Count me among the over six million people to buy Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love. And count me among the many who didn’t finish the New York Times bestseller. My gold Oleg Cassini bookmark is right where I left it three years ago. On page 72.
It would seem that I, of all people, would be able to relate to Liz’s story for I too had moved to Italy on a quest. But unlike Liz, who embarked on a “search for everything” after her marriage failed, I went to eat, drink and pray for love. And she, unlike me, had a finite number of days she wanted to spend in the boot-shaped country before moving on to more serene pastures in India and Bali. I went in 2003 with the notion that I’d never leave Italy, which I ended up calling home for just two years due to the weak dollar and failure to find a Count worth marrying. Still, I was eager to read about her soul-searching journey and saved the book until a three-week sojourn to China in spring 2007. During a brief solo stay at the desolate Red Capital Ranch, where I hiked alone along a crumbling and non-restored Great Wall, I struggled to get into the book. Although I dog-eared some pages and put stars next to passages that resonated with me, it wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as I had hoped. Finally I gave up.
I thought it was just me who couldn’t get through the book but over the past few years oodles of people, mostly writers, have confessed that they didn’t finish it either. Just before the theater lights dimmed at last night’s screening, a colleague seated nearby told me that neither she nor her boss cared for the book either. (I’m sure Liz doesn’t care any more than, say John Grisham or Dan Brown, two commendable storytellers whose prose don’t match up to their book sales.) My failure to connect with Liz’s words didn’t stop me from wanting to see Julia Roberts, whom I adore, portray the author on the big screen for in the end it is the subject that fascinates me most.
Rarely is a movie better than the book on which it was based but even those who couldn’t stomach reading Eat Pray Love should enjoy the flick. I know I did. With my recent month-long stay in Tropea and few days in Rome still fresh in my mind, I salivated at the Italian scenes. The days of dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing) and outings with female ex-pats and local men were reminiscent of my time in Firenze and Positano when lengthy dinners like the one in the photo above taken in Positano were common. Brava to Julia for nailing the Italian accent and the filmmakers for capturing the essence of my adopted country. (Although I’ve never seen such chaos in trying to order a cup of coffee anywhere in Italy.) Most of the dialogue isn’t memorable and another round of editing is needed. But the acting, characters, colors and cinematography captured my attention — and made me want to book a flight abroad.
Outside of my visits to several spas, I didn’t fall in love with Bali when I visited in 2000 but maybe that’s because I didn’t meet anyone as sexy as Javier Bardem.
I’m willing to give Indonesia another try. And despite having a visa for India in my passport, I never took the trip. I’m sure I’ll get there. Some day.
And maybe one day I’ll finish reading Eat Pray Love. I promised myself I would and now that I’ve seen the movie, I’m more inclined to do so. It says something that I moved the book from my Upper East Side apartment to Harlem then to L.A. If I didn’t want it, I would have tossed it when packing my belongings for each move. When I opened the book last night after returning from the screening I found the Oleg bookmark with the words, “To be well dressed is a little like being in love.”
Two people who can attest to that are Liz Gilbert and Felipe.