book didn't change my life. And it suddenly occurs to me to be grateful that I don't know a single person who'd tell me it would.

Posted by: cinderkeys at August 15, 2010 1:43 PM

@ChinaCat

Thank you.

Posted by: Kahntahmp at August 16, 2010 8:13 AM

There was another book just like this ten years ago; perhaps it was the harbinger of priv lit, much like Bridget Jones' Diary was the harbinger of chick lit. Anyway, similar story of privileged white woman who finds herself with far too much money and time on her hands and flees to Amish country to "find herself." It's a similar, self-indulgent rant--although not as well written as Eat, Pray, Love. And that's why I find Eat, Pray, Love so devastatingly awful. Because it IS well written. We do connect with this character through the writing. I got halfway through this book, seduced by the writing, until at some point I said, wait a minute, how am I supposed to relate to someone who is getting paid beaucoup bucks to have her little nervous breakdown in whatever country she chooses. Does this seem slightly shallow to moi? You bet your ass. At which point I couldn't finish it. Because there was nothing to stop Ms. Gilbert from finding "god" where she lived. She could have found ashrams in New York or great Italian restaurants in New York, or WHATEVER right in her own backyard. But a publisher was willing to pay her for it and suddenly, voila, she has a nervous breakdown that demanded she take a year off and visit a bazillion countries. How convenient.

Posted by: claire at August 16, 2010 2:54 PM

Great little read. Agreed with every note.

Posted by: Reno at August 17, 2010 8:51 PM





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