Last night I finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir of loss and re-birth, "Eat, Pray, Love", and while I found it was one of those books that I just couldn't put down, something about it seriously irritated me.
My necessity, a memoir writer is a bit of a narcissist. They're writing about their experiences hoping against hope that you'll read them and take an interest. Bloggers, shamefully I must admit, share a bit of the same tendency, but at least we don't commit anything to paper, publisher and the N.Y. Times Bestseller list. (Yes, if you're wondering, I'm just jealous. Very, very jealous.)
The book follows the recently-divorced and utterly heartbroken Liz Gilbert as she eats her way through Italy, prays her way around a single Ashram in India, and then well, gets her Brazilian dude on in Indonesia, while also hanging out with a tiny, ancient Indonesian medicine man, who I find to be the best character in the book. In the meantime, Gilbert is seeking balance and divine redemption following a messy divorce, something I cannot associate with, so perhaps I find it hard to connect with her character at times.
In memoir, even your heroine is still a character, portrayed as they see themselves, not as they are to others. That's the perk of memoir over biography. But I digress.
In what must be a hidden streak of self-loathing, I found her putting asides in parenthesis to be utterly annoying. (I know, I know. Hypocrisy!) There were such heavy-handed adjectives.
Maybe it was reading it right after Ian McEwan's terse and compact "On Chesil Beach" that made me think she was a bit over-the-top. McEwan is able to convey the disconnect, tension and beauty of a situation without having to call it "unbearable tense," "painfully remote" or "strikingly beautiful."
She also was "that girl" who was always dating someone, always attached, to a man from the time she was 15. Heck, she had a boyfriend she was "desperately" in love with before she was even divorced. And she has an entire chapter about how she can make friends with anyone, which also just made her seem insincere. Perhaps I'm projecting my own feelings here, but they grated on me and made me dislike her just a bit.
Yet, I couldn't stop reading. I had to find out what she did next, and even though her language lacked the grace she so often sought, she managed to tell a darned good story.