The XX Factor

Eat, Pray, Love and Never Get Any Writing Done

Now that Eat, Pray, Love the movie is out, Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote the book, will be getting a lot of ribbing for her indulgent three-continent post-divorce journey of self-discovery. So before we are too hard on her, here, in this Bloggingheads discussion with Susan Orlean, is a whole other side of Gilbert. The two great nonfiction writers continue the discussion Orleans started with her tweet about how there are so few nonfiction lady writers because women are so distracted by life. Men, Orlean says, “are a lot better at putting blinkers on” and focusing on their work. Gilbert does not have kids but she agrees. Men, she adds, are also “more entitled to suffer for their work” and let their wife and kids get neglected.

Gilbert adds that her form of suffering involves compulsively taking care of “anyone who comes within” her orbit. “Do you think Philip Roth ever set aside his novel so he could change the sheets in the guest bedroom for the third time that week?” she asks. By contrast, she describes herself as “typing with one hand while holding the door shut with the other.” Having just spent a good couple of hours chasing down school supplies, I can only say: Hear, hear.