50 Shades of Grey, artist, book clubs, Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert, elusive, genius, Indonesia, memoir, musings, New York Times Best Selling Author, Ted talks, Ted.com, wine, writing prompts, writings
There, I admit it. I’m probably in the minority when I say I didn’t want to read the book Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert. While everyone was dissecting her 12-month adventure over glasses of wine in book clubs, I avoided reading it. While women swooned over the movie and planned pilgrimages to foreign lands expecting dalliances and affairs with attractive foreigners, I sought out other books. Usually when “everyone is reading” something and it’s the “in” book, I avoid it like the plague. I’ll admit it’s a strange prejudice, but I know I’ll only end up disappointed even though the public raves and movies get made (don’t even get me started on 50 Shades of Grey).
However, in one of my classes on non-fiction writing, I had to prepare my students to write a short memoir. Part of the student preparation revolves around the fact most of these 18-24 year olds have never read a memoir. We read excerpts, study style and content, and closely define exactly of what a memoir consists. What was the big reveal? Would the reader have an “a-ha” moment? Did the writer have one as well?
I did a search on Ted Talks. There I discovered a speech by Elizabeth Gilbert, taped in 2009. http://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius Her speech, “Chasing the Elusive Genius” went beyond the book that made her famous and delved into what she believed was responsible for good writing. She mused on how that “genius” can affect writers and artists, and how and where we may or may not find it. The talk was funny, moving and thought-provoking. There are so many tortured artists who believe he/she IS the genius. However, isn’t it better to know we are not the “genius” but rather there is a genius that works through us or with us? It was a hit with the students and an encouragement as they began their final writing assignment.
After showing the video to the class, I decided to read the book so I could talk about Gilbert’s memoir and motivation with my students in the next semester. During the holiday break, I read the book and promptly decided I had been right to avoid it. It just didn’t resonate with me. I found Gilbert had eliminated or skimmed over some significant details in the first third of her book that affected what happened in her marriage. I labeled her an unreliable narrator. Of course, it’s her memory of what happened, and in her memoir she can write it any way she wants, including skimming over important details.
I’m okay with not liking the book. Maybe Elizabeth Gilbert’s genius and mine are on different wavelengths. She is after all, a New York Times Best Selling Author and has had other books published. She’s got a good handle on publishing.
What I am happy about, though, is I found her speech on that elusive genius. I’ve looked to Ted.com for many sources of inspiration, information and education. Gilbert’s speech and topic is one I can stand behind and believe in all day long. And I don’t have to drown myself in goblets of wine or go to Indonesia to experience it.
What are some of your favorite Ted talks?