An exploration of the ideas and cultural implications behind Elizabeth Gilbert's popular book.

I finally had a look in on Eat, Pray, Love, the memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert that sold 4 million copies in paperback and this summer became a movie starring Julia Roberts. (I know I am late to this, but, as an anthropologist who studies contemporary culture, I’m trying to keep up with everything.)

Three things struck me.

1. This book is tremor material. It begins with a repudiation.

Wasn’t I proud of all we [Gilbert and husband had] accomplished–the prestigious home in the Hudson Valley, the apartment in Manhattan, the eight phone lines, the friends and the picnics and the parties, the weekends spent roaming the aisles of some box-shaped superstore of our choice, buying ever more appliances on credit? I had actively participated in every moment of the creation of this life–so why did I feel like none of it resembled me? Why did I feel so overwhelmed with duty, tired of being the primary breadwinner and the housekeeper, and the social coordinator and the dog walker and the wife and the soon-to-be mother, and — somewhere in my stolen moments–a writer…?

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