Positive Personality – Elizabeth Gilbert
By Elva Carri
We meet the author of Eat, Pray Love.
Elizabeth Gilbert is the captivating author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, famous for remaining on the New York Times Bestseller list for 187 consecutive weeks and later being made into the film of the same name. I met with Elizabeth to talk about her new book, ideal days and lush language.
Listen to the full interview here
Tell us about The Signature of All things? It’s a big fat, giant, epic, multi-generational 19th century novel about a family of botanical explorers. It stars a woman named Alma Whittaker, who is a great female scientist, a towering intellectual. I think of her as tree among flowers at a time in history when women were meant to be invisible. I really wanted to write the kind of novel I’ve always loved to read. At every point in your life if you’re an artist or a creator or whatever your work is, you should produce what you love.
If Italy was Eat, India was Pray and Bali was love, do you have a word for Ireland? Lush! It’s lush botanically, my book is about a woman who studies mosses and I was seeing moss everywhere – indoors, outdoors, on roofs, in sidewalks. But there’s also lushness to the language. The Irish variety of the English language is the lushest; the most delicious and juicy. And there’s a lushness to the spirit as well.
What’s an ideal day for you? An uninterrupted afternoon of reading. A day spent doing nothing but reading is paradise for me.
How do you deal with challenges? My operative adage is that a puzzle is just a crisis with the volume turned down and I think I’ve figured out how to not amplify puzzles into crises. It’s a puzzle of thinking and action where you take a step back, take a deep breath, look at the situation from a distance and try to be curious about it rather than being completely panic stricken by it.
The other thing I love is, my favourite poet, Jack Gilbert said, “We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.” and to me that’s everything. He doesn’t deny that the world is a ruthless furnace, he saw the whole picture, the sorrow, the suffering, he didn’t deny its savage pain, but we must stubbornly seek miraculousness and goodness and gladness. And I feel like that’s my daily practice.
You said it’s not the world’s responsibility to remember you but your own. How do you do that? I think sometimes we look outwardly for proof of who we are. And that’s a really dangerous idea. It can be satisfying if somebody adores you or things are going well and you get your little jolt of adrenaline but if somebody slanders you or misunderstands you, you can really flounder in a way that can become gravely serious to your sense of yourself. I think the synonym for adulthood is self-accountability – rigorous self accountability; no happiness, maturity or creativity without self accountability, it’s just not possible, those things don’t co exist.
You talked last night about your efforts to be one of the boys in the past. Has that changed? I’m at ease with men but, I’m no longer fascinated by them. When I was young I was really fascinated by them, I really wanted to know and understand what men were. Now i’m so much more interested in women and I feel like there’s almost no limit to what I can learn from women. And I really can’t stop trying to encourage women to put their voices into the world, I’m really strong and fierce on that. There are still very real obstacles. It is nonetheless the best moment in human history to be a woman. You have more possibility, more open doors, more pathways cleared. At a certain point I realised that if I were holding myself back, that’s my own fault. Generations of women before me who had far less than I do, made tremendous contributions and if I can’t do it now then come on!
Elizabeth’s new book, ‘The Signature of All Things’ is available now in book stores and online. www.elizabethgilbert.com