Eat Pray Love Chronicles Part One

Posted in Book Reports by chamblee54 on April 18, 2012

Bead 109This story starts when PG heard a TED talk, Atheism 2.0. The TEDder, Alain de Botton, said
“Okay, we’re not going to have new TED. We’re just going to run through all the old ones and watch them five times because they’re so true. We’re going to watch Elizabeth Gilbert five times because what she says is so clever,” PG had seen a bloggingheads episode with Miss. Gilbert, and she seemed like a pleasant enough person. A few weeks later, as if by magic, a copy of Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia showed up on the new book shelf at the Chamblee library.
The first chapter described the way the book was to be organized. There is a prayer bead device in India called japa malas. It is a string with 108 beads, and is used in meditation. It is the forerunner of the rosary. Ms. Gilbert decided to divide her book into 108 chapters. This is a magic number. It is three, to the third power, multiplied by two, to the second power. PG read this immediately after writing a post with 108 lines.
PG has written chapter by chapter impressions of books before. It has been a while, and EPL seemed like a good candidate. If it gets too corny, there is no obligation to finish. The PG chapters may only have the slightest resemblance to what goes on in the book. It will be an excuse to write. It is also a good way to read a book.

Bead 001 Ms. Gilbert is in Italy. This is the first part of her year abroad. She has a friend named Giovanni, who she is hot for. She also thinks it would be a bad move to fool around with him. In this chapter, she goes to dinner with Giovanni, and goes back to her room, alone. Before she goes to bed, she offers a prayer of thanks.
When PG hears the name Gilbert, he always thinks of a gas station attendant in Florida. It was one of the last family vacations, before PG got to be old enough to stay home. The family went to Panama City, to a hotel run by Ora Lovelady. At the gas station en route, the man looked at mom, and said
“She putts me to mind of one of the Gilbert girls, from DeFuniak Springs.” Dad thought this was hilarious, and told the story dozens of times.
Evidently, Elizabeth Gilbert was born Elizabeth Gilbert, and stayed that way. The last post of the eat-pray-love-fans blog was Hyperion cancels book by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Ex-Husband. His name was Michael Cooper. Her current husband is José Nunes.

Bead 002 In this chapter, Ms. Gilbert time trips back a few years, to the time before her marriage fell apart. She realized she did not want to have a baby, nor did she want to be married. The trouble was, no other options were very appealing. She decided to pray about it.
As regular readers of this blog know, PG is not a Jesus worshiper. Nor is he an atheist. The concept of prayer can be very appealing, and seems like, at the very least, it could not hurt. And yet, after the turmoil kicked up by Jesus worshipers, PG just cannot bring himself to pray. The person, who had the most spiritual influence on PG, snarled
“I’m going to pray for you brother” out of anger. This, and many other incidents, makes PG unwilling to try prayer. If you get drunk on a particular kind of whiskey, and have a horrible hangover, you never want to even smell it again.
Another problem is the question, who is prayer directed to? Beliefs about G-d are like assholes and opinions… everybody’s got theirs. The best concept that PG has heard is the one from the lecturer at a Moonie camp. The value of the chemicals in the human body is estimated to be anywhere from six to a hundred dollars. And yet, no white coat chemist can combine these elements to make a person. To the moonies, G-d is the difference between a human being, and six dollars worth of chemicals.
There are other ways to express this concept. Some see G-d as the software, or the DNA, of the universe. Others say her domain is limited to earth. Gustave Flaubert is credited, by G–gle , with the saying “G-d is in the details.” Maybe G-d is the whirlwind that blows through a junkyard, and creates a jet engine. Some say G-d and man are indivisible, others say they are separate. PG is only sure of one thing. G-d does not write books. (To those who say prayer should come from the heart, and not the head … the pain Jesus has caused PG is felt in the heart. Mental pain is easier to rationalize away.)

Bead 003 Ms. Gilbert goes paddling up a tributary in this chapter, talking about what she means by G-d. At the end, she believes in a magnificent G-d.
A few hours ago, PG put eight tomato plants in the ground. While walking back uphill, to the one part of the backyard that gets sunlight, PG decided to have a few words for G-d. Any help you can give will be appreciated. Lets see if we can do better than we did last year. When you get tired of sending rain, send more rain, and then more. The people in Texas can dry up, just don’t let any more of their governors get elected President. Just because Jimmy Carter came from Georgia, that doesn’t mean Texas can get uppity. This was not said in anybody’s name. PG wonders why anyone would talk to G-d in somebody else’s name.

