« Every single thing about video games bores the shit out of me. | Main | New Nonfiction (with commentary): 31 August 2015 »

28 August 2015


As someone who also read this within the last few months, I can definitely understand this reaction. Mine was similar, although more with the narrative itself, which felt a lot like "this happened and then this happened and then this ...") I was looking for more insight and revelations than this seemed to provide. So, yeah, I didn't hate it but I wasn't completely wowed, either.

Completely understand what you mean re: outdoors. I'm the same way.

Yes, Melissa,
I felt a bit that way too (and then this, and then this). I kept waiting for more insights (although the lou out of lou one was enough for me, really), or something, but it mainly just seemed like one big long fizzle.
Yeah, the outdoors. It's nice and all but when it's time to sleep, use the bathroom, etc., let's hear it for the indoors.

Oh, I hated that book so hard. (And it's rare for me to respond in such a big, negative way to a book. Usually I just dismiss things as "Not for me.") I would've bailed on it, except my book club was reading it. The payoff was railing about the author's self-indulgence (while eating really great snacks) and finding that my friends felt the same way.

I'm fascinated that so many people love this book. And also that I despised it as much as I did.

Oh Unruly,
I'm so glad you had this reaction too. I think what I really wanted to read was a memoir by the Lou lady--she had the best line in the whole story.
MMMMM railing about authorial self-indulgence while snacking. That is total nerdy good times!! :)

I agree with the "hate"...don't let people think it's ok to go on a major hike with a fancy new backpack and a frommers. Kudos to you CR for even finishing it, I couldn't slug through the "nature solves everything crap" either.

So my remaining question is, who actually did like this book, and why?

Tee hee, Katharine,
By the way, speaking of merchandise, when I start the CR line of mugs, your line
"I couldn't slug through the "nature solves everything crap" either" is totally going to be on one.

I'm still making my way through this. I don't hate it, but I'm indifferent to it. My problem is that there isn't a story here. I like that Strayed isn't particularly insightful. I think the problem is that nothing interesting (so far) has happened to her on the trail. If she told this story to her friends, she'd probably be like, "I hiked the PCT. It was all right. Didn't really do much, didn't die. How was the wedding?" That's the problem. Nothing happened!

Well, it doesn't really pick up, so if you're still trying to make your way through it--don't.
You don't need any insight from your memoirists?

I am finding that the same people who rave about this one are those who raved about 50 Shades of Grey. In other words, people who don't read much, if at all. The one I'm speicifically thinking of said he saw the movie, then was interested enough to read the book in both cases - and he hadn't picked up a book previously for more than 20 years! He's now on to Clive Cussler ... we have created a monster! //wink//

They have nothing to judge it against, and the movie captured their attention, so they wanted to read more. Sort of like me at age 8 with the Sound of Music, I guess. It made me go on and read von Trapp's autobiography and sequel. I was already a reader, but I didn't have a lot of other similar experiences to evaluate it against.

Does that make sense?

Actually, Lynne, I do know what you mean. I think this book is the perfect example of when people want/need reading to fill a social need. It's getting harder and harder to find as many books that "everybody" as read, so maybe when one starts snowballing nobody wants to be left behind.

I find it interesting that your reader of this book was a "he"--and so is Brandon (see above). I read so much about how men will not pick up fiction by or about women--and I wouldn't have guessed in a million years that this would have been a book that men would ever have picked up. You think there's a reason it might appeal to a male audience?

I do also get what you mean about not having a lot to compare this one against. I really can't fault the mechanics of Strayed's writing, so it does have that going for it.

I don't really read memoirs. But I think insight drags most books down. I think back to Eat Pray Love, which I truly hated, and the most infuriating thing about it was the author's (I don't remember her name) insight and justification. I was pissed at that book as I read it. It made me realize that feminism is built on double standards, hypocrisy. If a man leaves his spouse to go see the world, he's a selfish asshole. If a woman does it, she's empowered. Toss in a crying fit and Oprah is praising you. I've found that men are often expected to put up with a woman's generalizations, but the second a man makes generalizations about women, he's a sexist. That shit doesn't fly with me.

Strayed, to her credit, doesn't try to justify her infidelity. If you have to justify something, you've lost. I can't take you seriously. Sure, Strayed isn't very insightful (infidelity, drug use), but that's refreshing. Wild and EPL are essentially the same book. The difference is that one author is trying to pass off her selfishness as new feminism, while the other is simply telling things as they happened (presumably). Strayed isn't making excuses or trying to garner praise. The EPL woman is.

We've just ordered Girl In The Woods, by Aspen Matis, on a request from the reader who enjoyed Wild. It will be interesting to see how that one compares in his and other readers' opinions.

And Brandon makes an excellent point about justification. I don't usually read memoirs, and I think he's pinpointed why I don't like them. The self-justification really turns me off; it strikes me as whiny.

Thanks, Brandon, for the insight!

I was not crazy about the Wild (but fascinated by what books she took on her trip) and the movie was better than I expected. On the other hand, and I'm rather embarrassed to say this to this crowd, I really enjoyed Eat Play Love and just didn't pickup any of that self-indulgence vibe she is accused of. I read it pre-hype so maybe that had something to do with it. I have avoided the movie. AND, I really enjoyed Gilbert's recent fiction The Signature of All Things.

I enjoyed this post and just sent the link to some of my friends who also hated Wild.

You're such a sexist.
Come on, you know I had to say it.
Now. Wait--I'm distracted, wondering what I could have a crying fit about so Oprah would praise me--okay, I'm over it.
I don't know that I read memoir for insight, really. I do know that for every memoir I enjoy I've got to plow through about 10 substandard ones. What I do like is the personal, immediate voice, in something that isn't fiction. So for me it comes down to voice, perhaps writing style or skill, more than insight. But if a little insight sneaks in? I'll take what I can get. I also like the moments of connection that I think the very best memoirs afford. I really liked the Lou bit here because honestly? I felt a spark of recognition with that feeling that you aren't yourself any more, and you're not ever coming back.
The justification, well, I can't say I'm a huge fan of that too. But I think watching people justify and examining the reasons they think they need to make for interesting reading.
This is all a long-winded way of saying, actually, I liked "Eat Pray Love." I can't remember it at all now, so I know for me it was just a good entertaining read. For one thing, I just like Elizabeth Gilbert; her earlier book, "The last American Man," was oddly compelling, although I hated the guy she was profiling.

Thanks for the heads up on the other title--maybe I'll try that too.
And yes, you and Brandon are both right, there is no shortage of whiny memoir writing.
I'd like to thank you and Brandon both for the insights--I've enjoyed this discussion so much it made reading the book worth it. Can't get myself to give up this blog because my readers are such great commenters!!

See above regarding EPL--I liked it too. Haven't tried any of Gilbert's fiction but I do think she's a skilled writer, so I might.
And thank you for reminding me about the books Strayed took on her trip--another slightly more interesting aspect of the narrative. She actually made me want to read the James Michener book "The Novel," and I can quite safely say I've never had the urge to read Michener before.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Search Citizen Reader

  • WWW

Readers' Advisory Blogs

Blog powered by Typepad