Sunday, September 02, 2007

In the pursuit of happiness

I get a special kind of joy from reading the type of books that are so finely written, I have a smile pasted on my face during the entire process of reading.

Luckily for me, two books I have recently read have been this kind of, well, FUN.
The one I'll talk about here, is Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.
This book was recommended to me by a friend who loves to travel.
It has the smut (romance), the spiritual, the journaling introspection, and bits and pieces of foreign travel.
But I wasn't expecting such sound writing...with words that just made me think, ponder, and feel that itch of the travel bug again.

There were times when I put a hand to my eyes and just laughed out loud.
Other passages made me squirm in uncomfortable recognition.
Some of it was a bit heavier than I anticipated.
But ultimately delicious.

I am so disappointed to hear the book will become a movie starring Julia Roberts.
I'm not a big Roberts fan--so many other actresses better suited for the role.
The role needs a blonde with great acting ability but also intellect and sex appeal.
Please, NOT Scarlett Johanssen. That's soooo last year.
Not Charlize Theron. Enough with the same old same...
I can envision maybe Naomi Watts with an American accent.
Or that girl that played Claire on Six Feet Under, Lauren Ambrose.

But I digress.

Honestly, there are so many good excerpts in this book, they are worthy of printing out and posting in places for inspirational viewing.
So excuse the length of this post.

The book starts out with Liz thick in the muck of relationships gone sour and all the darkness that brings.
To drag herself out of the vortex of depression, she goes in pursuit of pleasure, and something she has always longed to do: learn Italian.

First, therefore, she traveled to Italy.
"Of course sometimes I really do become overcome with lust. I walk past an average of about a dozen Italian men a day whom I could easily imagine in my bed. Or in theirs. Or wherever. To my taste, the men in Rome are ridiculously, hurtfully, stupidly beautiful. More beautiful even than Roman women, to be honest. Italian men are beautiful in the same way as French women, which is to say--no detail spared in the quest for perfection. They're like show poodles. Sometimes they look so good I want to applaud." (page 66, 67)

This made me laugh:
"I mean, maybe I was afraid I wasn't getting any attention because I was no longer nineteen years old and pretty. I was afraid that maybe my friend Scott was correct last summer when he said, 'Ah, don't worry Liz--those Italian guys won't bother you anymore. It ain't like France, where they dig the old babes.'" (page 67)

"I work hard at Italian, but I keep hoping it will one day just be revealed to me, whole, perfect. One day I will open my mouth and be magically fluent. Then I will be a real Italian girl, instead of a total American who still can't hear someone call across the street to his friend Marco without wanting instinctively to yell back 'Polo!'" (page 71)

Most of her pleasure-seeking in Italy revolves around food (ah, a girl after my own heart...). Seriously, this life is about JOY. Not counting carbs or using artificial sweetener, or any other nonsense. Here, now, in-the-moment joy.
"...when I look at myself in the mirror of the best pizzeria in Naples, I see a bright-eyed, clear-skinned, happy and healthy face. I haven't seen a face like that on me in a long time. 'Thank you,' I whisper. Then Sofie and I run out in the rain to look for pastries." (page 81)

"These weeks of spontaneous travel are such a glorious twirl of time, some of the loosest days of my life, running to the train station and buying tickets left and right, finally beginning to flex my freedom for real...
One night in a town somewhere on the Mediterranean, in a hotel room by the ocean, the sound of my own laughter actually wakes me up in the middle of my deep sleep. I am startled. Who is that laughing in my bed? The realization that it is only me just makes me laugh again."
(page 97)

"But is it such a bad thing to live like this for just a little while? Just for a few months of one's life, is it so awful to travel through time with no greater ambition than to find the next lovely meal? Or to learn to speak a language for no higher purpose than it pleases your ear to hear it? Or nap in a garden, in a patch of sunlight, in the middle of the day, right next to your favorite fountain? And then do it again the next day?" (page 113)

Some comments are more profound. They illustrate the lessons she has learned.
"When I get lonely these days, I think: So be lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person's body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings." (page 63)

"It was in a bathtub back in New York, reading Italian words aloud from a dictionary, that I first started mending my soul. My life had gone to bits and I was so unrecognizable to myself that I probably couldn't have picked me out of a police lineup. But I felt a glimmer of happiness when I started studying Italian, and when you sense a faint potentiality for happiness after such dark times you must grab onto the ankles of that happiness and not let go until it drags you face-first out of the dirt--this is not selfishness, but obligation. You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight." (page 115)

This book is so dog-eared with notations for excerpts, I'll have to continue with India and Indonesia in a future post.

Read another interesting review about this book here.



Blogger telfair said...

I haven't read this yet, but I've heard a lot of bloggers rave about it.

I was personally thrilled to see a Christopher Moore book in your sidebar, as I'm currently listening to one of his audio books right now and it is hilarious. Sort of Neil Gaimenesque, I think...

3:14 PM  

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