A Letter to My Daughter about “Eat, Pray, Love”

22 Aug

Dear daughter,

One day, many years from now, you may find yourself feeling lonely and confused.  Perhaps after a painful divorce or failed love affair.  

Make the most of it.  Look directly into the camera and ask:

Who am I?   Just me, without some guy by my side?

You will realize that a year of exotic (and celibate!) travel is just the ticket for finding yourself;  and, then, clever thing that you are, you will convince a book publisher to bankroll your heroic year of feminine self-discovery.

You go girl.

Now, nothing mends a broken heart faster than a best-selling book and a movie deal, so please do mold your experiences to meet the expectations of our projected demographic: a sizeable subsection of American society that I would prefer to leave unidentified.   It’s a reliable market, reliably interested in itself.

We want to make this journey with you.  We want gorgeous locations.  We want quirky characters along the way, with funny accents and bad teeth.

Let’s have that scene where you struggle to fit into your skinny jeans, but, then, later in the book, you get your yoga body back.  (This is “Rocky” for women!) 

Shall we break it down a bit more?  Three countries, three themes:

  1. Italy (Pasta-Pizza-Gelato Binge): It’s a well-established fact: Step one in any girl’s recovery from heartbreak is food, preferably ice cream.  After a break-up, we retreat to our beds in fuzzy pajamas, a spoon and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in hand.  Act I expands (and expands!) on this theme.
  2. India  (Get thee to an Ashram!):   Our target audience likes spirituality more than religion.  Anyway, in the hierarchy of coolness of religions, this India stuff is way high.  At the ashram, at first, you fear that your cocktail-party volubility will hold you back.  Then, near the end of Act II, you have a real spiritual breakthrough, strains of Aladdin’s “A Whole New World” playing in the background.  Your mind now liberated by meditation, your body liberated by yoga, let’s hit the beach!
  3. Bali (“Reader, I Married Him” or some variation on that line):  Our focus groups have expressed interest in two possible plot resolutions in Act III:  Either you realize contentment in single womanhood or you find true love.  We like both.  Could go either way.  Except it can’t, because we’ve already seen the movie preview.  Remember Chekhov’s rule of dramatic structure:
  4. If there’s a Javier Bardem on the screen in the preview,
    he must fire by the end of the show. 

    Voila: Happy Ending.

I tell you, this is a winner.

Next, while the iron is hot, write a book about your embrace of matrimony. 

And, soon, we will be ready for your exploration of conception, pregnancy and childbirth. 

Working title:

Love, Eat, Pray

With deepest affection and entrepreneurial spirit,
your mother

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37 Responses to “A Letter to My Daughter about “Eat, Pray, Love””

  1. Mark Workman. August 22, 2010 at 9:06 am #

    Wunnerful, wunnerful as the Maestro of America’s all-time favorite big band–and certainly my favorite–would exclaime In this day of Lady Ga Ga and the certainty that both Elvis and Michael Jackson are gone I need all the help I can get in getting thru the day. Yes, Chekhov was on the money: if there is a revolver on the wall in scene one it will certainly go off in scene three. Keep those blogs coming, girl.

    • jenny August 22, 2010 at 9:35 pm #

      Just one thing: My daughter informs that it is Lady Gaga (one word). She is not without fans at our house.

      I have my doubts about her, but I have not yet broken one of her records over my knee as some adults in my childhood did so mercilessly with our music. 🙂

  2. Andreas Kluth August 22, 2010 at 9:13 am #

    This post is genius. And restrained as well (with some deliberate ambiguity, subtly placed).
    I’m forwarding this to my wife, who expresses the same opinions about E,P,L more forecefully at the the dinner table …
    I was going to give my own anti E,P,L Spiel now, but perhaps we should just let your post stand. It actually says it all.

    • jenny August 22, 2010 at 9:39 pm #

      Genius-schmenius, but forwarding to your wife…now this is something!

      You have effectively shut me up: Like George on Seinfeld, I feel I must leave on a high note.

  3. Cheri August 22, 2010 at 10:52 am #

    jenny,

    This post was worth waiting for.

    From the onset, the deliberateness of Eat Pray Love smacked of manipulation, but (as Andreas once explored in a post long ago), why do we write? For whom? And how and for what type of writing do we want to be remembered?

    I listened to an NPR interview last year with Joyce Carol Oates which I enjoyed very much. Wide-ranging and frank, the interview broached these very topics. Ms. Oates commented that one of her former students at Princeton, Jodi Picoult, was a highly successful and popular writer (like another Princeton graduate Jennifer Weiner) but not a writer that the established “critics” would value.

    I thought of another Princeton graduate, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

    We all have to admit one thing:

    Eat Pray Love was genius in its conception. The baby has been born. The savings account is full.

    Now she has the time and money to do what she wants.
    Who wouldn’t want those things?

    • jenny August 22, 2010 at 10:19 pm #

      Cheri,

      It doesn’t bother me that this book was written to make a buck, but let’s not pretend that it’s about something else.

