In her new book, celebrated author Elizabeth Gilbert comes to terms with an unanticipated happy ending.
IN HER enormously successful memoir Eat, Pray, Love: One Womans Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia, Elizabeth Gilbert traveled the world in search of herself. That journey led her to Bali and to love, with Brazilian-born Felipe. Both she and Felipe had survived difficult divorces, so while they found it easy to commit to one another, they were resolute in their decision to stay legally unbound. But in order to live in America with Felipe, Gilbert was forced to do what shed vowed never to do again: get married.
Over the next 10 months, as Gilbert and Felipe waited for the government to approve his immigration visa, they traveled through Southeast Asia. Seeking peace with her new personal journey into marriage, Gilbert immersed herself in the institution of wedlock, interviewing women in Laos and Vietnam about their experiences and delving into the life choices made by the women in her own family. The result is her fifth book, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage (Viking, $27). We chatted with Gilbert about her experience writing the book and about what she learned in the process.
Travel clearly plays an important role in your life, especially in times of personal transformation. how does finding yourself in a new place geographically help you find yourself emotionally and spiritually?
I think travel rearranges your brain chemistry, which, of course, can help to rearrange your emotional and spiritual outlook. When you dont know how the language, the currency, the public-transportation system, or the social mores of a new place work, you are forced into the present moment, forced to concentrate, forced to learn and to respond. I think this can jar the brain into new patterns and thinking habits. Not to mention the incredible and freshly renewed perspective that can come when you are exposed to the new, the foreign, the different.
How has your perception of your and Felipes relationship changed since getting married?
What has been the most pleasant surprise? What I find interesting is that the rest of the world offers us so much more respect now that were married. Felipe and I were living on the outside, to a certain extent, before we got married. We are rebellious enough that we could have lived that way forever, but this legal title sure seems to calm down friends, family, and random bureaucrats.
In your research on marriage, you stumbled upon Ferdinand Mount, a columnist for Londons The Sunday Times, who describes marriage as a revolutionary act. Why was this notion so influential to your understanding and acceptance of marriage?
[Marriage] felt to me like an institution that was created by society in order to benefit the collective while repressing the individual. [But Mount] suggests that voluntary marriage is actually a subversive act [and] that repressive governments and religions have been trying to stamp out the human instinct for private union since the beginning of time. Put in that way, marriage starts to look less like a stuffy old institution and starts to look more like a giant social battle between the forces of good individuals who want to follow their own hearts and choose their own spouses and evil the controlling instincts of repressive authorities who fear that love. As somebody who likes to think of herself as somewhat bohemian, I found that idea exciting, inspirational, and really reassuring.
Since your marriage, you have settled down on the east Coast. have you continued to travel extensively?
These days, I feel like I travel too much and I never imagined myself saying that! I will always love exploration, but more and more, the only place I want to explore is the small piece of real estate that comprises my home, my garden, my town my small but immensely comforting local universe.
Money Talks, Bullsh*t Walks: Inside the Contrarian Mind of Billionaire Mogul Sam Zell
By Ben Johnson
(Penguin Group, $26)
TALK ABOUT an attention-grabbing title. This provocative profile of billionaire investor Sam Zell details his atypical business methods and pulls back the curtain on the deal that made headlines Zell purchased the Tribune Company (which owns nearly two dozen television stations and 10 newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times), only to have it go bankrupt less than a year later. The son of Polish immigrants, Zell zigs when others zag, and through in-depth research and interviews with some of those closest to Zell, Johnson helps readers understand why.