Thursday, March 6, 2008

Read, Enjoy, Love?

For months, I've been seeing people reading Eat, Pray, Love on the subway.  Many people.  Like one day--no exaggeration--there were four women in the same car as me, all reading this book.  I like Elizabeth Gilbert (if you haven't read her short story collection, Pilgrims, I highly recommend it), so even though I'm not so into journeys of self-discovery, or memoirs of any stripe for that matter, I decided to give it a try.

Here's my general reaction:  Huh. 

I just can't quite see what all the fuss is about.  It's fine.  Gilbert is a great writer, so there are moments that are beautiful, funny, sad.  But for the most part, I felt like it's just a book where someone kvetches about the things that are wrong in her life, and then kvetches about how hard it is to change her life and fix all the things that are wrong.  

I probably should admit this, but I often find this to be true with memoirs, and that's why I don't read as many of them as the general populace.  I don't mean this to just be a post that rags on Gilbert--instead, I put this out there to all of you, o readers of memoir:  Lead me to a memoir that was so good it changed your life!  Show me how good memoir can be!  

And thanks. 
In dread, 
Whitney Scharer


Tom Gilchrist said...

Tobias Wolff’s Vietnam War memoir, In Pharaoh’s Army, is so well done that it makes normal mortals want to shred their own pathetic scribbling. Two other recent memoirs worth checking out are poet Nick Flynn’s Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (great title, no?) and Robert Stone’s Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties. Flynn’s book is an exploration of his relationship with his con-man father, who ends up homeless on the streets of Boston. Prime Green is a personal guided tour of a strange time in our national history by a fine writer who, as they say, was “on the bus.” For a madcap lesson on the craft of revision, all writers should read the chapter about Stone’s apprenticeship on the National Mirror, a New York based tabloid several degrees sleazier than The Enquirer. This section was also published in the New Yorker (10/16/2006.) Tom Gilchrist

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