This paper considers the combative infinite between self-affirmation and self-preoccupation in Elizabeth Gilbert ‘s popular travel memoir, Eat, Pray, Love. Following the surveillance of the female confessant, the female traveler has late come under close examination and public intuition. She is accused of walking a all right line between critical self-insight and obsessional ego and her travel narrations are branded as histories of navel gazing that are less concerned with what is seen than with who is making the visual perception.
These narratives of inward journeys, which are typical of New Age travel authorship, necessitate thought about representations of the other, as they call into inquiry the conflicting facets of writing, privateness and the subjectiveness of truth. The repeating outgrowth of these subjects in adult females ‘s travel non merely reflects an absorbing feminist involvement in inquiries of individuality and being, but besides highlight continued anxiousnesss about ontological inquiries such as ‘Who am I? ‘ and ‘What am I to believe? ‘ In reading these inquiries against the background of adult females ‘s travel, the possibility arises that the civilization of self-love is progressively read as a female dianoetic pattern.
Following the recoil against Elizabeth Gilbert ‘s best-selling travel memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, the polar responses to the text from its female readership represent this debatable. The novel, which has been praised by some as the ultimate usher to equilibrate life and dismissed by others as self-seeking debris, poses inquiries about the necessities in Western civilization for being a female traveler and for stating a narrative that focuses chiefly on the ego.
At present, adult females ‘s travel authorship is crossing new spacial hybridities that have non been crossed earlier. The genre of travel is still considered a fishy site of exclusionary patterns in which masculinist political orientation has dictated the formal and epistemic footings of the genre. The genre of self-help, nevertheless, is progressively read as a female dianoetic pattern that is more concerned with ontological inquiries of being. What we are seeing progressively, nevertheless, is non a separation of the two, but a blending and stretching of the regulations and conventions of both. The consequence of this merger is the outgrowth of new sort of intercrossed authorship, which one faculty member from Park University calls, ‘the middled-aged narrative ‘ ( Wood 2006 ) .
The middle-aged travel narrative follows the traditional pursuit of the male hero who leaves place as a rite of transition, except the paradigm of the supporter has changed. The storyteller is now a ungratified female who is composing at mature age and normally, in the thick or wake of an experiential crisis. This crisis is frequently knotted in the restraints of domestic responsibility. Her narrative, which emphasises a desire for personal growing and balance, employs travel as the registry for this self-fulfillment. She typically embarks on a travel escapade that is based on sabotaging the determinations she has made in the yesteryear, in an effort to ease activism and alteration in the hereafter ( ibid ) .
The obvious deduction of this, as Wood explains, is that if gender is a public presentation which defines individuality, ‘then individuality can be changed, or redefined by new public presentations that may or may non still have the same gendered significance ‘ ( 2006, 4 ) . On go forthing place, for illustration, the female travel author assumes two places that have traditionally been cast as male roles-the traveler and the author. While going, she may execute multiple functions in an effort to defy the ego that has been antecedently imposed upon her. In making so, she attempts to develop an independent female individuality, and so, to give voice to that procedure afterwards.
In sing this tendency, and its societal and cultural deductions, it is hard to travel past the recent planetary success of Elizabeth Gilbert ‘s travel memoir, Eat, Pray, Love. At the clip of authorship, the book has sold more than 8 million transcripts world-wide on a apparently simple premiss: One Woman ‘s Search for Everything in Italy, India and Indonesia ( Gilbert 2006 ) . The memoir, which spent 155 hebdomads on the figure one topographic point of the New York Times bestseller list, found its success on the narrative of a one time merrily married adult female, who staggering from a combative divorce, takes off around the universe in hunt of what Bitch magazine calls ‘an international campaign of self-actualization ‘ ( 2010, par 5 ) . The work, which has been translated into 30 linguistic communications, has spawned multiple lines of Eat, Pray, Love ware, including caprine animal pillows, supplication shawls ( which retail at $ 350 dollars ) , a Republic of Tea blend, a digital reader which comes preloaded with the book, a aggregation of aromas and a manner line by interior decorator Sue Wong. The movie version, directed by Ryan Murphy and starring Julia Roberts, opened in August this twelvemonth to largely unfavorable reappraisals. The movie besides has its ain official travel spouses, viz. Alone Planet ( who sell pre-planned Eat, Pray, Love travel bundles ) and STA Travel, who advertise assorted trips to the metropoliss featured in the movie. For high-end travelers, there are besides invitations from more epicurean circuit companies, such as Micato Safari ‘s Inspiration Tour, which encourages Eat, Pray, Love pilgrims or true fans, to follow Gilbert ‘s stairss in India for merely under $ 20 000.
