Monday, September 20, 2010

Um, what?

Reading Greg Zimmerman's excellent blog  left me speechless this morning.  He reveals, from another source, that Elizabeth Gilbert already had a book deal in place before she set out to "find herself" in her hugely popular memoir  Eat, Pray, Love. I didn't care for the book, except for the foodie portion set in Italy. I felt it would certainly be easily possible to "find oneself" in a place where money is no object, beautiful scenery exists, and the (paid) help foresees your every possible need (not to mention the Argentinian hunk who pursues her). Much of it felt contrived.  Yet, finding out that she already had a financial motive and needed a story to sell changes everything. 

Cynicism.  Don't knock it!


  1. Hehe - yeah, isn't it silly?! It's worth pointing out my source, too: Patrick at The Literate Man blog ( which is fantastic.

    Here's what he wrote: To take an example from the headlines: how is it that an "honest" author can (1) develop and pitch a "non-fiction" book proposal about life-changing experiences in various exotic locales around the world that are yet to occur, (2) obtain an advance on publication for this work about discovering him- or herself, and (3) pass it off to legions of readers as non-fiction narrative and organic experience? Worse yet, how can the entire media machine buy into it without questioning the honesty and integrity of the entire exercise? The answer, I'm afraid, is that the media understands that the mass market is comprised of sheep and their integrity went out with the advent of television. Sorry for the rant .

    I've been trying to find a corroborating story in the "real" media, but not too hard. Anyone see anything? I tend to believe Patrick, though - he seemed really sure of himself. ;)

    And thanks for the linkage!

  2. Greg...he makes an extremely valid point, but he shouldn't go knocking SHEEP! LOL

  3. I saw Greg's post and cracked up laughing. Now I have to go hurry and tell all of my friends who read it, saw the film and are dreaming of doing what the author did that it's another Million Little Pieces. Remember that? HAH!

    I didn't read it myself.

  4. hmmm, this definitely sounds worrying. While the wool has been pulled from my eyes, i still want to see corroborating evidence. Just to be absolutely sure.

  5. Um, I read EPL, and thought it was typical of most autobiographical work - self serving tripe - but I seem to recall that she discusses exactly this in the beginning of the book. I'm pretty sure she says that she pitches the idea to her publishers that she will go on a year long journey, see what she finds and then will write a book about it. It's not like she tried to hide what she was doing, and I don't see how this is any different from people getting funding to make documentaries - they pitch an idea, get some cash and go see what they find. She set out with a plan to travel to three places in an attempt to heal herself after a terrible divorce, so that was her whole aim and her focus in her journey - I don't think being funded makes her experiences any less genuine.

  6. Mummazappa,
    That's a valid point if she revealed the deal in the book.

    My thought though is that a book deal usually entails the parameters of what the book would be about, with the focus on being saleable material. She certainly couldn't come back and say "I hated it all, and I am a worthless human being who should have stayed with my ex". In the case of a documentary, they too have to have some sense of what they hope to accomplish, but usually they aren't generating the same sort of interest or money as a heavily promoted novel.

  7. @mummazappa - I'm not sure the analogy to a documentary works in this case - planning to "self-discover" in a very specific way in very specific places with a very specific end goal (a published memoir) seems pretty disingenuous to me. Those are experiences that are supposed to happen organically, aren't they? Telling us that was her plan all along doesn't really help make it more genuine, in my opinion.

  8. @amy - oops, yep, re-reading my comment I see how it has a tone of me being offended - totally not my intention, sorry about that :-) you know, I probably would have liked it a lot more if the book had said 'it was lame, don't do it, I'm a jerk'....

    @greg - yep, I get your point. Although I still stick by my assertion that a person can aim to achieve something, and undertake a pilgrimage to achieve that said something. From my reading of EPL, she thought about what three things she would like to do that she thought would help her heal her fractured self, and then set about doing them. Having an action plan to self-heal doesn't make the actual execution of that plan in-organic, (IMO, and my own experience actually).

    Again, IMO, the fact that she got a book deal BEFORE she went travelling makes her clever and resourceful, not disingenuous :-) However, I do see that this knowledge would make some people feel cynical about the validity of her experience. Wow, all this discussion about a book I didn't even enjoy :-)