Earlier this week, the eclectic book group got together to see the movie, Eat, Pray, Love. A couple of years back, we had read the book, Eat, Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. The group was pretty much split between lovers of the book, and haters of Elizabeth Gilbert. It seemed that those who didn't like the book didn't like it because they didn't like the voice of the story teller, the author herself. Among those who really hated the book were one or two people who listened to it in audio format, with Gilbert herself doing the reading.
Eat, Pray, Love reminded me of a book that I had read a few years earlier called Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman. That book was the story of Rita Golden Gelman's experiences in different societies very much unlike our own. We decided to read Tales of a Female Nomad next. The consensus was that Tales was somehow more genuine than EPL. In EPL, the author went to tourist destinations, and in large part, lived as a tourist. In Tales, the author's goal was to understand the society, and when she chose, to become a part of it. To me, Tales was also more financially truthful. In EPL, Gilbert repeatedly mentioned giving all of her money to her ex-husband in the settlement, but never really addressed how she was paying for her trips. My suspicion is that since she was already working as a travel writer, her trips were pretty much funded by her employer, or through an advance on the book that she planned to write about her experiences. In Tales, Gelman is really honest about how she pays for her travel. A portion of her funding is from royalties from a popular childrens' book that she wrote decades ago, called More Spaghetti, I Say. After reading Tales, I went out and bought More Spaghetti for my daughter, and I think that I enjoyed it more than I otherwise would have, knowing what the author was now doing with the money this book generated. I've thought several times that a combination of Tales of a Female Nomad and More Spaghetti, I Say would be a great gift for a new mother - one book for her, one book for baby - but I've never given that gift.
While we tend to be a pretty casual book group, when we discussed Tales, one of our members arranged for Rita Golden Gelman to have a conference call with us. It was really amazing to have an author talk to our little group, and Gelman was very friendly and generous with her time. She was familiar with EPL, and I got the impression that she was asked about the similarities between the books quite a bit. It would be interesting to know if Gilbert had read Tales before starting on her journey.
I liked the movie, Eat, Pray, Love better than the book. While there were some strange parts that I might have edited out (dream dancing with her ex-husband at the ashram for instance), it was all in all a positive and uplifting movie. I was left with the feeling that I needed to go out and make some changes in my life, and really, why not?