      The Vagina Monologues also really annoy me. I could be in trouble for writing that, but there it is.

      • Cheri August 24, 2010 at 11:03 am #

        Shall we do a post on all the literary offenses committed every day?

        I’m sure you have read Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses by Mark Twain, right?

        Writers like Gilbert, Hollywood producers, and even New York Musicals are all selling something.

        We as the consumer have the right not to order, not to buy, not to view.

        I turned off our TV long ago (except for college football), pick and choose what I read on the internet, canceled my magazine subscriptions, and surrounded myself with employees and people who are intent on moving world society forward, not backward.

        It’s the only thing I have any power over…and even then, not much. That’s why I resorted to writing fairy tales, recently. They usually don’t irritate people.

        Soon, I won’t have time to write much of anything with school starting.

      • jenny August 25, 2010 at 5:20 pm #

        @Cheri: Your question about documenting literary offenses reminds me of one of my favorite moments in Christopher Guest’s A Mighty Wind: Jane Lynch (I think) reveals that she was subjected to a lot of abuse as a child…most of it musical.

        I guess you’re telling me that if I don’t like Gilbert’s book, I don’t have to buy it or read it. I think that’s why I wrote this as if it were a letter to my daughter: I want her to know that this is literary abuse.

  4. Thomas Stazyk August 22, 2010 at 3:31 pm #

    Brilliant. And don’t forget Tolstoy’s Rule of Travel Writing: “Unless your name is Bezukhov, patronize the locals while pretending to discern profound insights into life from them.”

    • jenny August 22, 2010 at 10:24 pm #

      Thomas, check this out: If all goes as planned, I will be making a trip to the Tolstoy estate in November.

      I am hoping that the locals will patronize me, even though I am not even remotely a Bezukhov. 🙂

      • Thomas Stazyk August 22, 2010 at 10:56 pm #

        That is fantastic! Can’t wait to hear all about it. Since it will be November a horse drawn sleigh will definitely be the mode of transport!

      • Jim M. August 23, 2010 at 7:25 pm #

        Jenny,

        Enjoy.

        Looking forward to

        Magnitogorsk Monologue: My Journey  to Self-Realization on the Slopes of the Russia’s Magnetic Mountain

        Can’t wait to read it!

  5. Libby August 22, 2010 at 8:00 pm #

    Wonderful. I just hope my daughter has the same experiences. I mean, talking someone into paying her to go on vacation, and then living off the royalties forever.

    • jenny August 23, 2010 at 5:45 am #

      …and buying her mother a home in the South of France.

  6. Nikki Henningham August 23, 2010 at 12:24 am #

    Bravo! And I thought it was just me who had that response to the book/multimedia event.

    I only wish I had been clever enough to spin that form of self indulgence from straw into gold.

    • jenny August 23, 2010 at 5:48 am #

      Hi Nikki! I’d be happy to spin any form of self-indulgence into gold.

      Sadly, the world is not interested in my journey of self-discovery in Voronezh, Magnitogorsk and Rostov-na-Donu. Can’t understand why.

  7. Jim M. August 23, 2010 at 2:02 pm #

    Jenny,

    Every one of your posts is a gem.

    This one reminds me of a cartoon I recall. A bunch of gangsters are huddled over the plans for their next heist. One of them says, 

    “Sure, it’ll work. But is there a good book in it afterwards?”

    • jenny August 24, 2010 at 6:28 am #

      Wow. Thanks. And you haven’t even read Magnitogorsk Monologue yet. 🙂

  8. Mr. Crotchety August 23, 2010 at 5:22 pm #

    As your father (like that matters), I have three words for your working title: Vac-cin-ate. For crying out loud, the water in India practically crawls upstream, Italy has foreigners everywhere (hellooo), and don’t get me started with Bali.

    @ Nikki, I’m with you. I only wish…

    • jenny August 24, 2010 at 6:24 am #

      Reliably crotchety! Thanks for playing.

  9. Nikki Henningham August 23, 2010 at 5:38 pm #

    Jenny, I’m not so sure that you aren’t on a money spinner there. I’ve just googled (is that a real verb?) Voronezh. References to a well run marriage agency and an experience with aliens appear in the top ten hits. Surely you can do something with that?

    • jenny August 24, 2010 at 6:38 am #

      Nikki: I’ll work on it.

      All roads lead to Voronezh.

  10. Jim M. August 23, 2010 at 7:28 pm #

    Jenny,

    All this talk of tailoring one’s writing to an audience reminds me of one unpublished author’s reaction to a publisher’s two letters, offering first rejection, then encouragement:
     
    Dear friend.

    Your letter gave no Drunkenness, because I tasted Rum before — 
    Domingo comes but once — 
    yet I have had few pleasures so deep as your opinion, 
    and if I tried to thank you, 
    my tears would block my tongue —

    Your second letter surprised me, 
    and for a moment, swung — 
    I had not supposed it. 
    Your first — 
    gave no dishonor, 
    because the True — 
    are not ashamed —
     
    I thanked you for your justice — 
    but could not drop the Bells whose jingling cooled my Tramp — 
    Perhaps the Balm, 
    seemed better, 
    because you bled me, 
    first.
     