Bead 004 Liz is still in the bathroom of her fabulous home, praying away. Finally, G-d speaks to her, and tells her to go to bed.
A few years ago, PG had a job driving a truck in Cobb County. When he was stopped at a red light, next to the Big Chicken, he would talk to G-d. One time, the question was “why does Jesus hate me?”. The answer was
“I don’t know”.
Bead 005 The story of EPL is simple. The life of Liz Gilbert is a disaster. This chapter tells a big part of the story. She decides to leave her husband. A rebound bf comes into the picture, and a blissful summer ensues. Then it is September 11, 2001. The divorce machinery is warming up. David, the bf, starts to be a problem. This is not good.

Bead 006 Miss Gilbert’s life is in ruins, but she now has time to do what she wants to do. One thing is to learn Italian. For some reason, the language has always appealed to her. Every new word is a like a piece of candy.
PG is not wired for learning new languages. The first class he ever flunked was ninth grade Latin. In 1996, he bought some tapes and books, and tried to learn Spanish. His mexican friend looked at him like he was crazy. The tapes gave him brain damage. This is living next to a census tract that is 92% hispanic. Outside of “tu trabajo es su credito” at the used car lot, PG is just as monolingual as ever.

Bead 007 This has nothing to do with James Bond. The numbers in the book are single digit, then double digits, then, finally after 99, triple digits. PG got into triple digits when he was working with creating print jobs from files. It just works a lot better with those useless zeros.
Zero is the great improvement of arabic numbers over the roman variety. Even though nothing is nothing, it should take a place when it is time to count. Without zero we would not have negative numbers, nor the existential threat of the square root of negative one.
In this chapter of EPL, David, the rebound bf from hell, introduces Liz to an Indian spiritual teacher. It turns out she lives in India, has an ashram, and no one in New York has ever met her. The mantra of choice is Om Namah Shivaya, which translates as “I honor the divinity that resides within me. Lady Gilbert decides to go to India, and visit the Ashram.

Bead 008 The magazine that Liz Gilbert works for hands her an assignment to go to Indonesia. This was after Barack Obama lived there… the whereabouts of his stepfather were not mentioned in this chapter. While there, she met a Balinese medicine man.
“What I want to learn is how to live in this world, and enjoy it’s delights, but also devote myself to God”. Ketut Liyer, the medicine man, showed her a drawing. “It was na androgynous human figure, standing up. hands clasped in prayer. But this figure had four legs, and no head. Where the head should have been, there was only a wild foliage of ferns and flowers. There was a small, smiling face drawn over the heart…. To find the balance that you want, this is what you must become. You must keep your feet grounded so firmly on the the earth this it’s like you have four legs, instead of two. That way, you can stay in the world. But you must stop looking at the world through your head. You must look through your heart instead. That way, you will know G-d”  PG wonders if he could keep this advice.
Bead 009 The divorce drama is getting intense. The ex is refusing to sign an agreement, and it looks like a court battle is eminent. Meanwhile, Miss Gilbert goes on a book tour, with a supportive friend in tow. The friend convinces Liz to make a written petition to G-d, to resolve this divorce business once and for all. The petition is written, and numerous friends and celebrities sign on, by proxy, in a motorcar driving across Kansas. At this point, the cell phone rings. It is an attorney, with the news that the ex has signed the papers.

Bead 010 There is a symmetry to 010, especially when it is preceded by a blank space. Liz Gilbert would be very happy if this bead had been preceded by a blank space, instead of the turmoil of her 911 life. This chapter is the end of the beginning. The divorce is paid for, the properties disposed of, and a handy publisher contributes an book advance. The plan is to be in Italy four months, India four months, and Indonesia four months. It would have been cheaper to spend the time in Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa, but then it would have been called Dribble, Duck, and Eat. It would have a corny ending.

Bead 011 Miss Gilbert eats her first meal in Rome. She quotes a letter by the poet Shelley, who was horrified that women of social rank ate garlic in Italy. After the meal, Miss Gilbert goes to her dwelling and falls asleep.
Today is download day for Chamblee54. If you are going to have pictures from The Library of Congress, then you have to download. The machine pulls down 11mb a minute. The current image is Hoerr’s feed store in Peoria, IL. It was photographed for the Farm Security Administration in 1938. PG has never been to Peoria, IL. An acquaintance of PG named David Wallach used to talk about moving to Peoria, IL, and opening a bar. This was before he killed himself.

