Monday, February 14, 2011

Elizabeth Gilbert Fills the House

This past Friday night I was privileged to introduce "Eat, Pray, Love" author Elizabeth Gilbert to a crowd of 800 people filling the Burnsville Performing Arts Center. She is currently on a book tour promoting her new book, "Committed: A Love Story," which was just released in paperback. It details the process she and the man she met in Bali (during "Eat, Pray, Love") went through when faced with getting married in order to keep him in the country, even though they had both vowed never to marry again.

She was a dream of a speaker - engaging, funny, sharing from the heart. She took questions from the audience and signed a zillion books. Truly a wonderful evening.

I had not planned on reading "Committed." I started it at home, and when it got to "the history of marriage" I stopped reading. I seem to find this a lot in nonfiction books. Someone wants to tell a personal story but for some reason feels compelled to give "the history of dogs" if it is a dog book or "the history of cooking" if it is a story about their mother's cooking. I'm the kind of reader where I really want to read the personal story or memoir, and could care less about "the history of... ."

But when Elizabeth Gilbert read from her book Friday night, it was so funny and interesting (I guess I didn't get that far) that I decided to give it another try. (FYI, the hardcover version is called, "Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage.")

Let me know if you've read it, and what you thought.

Update: I read "Committed" on my recent trip to Florida. It was delightful. I will admit I skipped the academic parts that I find tedious. But Gilbert's personal story was just as fresh and interesting as you would expect from this author.

My Favorite Poem, Once Lost, Now Found

More than a decade ago I read this poem and was amazed at its brilliance and humor (although I realize not everyone shares my opinion), but years later when I wanted to find it again I realized I didn't know the poet (I was pretty sure it was Phillip Lopate or Phillip Larkin) or the first line. I made several attempts over the years to find it with no luck.

Well, with the help of librarian extraordinaire Roger P. and the trusty internet, here it is! It is hard to explain how excited I am to have found something I thought was lost. Let me know what you think.

We Who Are Your Closest Friends
by Phillip Lopate

We who are
your closest friends
feel the time
has come to tell you
that every Thursday
we have been meeting,
as a group,
to devise ways
to keep you
in perpetual uncertainty
discontent and
by neither loving you
as much as you want
nor cutting you adrift.
Your analyst is
in on it,
plus your boyfriend
and your ex-husband;
and we have pledged
to disappoint you
as long as you need us.
In announcing our
we realize we have
placed in your hands
a possible antidote
against uncertainty
indeed against ourselves.
But since our Thursday nights
have brought us
to a community
of purpose
rare in itself
with you as
the natural center,
we feel hopeful you
will continue to make unreasonable
demands for affection
if not as a consequence
of your disastrous personality
then for the good of the collective.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

How To Tell You're Reading a Really Great Book

Recently Jesse Kornbluth, author of Head Butler, one of my favorite go-to blogs about books, movies, and music, posted that he had "devoured" a book during a five-hour flight between San Diego and New York City. (For the curious, it was One Day by David Nicholls.) My immediate book-geek response was envy and an appreciative "oooooooohhhhhhh," not unlike the way I would respond to any one of you telling me you had just had an eight-inch high slice of Boston Cream Pie put in front of you.

Those of us who love books and reading love to get completely lost in a book. We feel like we got an extra, unexpected Christmas present when we find one, and bereft if the next one to sweep us off our feet takes too long in coming.

Here is my own criteria for recognizing a really great read:

1. You want to send a fan letter to the author, even though you're "not that
kind of person."

2. You are tempted to ration out how much you read each night because you don't want it to end.

3.There's no way you can ration out how much you reach each night and so you
stay up till a very late hour and drag your butt into work the next day.

4. You can't wait to get back to "your book" when you manage to finally sit down to read again.

5. You learn something about a time period or a place in the world you knew very little or nothing about.

6. You want to know what happens to these characters after the book ends and you hope the author writes a sequel. (Hmmm...think I'll write that in my fan

7. You resent intrusions by family members in the form of requests for food,
clean laundry, or transportation to the emergency room.

In the last couple of years I have felt this way about:

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibbs

What books fit this criteria for you?