I don't have much else to say about Elizabeth Gilbert's new book Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, other than that I enjoyed it.
Gilbert is best known for the smashing popularity of her last book (which was also an Oprah choice), Eat, Pray, Love. I read that book before the hype machine blew it all out of proportion, and I liked it okay (particularly the part where she ate her way through Italy; the second parts of the book, praying and loving, in India and Indonesia, didn't do a whole lot for me). Then, when women started hailing it as the most influential book for them outside maybe the Bible, I started getting a bit annoyed. Sure, it was an okay read. But to take as your inspirational text a book about a woman who starts over after a traumatic divorce by traveling and writing about it (and had the luxury of doing so)? Meh. I just didn't get that aspect of it, and I'll admit I was doubly annoyed when...***SPOILER ALERT***
the book seemingly found Gilbert coming full circle only to--you guessed it--fall in love with another man. ***END SPOILER ALERT.***
There's nothing wrong with love. There's nothing wrong with men.* I just thought it was rather funny that a book millions hailed as being about "finding yourself" actually had quite a bit to do with "finding someone else." But hey, Gilbert is a good writer, and for many years she was a working writer before she hit paydirt, so her windfall seemed more well-deserved than many in the writing world.**
So I was looking forward to reading Committed (for whatever reason, I always find nonfiction about marriages fascinating), and I was not disappointed. Although the overall arc of the narrative is Gilbert's and her partner's efforts to jump through the necessary hoops to get married and supply him with a more permanent home in America (the man she would eventually marry, Felipe, was Brazilian, and had spent many years traveling between Australia and America), Gilbert also returns to her more reportorial roots and provides some research on different topics in marriage: how it typically works out for women; what it does to one's autonomy; its history, etc. I really enjoyed learning all of that stuff, although I'll admit that a large part of Gilbert's charm is still her personal take on subjects:
"Reality exits the stage the moment that infatuation enters, and we might soon find ourselves doing all sorts of crazy things that we would never have considered doing in a sane state...When the dust has settled years later, we might ask ourselves, 'What was I thinking?' and the answer is usually: You weren't.
Psychologists call that state of deluded madness 'narcissistic love.'
I call it 'my twenties.'" (p. 102.)
So there you have it. I like her. I liked this book. It moved right along, I got a few chuckles, and it certainly didn't make me any dumber. And yes, I'm thinking of making those three things my sole criteria for "nonfiction books I enjoy."
*Actually, my favorite book of Gilbert's remains the one she wrote about a very particular man, titled The Last American Man. Frankly, it may seem wrong to say this, but I think she's a stronger writer when she's writing about men.
**Thomas Friedman, James Patterson, I'm looking at you.