Bead 012 The campaign to learn Italian is going full blast. Miss Gilbert will read newspaper articles, and look up every third word. She learns that Italian babies are the fattest in Europe. There is more talk about the fountains of Rome, and the aqueducts that brought all that water into the City.
The day before, PG had gone to a park near his house. Mason Mill park was an abandoned water works. The old buildings are covered with festive graffiti. It had been a while since PG had been there, and going on this day was not really a good idea. On February 8, PG twisted his right knee, and has been carefully rehabbing it ever since. One is carefully with the route, if every step has the potential for pain. As it turns out, some do gooders had been to the park, building concrete walkways and fences. One more neat place has been nannified into bland regularity. And yes, one of the concrete structures had been turned into a fountain.

Bead 013 This is where Liz Gilbert evaluates herself as a traveler. She has her good points and her bad points. The best of her good points is the ability to make friends easily. This might be the weakest of PG’s weak points. He is a Zorlack… the race of people that even the most politically correct feel encouraged to hate on. PG did not ask to be a Zorlack. If he had his druthers, he would still be on Thrunombulax, among critters who understand him. Life is not fair, even if fair is a baseball hit between first and third base. PG is a popup headed into the seats behind the catcher. The good news is that his continued existence is an annoyance to people who need to be both pissed off and pissed on.

Bead 014 The idea of going to Italy is to learn Italian. PG could walk a mile from his house, (if his knee would cooperate) and be in Mexico. This is not what Miss Gilbert wants, so she has to go to Rome, where she will consider doing as the Romans do. She goes to the first day at the Leonardo da Vinci Academy of Language Studies. A test is given, and Miss Gilbert is placed in a level two class. A few minutes into the first session, her head is spinning. A trip to the office is made, and Liz Gilbert is placed in a level one class.
In 1971, the fad in Dekalb county was to have students spend their last year of high school at a community college. Some schools were overcrowded, and saw this as a handy way to get rid of students. PG was just happy to get out of Cross Keys. When it was time to register, you could take English 101, or a remedial class. PG was a good writer, and signed up for 101. The first week of class, PG wrote an essay. The teacher, Ann Peets, read the essay to the class. It was presented as being an example of how NOT to write.
Ann Peets was a great teacher. She said things that PG remembers 40 years later.
A woman went to William Faulkner, and said she had read Sanctuary five times, and did not understand it. He told her to read it a fifth time. The best way to win an argument is to use statistics. The best way to get statistics is to make them up.
Bead 015 The bead is about the origins of Italian. It is a good story. PG hopes it is true. This is a problem, when authors take a break from their story to deliver a lesson. You have to trust them to know the facts. Since it doesn’t much matter anyway, PG will believe her.
It seems as though Latin was the dominant language of Europe. As time passed by, the dialects of the regions got more and more different. The language spoke in the dominant city became recognized as the correct version of the language. PG is happy that american english did not adopt New Yorkese as the accepted variety.
Italy was another story, with it being a collection of warring city states most of it’s history. To this day, many wonder if a unified Italy is a good idea. (Is today an abbreviated form of to this day?) So anyway, some fart smellers smart fellers decided to use the language of Dante as the official Italian.
A few months after PG took English101, he got a job on the maintenance crew at Northlake Mall. There was a security dog there named Dante. It was PG’s job to go walk Dante. This was before the office buildings surrounding the mall had been built. Northlake Parkway had a bridge over I285, with woods on all sides of it. Atlanta was a much greener city then.

Bead 016 Depression and Loneliness plugged in a GPS, found Liz Gilbert, and came to pay a visit. This is to be expected. PG calls it the 24 hour syndrome. Typically, about a day into your adventure, you realize that you are the same sorry person as before. You let it pass, and a few hours later you are back in the game.
By contrast, PG is having an excellent day. He rode his bike to the county tax office, chained it to a railing, got his wallet, cellphone, book, and car renewal papers out of the box, and walked into the office. The guard said to go to the lady at the first window. There was no waiting in line. This may never happen again.

Bead 017 It turns out that Miss Gilbert uses anti depressants. The standard story is told…she was staring at her left wrist, with a knife in her her right hand. (This is an invented detail. When you ask Mr. Google if Miss Gilbert is left handed, you are referred to a blog post. One of the commenters said
“Take some time, using the left-hand navigation list on their site, and dig into topics you are interested in.” ) So modern chemistry saved her life, la dee dah.
PG never saw any benefit from using pills. Years of self medication with beer and reefer was fun, but PG got bored. It is true, when you sober up, your problems are still there. PG does not rule out chemical depression suppression. It might indeed work for others. It might not work for PG, and the money can be better spent elsewhere.

