I wrote 'City of Girls' to overcome grief: Elizabeth Gilbert
Working for a magazine in New York, to becoming an author with ‘Eat Pray Love’, a book of travel, of self-discovery, and of a woman on her own, a book that sold millions of copies and influenced generations of women – was only the beginning of a long journey for the popular author Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth Gilbert would probably call it destiny that she became one of the bestselling authors travelling the world with her book, 'Eat Pray Love'. And then, she went on to write other books; among which is 'The Signature of All Things' about an independent woman interested in Botany but restricted to her father's backyard to experiment. It is a novel where she explores women before they had the freedom and opportunities and what they did if they were terribly intellectual.
"All the stories I read on women who indulged in promiscuity ended in tragedy. After reading about one suicide after the other and one murder after other, I wanted to write about this woman who is promiscuous, but her life is not ruined. It is so unfair and mean that she has one orgasm and she have to be killed," says Gilbert, who was her wittiest best during an interview at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2020. Her latest book, 'City of Girls' set in New York is a story of a teenage girl who lives life on her terms, full of pleasure, fun, frivolity and even scandal.
India is not new to the bestselling author, infact, there is an elaborate section dedicated to her life in an Indian Ashram in her book 'Eat Pray Love'. "This time too I went to the Aashram and wanted to stay there for a few days. But it was very cold. And I thought I had already done this. I do not need to now sleep on this cold marble floor, freezing, getting up at 4' O clock in the morning to meditate. I spent a week there and then I jumped onto a plane to Goa. I spent 17 days there working on a new book, completely by myself, which was very good," shares Gilbert who is currently working on her new book; and all she revealed is that it is about grief.
She has been dealing with a sense of loss and grief since the passing away of her partner Rayya Elias. 'Grief' she says, is the side effect of love. Writing her latest book, 'City of Girls' was part of her coping mechanism to overcome grief. "The book came out of a sense of loss. I had been working on the book and doing research for years now. Then my partner got ill. I had no energy, nor did I think I will care about the book ever again. I took care of her for 18 months until she died. Much of my creativity is very mystical to me. I got this message that the very best thing I could do is write this exact book about joy, sex, sensuality and frivolous things and that was what would help me cope with the loss. It also gave me a job, something to do that is all consuming."
She adds, "I wanted to offer the book to the people as an escape. It is nice to have a few hours when we can run away from the catastrophes of personal life and the world. Hopefully people will receive it that way."
If there is one common thread that binds all her writings it is the strong voice for women, which reflects beyond her books. During one of the sessions she gave away the statistics that focus on the phenomenon called 'Marriage Benefit Imbalance', where conclusive data proves that women generally lose in marriage, while men win big. "Married women have more health problems, have more weight, more chances of cancer, more prone to addiction, anxiety and depression…than single women. I am no fan of marriage. It frustrates me to think that despite such information available out there, every single culture teaches woman is not healthy, or complete until she marries. And when I see movie after movie where a woman tried to impress a man, I think it must be the other way. Since the same data points prove that married men are better at everything compared to their single friends. Her memoir "Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage" dwells upon the institution of marriage among others.
It is evidently no exaggeration that her memoirs have been very inspiring. "I like to think my entire life as a giant permission slip for women all over the world. Sometimes people say that I am privileged, and not everybody can do all the things I have been able to do; which is true. Those questions are important to discuss. But I would also direct the focus to women who have read my book – from every culture, and every age all over the world. And some of them had made radical changes to their lives after they read the book and to me it is much more interesting a conversation," shares the author who will forever be known as for her pathbreaking 'Eat Pray Love'.