What I’m Reading Now

A note. We had five power outages in space of about two hours this afternoon. Pray that they’ve stopped now that it’s dark. The weather came straight from hell al day (at least if hell involved the consequences of cold rather than heat), starting with snow this a.m. Then about 10 it changed to sleet, then to rain, which of course froze because it was below 32. The trees looked like gorgeous pieces of lace, and the back yard had a glaze that made it look like the sun was out even though the clouds were low, low, low. And better news: We’re due for MORE SNOW Thursday night.

An update. Glad to see the idea of a bag tax is back. (“Bag Bans”) I like this new proposal better than an outright ban. Bags will continue to be available, and the tax will go for something useful. The proposal exempts the poor from the tax. In answer to people who think the bags are toxic. Shoppers don’t have to use what’s available in the grocery store. They can buy lead-free receptacles that will last for years like my little filé.

On to the main topic, another in the very occasional series. I must be the only female in the Western Hemisphere who has not read Eat Pray Love. Nor have I seen the movie. Anyway, I picked up the book some weeks ago. Having been sidetracked by the holidays and a huge pile of magazines, I’ve only been reading a few pages a week.

Overall impression: Elizabeth Gilbert is a terrific writer who is able to dig below the surface of her feelings. Sometimes she reveals too much. About the depression gnawing like a rat – I skipped the rest of that section.

Her spiritual journey seems to involve a great deal of food – at least until she arrives in Indonesia. We travel from the sensual indulgence of Italy to the ascetic, though apparently abundant, vegetarian fare at the ashram. Throughout Gilbert manages to convey her high-voltage desire to experience everything, all at once. I’m amazed that she was able to sit through any meditation, let alone the two-hour unmoving Vipassana meditation, which left her covered in mosquito bites. I appreciated her attempt to explain transcendence, which I’m convinced can’t be put into words. She comes closer than most but still doesn’t get to the heart of it.

Having not long ago finished Reading Lolita in Tehran, I find Eat Pray Love a minor bit of fluff. Even shared details such as sitting in a cafe with a friend have an entirely different significance. For Gilbert, it’s just an enjoyable time. Azar Nafisi risks arrest or beating at the hands of the Iranian fundamentalists because she is a woman sitting with a man who is not her husband. She, too, reveals aspects of herself but in the context of helping a group of young women combat political oppression through literature. And her insights are far more significant and helpful to understanding of another culture.

Because it is not intended as serious literature, I am not having the same violent reaction to Eat Pray Love that many other readers do. Part of it is the readers’ jealousy that anyone could snag a $200,000 advance, spend a year traveling; and wind up with a bestseller and a new relationship. Even though many of them don’t believe it, it is entirely possible to be depressed even if one has everything one could desire in the way of material goods.

On the other hand, I don’t think Gilbert’s experiences are at all representative of the majority of American women. We struggle each day with bills, families, and jobs. We are muddling through, so sometimes it is nice to read about someone who has overcome adversity and achieved some equilibrium. More power to her.

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