    I smile when you suggest that I delay “to publish” — 
    that being foreign to my thought, 
    as Firmament to Fin—
     
    If fame belonged to me, 
    I could not escape her — 
    if she did not,
    the longest day would pass me on the chase — 
    and the approbation of my Dog, 
    would forsake me — 
    then—
    My Barefoot—
    Rank is better — 

    You think my gait “spasmodic” — 
    I am in danger — 
    Sir — 
    You think me “uncontrolled” — 
    I have no Tribunal.
     
    Would you have time to be the “friend” you should think I need? 
    I have a little shape — 
    it would not crowd your Desk — 
    nor make much Racket as the Mouse, that dents your Galleries —
     
    If I might bring you what I do — 
    not so frequent to trouble you — 
    and ask you if I told it clear — 
    ‘twould be control, 
    to me —
     
    The Sailor cannot see the North — 
    but knows the Needle can — 
    The “hand you stretch me in the Dark,” I put mine in, 
    and turn away — 

    Your friend

    E Dickinson—

    • jenny August 24, 2010 at 6:16 am #

      Jim,

      This is beautiful. Thank you.

      In light of Ms. Dickinson’s words (looks funny for her to be “Ms”, doesn’t it?) and in keeping with the current theme on the HB, I say: forget publishers. Magnitogorsk Monologue can make it on its own. Thanks for getting the buzz started early. 😉

      • Cheri August 24, 2010 at 11:06 am #

        I had made that decision about 6 months ago. My sister is an illustrator and graphic designer. We shall write/illustrate, print, and market our own book.

        Andreas’ experience has taught me that much.

      • dafna August 25, 2010 at 11:35 pm #

        best of luck on your book cheri!

        please keep us posted. may we have a clue on the genre?

        i am happy to hear that along with your fine writing there will be a graphic designer and illustrator involve to distinguish the book.

  11. lyndabirde August 24, 2010 at 4:21 pm #

    Can’t wait! As always, loving your audience’s comments.

  12. Richard August 25, 2010 at 3:04 pm #

    Dear Jenny,

    I tried to invent a limerick about this but it wasn’t worthy of you so I left it at home.

    There will be a small charge.

    Richard

  13. jenny August 25, 2010 at 5:27 pm #

    Dear Richard,

    I appreciate efforts at limericks almost as much as the limericks themselves, and I’m sure it was all billable time.

    You do take modesty to new heights. I am left to play the yankee: brash and loud, barely taking the straw out of my mouth before speaking.

    • Cheri August 26, 2010 at 9:42 pm #

      @dafna,
      Gee thanks Dafna. I admire you in more ways than you will ever know.

      I’m going to develop this assisted living little fairy tale I am working on.

      @Richard,
      You are the most modest man I know.

      • Richard August 27, 2010 at 12:11 am #

        You are right. It’s something I’m very, very proud of.

  14. annieem September 4, 2010 at 9:25 pm #

    Thanks for pointing me here, Jenny! I enjoyed your post! I’m actually curious about Gilbert’s next book, so maybe, despite agreeing with you that the formular, the book deal, etc etc undermines the whole “she’s just like us!” feeling we sort of want in a memoir, it was truly a lovely fantasy.

    • jenny September 5, 2010 at 10:01 am #

      Well, annieem, you have more generosity of spirit than I have, I think. 🙂

      About “Committed”, I do wonder what kind of audience it can expect. I remember from Don Juan:

      “Romances paint at full length peoples’ wooings,
      But only give a bust of marriages,
      For no one cares of matriomonial cooings;
      There’s nothing wrong in a connubial kiss.
      Think you, if Laura had been Petrarch’s wife,
      He would have written sonnets all his life?”

      or that anybody would bother reading them, if he had?

      Thanks for stopping by.

      • Andreas Kluth September 5, 2010 at 10:07 am #

        You have a knack for pulling, from the entire canon of world literature, the most pertinent snippet to make any point.
        Who’s your research assistant?

      • jenny September 5, 2010 at 11:03 am #

        Well, thanks.

        I say to my research assistant: “O this learning, what a thing it is!”

        She reminds me of the line that follows: “O this woodcock, what an ass it is!”

        🙂

  15. Chris October 28, 2010 at 10:46 am #

    Marvelous, I say, marvelous! At the line, “(This is ‘Rocky’ for women!)” I laughed out loud in the Starbucks where I get my internet, earning a suspicious glance from the woman two tables across from me.

    I will use this opportunity to share a link myself: Ha-HA! It was actually written by my girlfriend, but with a similar assessment regarding the movie’s overall worth.

    You’ve officially hooked me. My blog is also about nothing, but I hope you aren’t a stranger.

  16. Chris October 28, 2010 at 10:47 am #

    PS – I celebrate Lady Gaga 😉

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