Eat, Pray, Love The Irony

May 17, 2011 § 6 Comments

My goodness, memoir readers and writers, if  James Frey’s mutterings to Oprah weren’t enough to make you lie down with a wet washcloth over your eyes, the NY Times review of Luca Spaghetti’s Un Amico Italiano: Eat, Pray, Love in Rome certainly will.  The idea is ridiculously brilliant and utterly mind-boggling: a book-length memoir about being featured in a famous memoir.

The NY Times review, however, is sharp, smart, and, at times, hilarious. An excerpt here, followed by a link to the full review:

Gilbert has managed, somehow, to push the genre’s built-in self-involvement to a whole new level. The truly special thing about “Eat, Pray, Love” is not its humor or its wisdom or its perky invocation of exotic local color — all of which are real, and often enjoyable. It’s that it is a completely inescapable vortex of recursion: a self-generating, self-sustaining, self-replicating machine of perpetual self-reference. It feels practically avant-garde in its determination to pull itself out of its own belly button. Its cover should have been an M. C. Escher painting of Jorge Luis Borges riding on a snake eating its own tail.

For me, the most profound moment in “Eat, Pray, Love” comes early on, when Gilbert reveals that her year of healing and self-discovery was, in an important sense, manufactured. “I can actually afford to do all this,” she writes, “because of a staggering personal miracle: in advance, my publisher has purchased the book I shall write about my travels.” (The word “miracle” is particularly sneaky here: vaguely spiritual jazz hands waving away complex issues of class and authenticity.) Gilbert paid for the year described in “Eat, Pray, Love,” in other words, with the book advance she got for proposing to have the year described in “Eat, Pray, Love.”

Sam Anderson’s full BOOK REVIEW

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§ 6 Responses to Eat, Pray, Love The Irony

  • Jerry Waxler says:

    I love the expression that the book was pulled out of its own belly button. We live in such a delightfully meta time, abstractions like this no longer need to be left to theoretical physicists. For an even more overt memoir about writing itself, read the delightful “Publish this Book,” by Stephen Markley, a 24 year old who desperately wanted to publish a book and decided to write a book about his quest. I found it on the memoir shelf. It’s actually a good read. Click here for his website.


  • Nels says:

    The NY Times review, however, is sharp, smart, and, at times, hilarious.

    Really? With comments like this?

    Memoir, for a culture critic in 2011, was a dead zone. Everything worth saying about the genre, every attitude worth being struck, every joke worth being told, had already been said and struck and told 100,000 times over the last 10 years. One glimpse of a memoir in a bookstore window was enough to make me feel as if I were 300 years old and drowning in pudding.

    Why do people who feel this way about memoir review it? If you already feel this way about the genre, stay away from it.

    And why are we still talking about Eat, Pray, Love? I can understand the criticisms, but they have been made many times over already. It has been five years since the book has been published. Five years! There’s no other memoir that has been published in that time that is worth talking about?

    I loved Eat, Pray, Love, though I recognize the criticisms. I just don’t care about them. The woman wrote a book that many, many people love. After five years of repeating the same comments, it starts to sound more like sour grapes than thoughtful criticism.

  • MM Wittle says:

    Thank you so much for pointing this article out. I think it’s a great review and really puts the book in a new context. Sure, I would learn a lot and eat a lot if I were getting paid to travel and eat.

  • Ann Hostetler says:

    It’s all in the spaghetti. This book’s success rests on its appeal to the appetite. You’ve got to admit that the “eat” part is the best. We never seem to tire of pasta, but reading luscious writing about this most delectable of carbohydrates enables us to indulge to satiation without a sore stomach or added pounds. Food porn for the low-carb age;-) The “Pray” section allows you to recover from the feast without any actual deprivation, and the “Love” section helps restore the conscience and the appetite. (Class and access issues duly noted. From these, too, readers can benefit, if they’re able to stomach them.)

  • Jaliya says:

    “… a completely inescapable vortex of recursion: a self-generating, self-sustaining, self-replicating machine of perpetual self-reference.” — My first thought after reading this sentence was, “What a perfect way to understand narcissistic personality disorder!” — Unfortunately, this ‘disorder’ is going to be removed from the next edition of psychiatry’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual …


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