Author: Elizabeth Gilbert (also known, and referred to as Liz)
The reason I read this book is because I was in the car one time, on my way to a family party, and the radio was on BBC World. It was an episode (is that what you call them when they’re on the radio?) of the World Book Club, and it was a sort of question-and-answer/interview/reading session with Elizabeth Gilbert, and I listened to all of it. We in the car had gotten bored of the BS “Kakai” music and what have you playing on a different station. Obviously, I didn’t mind changing the station. I especially didn’t mind after I heard Elizabeth Gilbert’s reading voice.
Immediately she began reading an excerpt from the book from its near beginning, I was hypnotized. I’ve never listened to an audiobook in my life. BUT. Liz Gilbert. Wow. Easily my new favourite reading voice. If she read an audiobook, I’d probably listen to it. The second I heard it, I thought, “My goodness. This is what Mortimer Folchart would sound like if he were a woman.” (Mortimer Folchart is a character from Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart series, and has a voice so enchanting that his nickname is “Silvertongue”.) Basically, what I’m trying to say is, among other things, her voice made me want to read her. So I downloaded the book.
The book chronicles her experiences in a single year, spent four months each in a place that begins with the letter ‘I’. First was Italy, then India, then Indonesia. Her goal, when she set out, was to experience pleasure in Italy, spirituality in India, then go to Indonesia, where she assumed she could find a balance between the two. Like joke, that was her goal. If that isn’t the vaguest thing ever in terms of the plot for a book, tell me now. I was absolutely baffled by a lot of things, including this: how on earth does your publisher give you an advance, pay for your expenses and everything when you describe to him a plan as vague as this? Ah! What if she went to these places, sat down, prayed, ate and did nothing else, and came back with nothing but a potbelly and Zen state?
It is such an absurd idea to travel the world with no aim but to write about the approaching unknown, that I want to do it! But the instability and lack of guarantee of results of the entire plot is what brings me to the next point that absolutely baffles me: book-worthy stuff actually happened. It’s so mad. It reminds me of the concept in Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, that when you really want something, the whole world conspires to help you achieve it.
Now, I know that it’s a non-fiction book… but there are so many coincidences and random incidents of surprising relevance, that if you revealed to me that she made half this stuff up, I would believe you in a heartbeat, sighing out a triumphant, “Aha! I knew it!”
Moving on from there, another reason why I can believe this was invented is her personal flair for language. She may be writing about real stuff, but sometimes, her metaphors and imagery can really blow me away. They’re pretty out of this world, possessing the touch of a person who could easily write mythological fiction. The reason I don’t believe this is all staged, however, is how real she sounds. She writes like she speaks. She reads like a person, and I can practically hear her voice when I see the words.
Conclusively, I am very jealous of Liz Gilbert. It’s not only because of her writing, her success, and her publisher’s absurd confidence in her. It’s also because she got to go to Italy, which is my mental happy place, and the place I want to go to more than anywhere else right now. I think Italy is the only part of the story I fell in love with so much that I want to emulate it. It also came with a bunch of mini history lessons, and cool stories behind monuments and things like that.
As much as I truthfully enjoyed her experiences at the Ashram in India and felt like I was passively embarking on her spiritual journey with her, I have hardly any desire to base at an Ashram for that long…Or any amount of time, really. What does appeal to me (and did, even before I read this book) is learning yoga.
Once, I remember, I told a group of friends that I wanted to learn yoga, and one of them said, “Please don’t be white.” (Aunt Tasha, are you reading this?) That being said, I know that Liz Gilbert and all her escapades can be summarized by a few of the people I know, in a single word: white. Which is not, in my opinion, to say that people of colour are incapable of taking such actions due to their skin tone, but I’d attribute my inability to state examples of people of colour who’ve undertaken such activities to systemic issues. But whatever. I’d still like to be a writer and flaneur of sorts. Perhaps in this regard, I’m a hopeless romantic. Who else dreams like this?
I liked her experience in Indonesia the least. No matter what she described it as, I got tired of life in Bali, as well as the Balinese, really quickly. All that superstition and troublesome ritualistic lifestyle made me try to bring the ideas closer to home, and I concluded that if I had been raised in a different era/setting of Ghana, with all its rites and what have you, I might have actually been an atheist. Or, at the very least, a shameless heathen. It can get pretty ridiculous, whether it’s a matter of believing a baby is a god, or a matter of Female Genital Mutilation and Dipo.
Anyway, this was a fun, engaging book to read. I liked it and I didn’t regret my decision.