Bead 018 Part of the maturity process is learning to enjoy cheap food. You can buy a bag of mixed beans at Kroger, divide the bag in half, soak half the beans, and store the other half in an empty peanut butter jar. When the beans have absorbed water, you put them in a pot, and turn the gas on full blast. Set the timer for 4:00, and be prompt about going back to the stove. Turn the heat down to where the blue flames are just barely visible. Put the lid on, with a little bit hanging over the edge so the steam can get out. Set the timer for 33:33. When the timer makes the appropriate noise, go turn the heat off. This is a dangerous process. If you don’t turn down the heat after 4:00, the frothy mix at the top will boil over, and make a horrible mess on your stovetop. (This frothy mix is more edible than Santorum.) If you forget to turn off the heat after 33:33, then the beans will eventually burn, and you will need to evacuate your kitchen.
The other night, PG went to a potluck supper. When he made the pre dinner trip to Kroger, the easter candy was 70% off. PG bought a handful of little chocolate bunnies, only one of which was chosen by a diner. This did not hurt PG’s feelings, who looked forward to having chocolate bunnies to snack on. When it was time for lunch today, PG scooped a serving of beans out of the plastic container, and placed them in the pot. To this he added a little chocolate bunny, which he broke into pieces. After a few minutes of heating, a bean soup, with chocolate bunny sauce, awaited PG.
Ok, this is supposed to be about Bead 018. In this chapter, Miss Gilbert is in panic mode. She is depressed and has run out of Wellbutrin. The answer is to take out a secret notepad, and tell the notepad about her trubbles. The spirit within tells her to write a message, saying that she was loved. Miss Gilbert goes to bed, and all is well.
By amazing coincidence, before he wrote about Bead 018, PG listened to a conversation on BlogginheadsTV. Ross Douthat is hitting the mammon circuit with a new book, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics.
(“What’s the point of writing a book if you can’t be a little bit judgmental”) One of the featured segments was The heresy of “Eat, Pray, Love”.
Here is the money quote. (Mistakes happen when PG transcribes.)
Ross Douthat– The problem is, the word I use is narcissism. The peril of having too close an identification between G-d and the self. Robert Wright– You mean she hears G-d as her own voice when she has an epiphany? That it sounds like her talking, is that what you mean? Ross Douthat– Thats what I mean. More generally, it’s the idea that you identify G-d with your most authentic self. ” Mr. Wright has never read Eat, Pray, Love, but he describes the chapter that PG was about to critique.
Pictures are from The Library of Congress. The spell check suggestion for Douthat is handout.

7 Responses

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  1. Cal Gough said, on April 18, 2012 at 7:15 am

    Luther, this was one of the most entertaining blogposts I’ve ever read. Thank goodness you like to write and are wiling to invest the time and effort to do so, as what you write is so consistently interesting to read! Keep right on doing what you’re doing, please? I love the way (in this post more than in some others) that you flip back and forth between the present and the past – letting certain words or situations trigger your own memories (e.g., the word DANTE), and then writing down that memory/association, often followed by an ironic comment. Remarkably effective! And these photos – as bizarre as ever!

    • chamblee54 said, on April 18, 2012 at 8:02 am

      Thank you. The “cliff notes” technique of writing a review chapter by chapter can lead to unexpected things. In the BH conversation, Mr. Douthat begged Miss Gilbert to reply . A literary mashup is usually good for book sales. This might be fun.

  2. […] Bead 036 In the last bead about Italy, Miss Gilbert goes to Sicily and eats fabulous food. Part one of this cycle was posted a few days ago. PG is beginning to wonder if this chapter by chapter […]

  3. […] are from “The Special Collections and Archives,Georgia State University Library.” Parts one and two of this cycle have been […]

  4. […] to it, most people who vote will not be consoled that the robot won out over the clown. Chapters one, two, and three have been published. Pictures are from The Library of Congress. These are Union […]

  5. […] to shout with jubilation. The hypothesis about Arabic origins seems to be most accepted. Parts one, two, three, and four of this series have were previously […]

  6. […] even more so toady.” This is the end of Eat, Pray, Love. Thank you for reading this. Parts one, two, three, four, and five were previously published. Pictures for this post are from “The […]

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