The memoir so, which has become a planetary concern phenomenon every bit good as a tourer Mecca, entreaties to a readership that is merely every bit interested in ego as with other. In the gap chapters, the novel ‘s storyteller, Liz, a professional American adult female in her thirtiess, begins to oppugn the performative functions that have defined her. She tells the reader, ‘I do n’t desire to be married any longer. I do n’t desire to populate in this large house. I do n’t desire to hold a babe ‘ ( Gilbert 2006, 10 ) . She explains that she is tired of being ‘the primary breadwinner, the housekeeper, the societal coordinator, the dog-walker, the married woman and the soon-to-be-mother ‘ ( ibid, 11 ) . Similar to Rita Golden-Gelman ‘s travel narrative, Tales of a Female Nomad, Gilbert besides opens with divorce ( Wood 2006, 8 ) . She writes,
On September 9, 2001, I met with my hubby face-to-face for the last clip, non recognizing that every hereafter meeting would ask attorneies between us, to intercede. We had dinner in a eating house. I tried to speak about our separation, but all we did was battle. He allow me cognize that I was a prevaricator and a treasonist and that he hated me and would ne’er talk to me once more. Two forenoons subsequently I woke up after a troubled dark ‘s slumber to happen that hijacked aeroplanes were crashing into the two tallest edifices of my metropolis, as everything invincible that had one time stood together now became a smouldering avalanche of ruin. I called my hubby to do certain he was safe and we wept together over this catastrophe, but I did non travel to him. During that hebdomad, when everyone in New York City dropped animus in respect to the larger calamity at manus, I still did non travel back to my hubby. Which is how we both knew it was really, really over ( Gilbert 2006, 5 ) .
Newly individual, though non for long, Gilbert brands herself as a adult female on the threshold of going a autonomous person. She decides she would wish a religious instructor and constructs a phantasy about what it would be like to hold one. She writes,
‘I imagined that this radiantly beautiful Indian adult female would come to my flat a few eventides a hebdomad and we would sit and imbibe tea and speak about deity, and she would give me reading assignments and explicate the significance of the unusual esthesiss I was experiencing during speculation ‘ ( ibid, 7 ) .
From the beginning so, Gilbert articulates a desire to utilize ( or abuse ) travel as the vehicle for what she believes is her hunt for religious fulfillment. She decides she will pass a twelvemonth traveling in three states and goes onto set up an expressed ground for sing each-Italy ( to research the art of pleasance ) , India ( to research the art of devotedness ) and Indonesia ( to larn the art of equilibrating both ) . ‘It was merely subsequently, ‘ Gilbert writes, ‘after acknowledging this dream, that I noticed the happy happenstance that all these states began with the missive I ‘ ( ibid, 10 ) . In Gilbert ‘s instance, this changeless mention to the e/motional ‘I ‘ is peculiarly relation of the preoccupations of New Age Travel. Increasingly, adult females are utilizing travel to present inquiries such as, Who am I? Why am I here? and What am I to believe? These inquiries non merely reflect an engrossing feminist involvement in inquiries of individuality, but besides highlight continued anxiousnesss about a corporate female experience, which Bitch Magazine describes as ‘wealthy, whiney and white ‘ ( 2010, par 5 ) .
The intercrossed text that arises is more concerned with a hunt for ego than with a hunt for an reliable travel experience. That is, the travel authorship is less bemused with what is seen than with who is making the visual perception. What we are happening repeatedly in the work of Western adult females travel authors, is a revival in the compulsion with the ego which has less involvement in the other. At its worst, this sort of authorship can be self-obsessive, arrogant and self-seeking, but at its best it can make a profusion and familiarity which is missing in more nonsubjective travel texts. The middle-aged travel narrative, in peculiar, focuses on travel as a metaphor for a religious journey. It is seldom, if of all time, framed as an nonsubjective probe into an unknown civilization. As the travel that emerges so, is imagined instead than reported, and creative instead than journalistic, the inward looking oculus becomes more of import than the outward.
