Elizabeth Gilbert, you annoy me.
I will come out frankly to admit that I did NOT like Gilbert’s memoir. Her lackluster and self-righteous novelesque book left me bored, agitated and sad. Bored because her travels were nothing new. Agitated because egotistical writers often leave that taste in your mouth. And sad because I had gone against every thing I stand for and jumped on a bandwagon to read the “best book of the year” just to conform with the thousands of women who obviously saw something I failed to see. Or Gilbert failed to convey. Either way, her tall-tell tales did get me thinking about one thing in particular: does writing a memoir always have to be about you? I don’t think so. For example, I’m currently reading “A Mennonite in a Little Black Dress” by Rhoda Janzen. Rhoda’s story is deep, revealing though lighthearted and silly in parts. But what makes Rhoda’s introspective piece shine compared to Gilbert’s trail of one-up’s is that Rhoda doesn’t come forward as an authoritative, in-your-face, i’m-better-than-you-so-learn-from-me leader that commands your ear. She’s unassuming and friendly. I related more to a 50 something Mennonite from the boondocks after reading her tales then I did a 30 something wanderlust – someone I would expect to relate more to.
My point is that I think Gilbert had a chance. Her travels are entertaining, her minor characters are interesting at times and even some of her opinions, I would agree with. But wha bothered me was that she obviously had gone through a rough marital relationship, one that many many a women before her and after her have and will endure. Not every woman reading this book will be as fortunate as she to have the disposable income she had. Like when she takes half a chapter to let everyone know that she is wealthy enough to pay off her husband just to leave him and still have money left over (from her book sales and fancy writing assignments) to travel the world. She could have been more humble in her telling her story and I would have gladly joined the ride. But when you bring out the “bitch” in the writing, I tune out.
In the midst of struggling with Gilbert’s wishy washy roller coaster, I thought to myself, “would people have this aversion to my memoir’? The answer would absolutely be ‘yes’, and I realize that. However, I stick to my stance that just as Rhoda has taken a her story and translated it to others in a nonchalant manner all the while making it entertaining, others can do the same. Make the memoir about the readers journey through your life. Then they’ll want to stick to the end. Just sayin is all…..