I put off reading the book until this summer, when Chris’ dad gave me a copy. I tend to be suspicious of commercially successful books, and I think the reason I was so prepared to hate Eat, Pray, Love in particular is because I resented, on some level, the fact that Liz Gilbert, the author, got paid for pouring her heart out.

Our culture likes the idea of sincerity but gets uncomfortable around the real deal. What made this chick’s experience so special? And more so, why can’t someone else finance my spiritual journey? Not that I’m actively on one, but you know, it could happen…

Still, since I’d heard just as many good as bad reviews of the book, I gave it a shot, and I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed it. While I wouldn’t call it a favorite, it was the perfect summer read—some nice brain candy after a particularly tough summer semester.

I can’t say whether I’d have enjoyed the book as much not having just gone to Italy, but I found myself drawn in. Though I recognized places where eye-rolling could take place, I got the impression that Gilbert was also aware of that potential, and I liked that. I also found that passages about her experiences in meditation  gave me the sense that maybe I’m not the only fruitcake out there.

Joan Didion says we tell stories in order to live, and I also like to believe we write to understand. I appreciate the occasional example of this survival and understanding that slips under the commercial wire. True, it takes an established author with a financially sound team behind them most of the time, but hey.

I just saw the movie today with a girlfriend—we went to an 11:00 a.m. showing (Matinees are awesome, by the way. I’m trying to take advantage of my last few weeks of “summer vacation.”) and then to lunch. I’d heard the movie was pretty bad, and while it definitely wasn’t as good as the book, it was an enjoyable way to spend a summer morning.

There’s one thing I need to comment on, though—why is it still so revolutionary to see a woman enjoying her food? Why all the close-ups of Julia Roberts slurping pasta, moaning over pizza? Would we see that in a movie about a man going on a trip to Italy? Why does she need to defend herself and coax her adorable Swedish friend into eating the pizza in Naples? And what is with that scene where they’re trying desperately to zip up jeans in a dressing room?

I can’t decide whether I’m being too uptight about this. My friend thought it was just funny—the movie made it seemed to be asking who wouldn’t want to roll around a dressing room floor with Julia Roberts, trying to squeeze into “big lady pants?”  It’s still nagging at me, though.

I know that lots of women complain about gaining weight on vacation (or in general) and that maybe this is an attempt at being realistic or helping the audience relate more to the characters, but it bugged me.What’s wrong with just enjoying meals and not talking about how fat you’re afraid of getting? To be fair, in real life, Gilbert was undernourished when she went to Rome (depression will do that), so gaining weight on delicious Italian food was kind of a convenient way to get back to health. All the more reason I find the dressing-room scene and muffin-top discussion unnecessary.

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