The cardinal debatable so, in many books sold as travel memoirs, is that they really minimalise and even thin the travels they seek to voice. In Eat, Pray, Love, this normally happens in one of two ways. Either the topographic point Elizabeth Gilbert ventures to ( for illustration, the Balinese small town of Ubud ) is romanticised as an alien other, or it is reduced, in the instance of Naples and Mumbai, to a background in her personal play. As a consequence, the memoir pushes the boundaries between self-insight and self-preoccupation. The effect of this forcing is that the female travel author has come under close examination and supervising. She is dismissed as a mush manufacturer, a pawn under industry force per unit areas and an over-exuberant performing artist whose work emerges, in what Jonathan Raban calls, ‘literature ‘s red-light territory ‘ ( 1987 ) . The effect of this surveillance for the travel memoir, is that its response draws polar responses from the reading populace.
Since its introduction, the novel has been accused of being self-involved and male chauvinist, and even branded by the New York Post as ‘narcissistic New Age reading, curated by [ Oprah ] Winfrey ‘ ( Callahan 2007, par 13 ) . Harmonizing to Karlyn Crowley, in The Oprahfication of American Culture, Winfrey is a mainstream interpreter for this sort of authorship, as ‘she marries the familiarity and individualism of the New Age motion with the adulation and power of a 700 Club-like ministry ‘ ( 2010, 35 ) . In recent interviews with invitees, Oprah announces to her audience, ‘Live your best life! ‘ She promotes the message once more on her web site, in her magazine and during her book nine. But harmonizing to some critics, ‘much of Oprah ‘s advice really moves adult females off from political, economic, and emotional bureau by advancing philistinism and dependence masked as authorization ‘ ( Barnes-Brown and Sanders 2010, par 3 ) .
Much of the recoil against the book so, is tied up in what readers perceive as Gilbert ‘s ain privilege, every bit good as irritations they have with her mundane travel ailments and her preoccupation with giving everything for David-a New York histrion who she dates after disassociating her hubby. On a trip to Bali, in which Gilbert is commissioned to compose a narrative about Yoga holidaies, she is invited to see a ninth-generation medical specialty adult male. Gilbert, spends important narrative clip coping over what she will inquire him. She writes,
Our Yoga Teach had told us in progress that we could each convey one inquiry or job to the medical specialty adult male, and he would seek to assist us with our problems. I ‘d been believing for yearss of what to inquire him. My initial thoughts were so feeble. Will you do my hubby give me a divorce? Will you do David be sexually attracted to me once more? ( Gilbert 2006, 9 ) .
Subsequently, Gilbert admits, ‘I was justly ashamed of myself for these ideas: who travels all the manner around the universe to run into an ancient medical specialty adult male in Indonesia, merely to inquire him to mediate in male child problem? ‘ ( ibid ) . Many readers ( who evidently agreed with Gilbert on the affair ) voiced their ain ailments online. ‘Who does this adult female believe she is? ‘ one blogger asks, ‘Anyone should be so lucky to eat a pizza in Naples off their publishing house ‘s wage cheque. ‘ ‘If she thinks she has something to kick about, ‘ writes another, ( under the alias Eat, Pray, Shove ) , ‘then she should seek raising a kid entirely. ‘
In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Gilbert told how she has stopped traveling on-line to read her reappraisals. ‘All you end up making is supporting yourself to people who you do n’t cognize, ‘ she said. ‘Two hebdomads subsequently you ‘re on a lovely walk in the forests with your Canis familiaris and you ‘re holding an statement in your caput with person from Amazon.com ‘ ( Valby 2010, par 6 ) .
