Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love, will be the featured speaker Nov. 9 at the St. Louis Speakers Series. LN visited with Gilbert and she shared her insights about success, marriage and American men.
LN: You were a published author for many years before Eat, Pray, Love. Have you ever wondered why this book resonated and became such a success?
EG: I have no idea! If I knew, I would’ve been doing it all along! I think the book is a phenomenon, by the very definition of the word, because a phenomenon happens only once and there’s no explanation for it.
LN: You’ve mentioned that you never imagined that such intimate details about your life would have an audience of millions. Did that make it easier or more difficult to share personal recollections in your next book, Committed?
EG: When you sit down to write a memoir, you’ve decided to share intimate details about your life, and that’s true whether you will have millions of people reading, or hundreds. You’re giving up the information—it’s the big reveal, one way or the other. It’s more your family members that you worry about because they’re in there!
LN: Did the earlier success change your approach to writing Committed?
EG: It was different because I had never written a book with the expectation that it would be widely read. My first book, you know, sold upward of dozens of copies—maybe in the hundreds! (laughs) Actually, the greatest thing that happened to me last year was the publication of Committed, because I never have to write the book that comes after Eat, Pray, Love again, and that was probably the most difficult thing I’ll ever have to do as a writer. And now I feel free to just go back to writing fiction, which is where I started my writing life.
LN: So, we can look forward to fiction next?
EG: Yes. I haven’t written a novel in a dozen years, and I’m excited. It’s a reprieve, you know, from talking about myself and the contemporary world. I can just make up a world, instead.
LN: You’ve declared that there is no better man than an American man, referring to him as ‘the most under-appreciated breed of man on the planet.’
EG: As much as we all love the notion of foreign exoticism when it comes to finding a partner, American men are really emotionally evolved. My hero, author Stephanie Coontz, found in a study that blue-collar, working-class American men are often the best partners. They spend more time with their kids, they help out with the housework. They seem to understand that household jobs are not necessarily just a woman’s responsibility, and it’s hard to find that in other places in the world.
LN: But you managed to do so.
EG: I did! (laughs). But I have a very evolved Brazilian husband. He was a first-wave feminist back in the ‘70s. And he’s a good cook, too.
LN: Good job, Liz!
EG: I know, I thought so!