Possibly the most gender-specific revenge to Eat, Pray, Love is Andrew Gottlieb ‘s travel memoir, Drink, Play, F @ # K, which sold itself on the premiss of One Man ‘s Search for Anything Across Ireland, Las Vegas and Thailand ( Gottlieb 2008 ) . In the book, Bob Sullivan, ‘a jilted hubby ‘ , embarks on a pursuit to happen pregnant amongst the flashiness and glamor of Vegas, rediscover his passion for imbibing in Ireland, and eventually, to see the hedonic pleasance castles of Thailand. As the endorsement reads,
After a life clip of playing it safe, Mr. Sullivan eventually follows his bosom and lives out everyone ‘s deepest phantasies. For who among us has n’t dreamed of standing stark naked, caput upturned, and oral cavity agape beneath a cascading downpour of Guinness Stout? What could be more stimulating than losing every penny you have because Charlie Weiss went for a nonmeaningful last-second field end? And what sensate animal could of all time doubt that the greatest pleasance known to adult male can be found in a leaky bamboo hovel filled with glassy-eyed, bruised Asiatic Hookers? Bob Sullivan has a batch to learn us about life. Let ‘s merely pray we have the wisdom to set aside our preoccupations and listen ( ibid ) .
Others, nevertheless, congratulations Eat, Pray, Love, as an mundane adult female ‘s usher to equilibrate life. A shared message that many female readers seem to condense from the novel is that a adult female should non hold to apologize for composing a travel narrative that is chiefly about herself. As one bloggers explains, ‘Gilbert has written about what she feels is the most of import and defining clip of her life, and 1000000s of adult females like me, have found it utile and stirring. ‘
Despite this sense of belonging, or corporate grasp, Gilbert invariably wonders throughout the novel, how she will suit into some kind of community after she returns from her travels. Much of Gilbert ‘s angst seems to arise from a sense of disaffection from both herself and those around her. As her female parent explains to her, ‘You have to understand how small I was raised to anticipate that I deserved in life, honey. Remember-I semen from a different clip and topographic point than you do ‘ ( Gilbert 2006, 29 ) . Harmonizing to Wood, Gilbert so attempts to reply ‘the hard inquiries of her life with the cognition that, unlike Cinderella, she can take non to travel the ball ‘ ( 2006, 11 ) . It seems her battle is, basically, one of pick. In India, she eventually finds a topographic point for herself, non at a physical location, but in language-or more specifically, in the Sanskrit word ‘antevasin ‘ which Gilbert translates as ‘one who lives at the boundary line ‘ ( ibid, 70 ) . She writes,
When I read this description of the antevasin, I got so aroused I gave a small bark of acknowledgment. That ‘s my word, babe! … I ‘m merely a slippy antevasin-betwixt and between-a pupil on the ever-shifting boundary line near the wonderful, chilling wood of the new ( ibid ) .
In a recent interview with the Borders Book Club, Gilbert besides describes how many adult females have attempted to follow her journey, literally.
Every one time and a piece, I get a missive from person who says, ‘Okay, so I went to Italy, I found the gelataria where you ate that gelato and so I went to Naples and I found that pizza shop, and I had the pizza, and now I want to travel to India. Can you state me the name of your Ashram? ‘ ( 2010 )
This thought that felicity can be packaged through another ‘s travel experience is non without effect. Should readers of Eat, Pray, Love fail, the genre holds them accountable for non being ready to acquire serious, non “ desiring it ” plenty, or non seting themselves first ‘ ( Barnes-Brown and Sanders 2010, par 7 ) . Gilbert herself seems to admit this, and affirm it, with a announcement of what she calls ‘The Physicss of the Quest. ‘
If you are courageous plenty to go forth behind everything familiar and comforting ( which can be anything from your house to your acrimonious old bitternesss ) and set out on a truth-seeking journey ( either externally or internally ) , and if you are genuinely willing to see everything that happens to you on that journey as a hint, and if you accept everyone you meet along the manner as a instructor, and if you are prepared-most of all-to face ( and forgive ) some really hard worlds about yourself… so the truth will non be withheld from you.
Whether or non the book is the ultimate religious usher to equilibrate life or merely self-seeking debris, the cardinal inquiry that the memoir poses is possibly more of import than its response. What is the necessity for being a female traveler and for stating a narrative that is focussed chiefly, possibly even abundantly, on the ego?