This blogging thing is tricky.  Last week I felt this huge sense of relief after we officially “launched” The A Team. I wrote my first post, I emailed everyone I knew and told them about the blog – I felt like I had accomplished something. Then it hit me: I would have to do this again.  In fact, to keep up my end of the bargain, I would have to write something –and ideally something clever – every week.

 

This is my third attempt at this post.  All is quiet on the All Unquiet Things front right now.  Anna got a high five from her editor for the revisions she handed in (she can tell you more about that) and it will be a few weeks before we have a cover for the book, so I had to look to myself for fodder for this post.  My first two tries were wordy musings about finding balance in my reading life in and out of work. I wanted desperately to publish them and cross “write awesome blog post” off my to-do list, but I knew, as only someone who edits for a living can, that each attempt to expound on my reading plies reeked of forced, inflated gravitas. I read a lot and sometimes, I spend my weekends reading work related materials. Other times, I don’t.  I love that I get to do both. There’s not much more to say.  So I deleted my thoughts about my piles of “need to read” books and took some of the advice I often find myself giving to writers: write what comes naturally. 

 

Here goes: for the last few days I have been thinking about a Balinese woman and a boiled potato and so, I’d like to go for broke and admit something else:  I think that I sort-of, on some level, enjoyed parts of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I picked the book up for research. It’s true – there are a few travelogue-esque projects that have come across my desk lately and I didn’t know enough about the genre.  I am not someone who reads spiritual journey narratives for fun, so I was skeptical when I started reading about Gilbert’s year-long travels through Italy, India and Indonesia is search of herself after a messy divorce.  It took me a long time to warm up to this book.  This might be because I am cynical by nature, but for those of you who have read it, you have to admit that there is a lot of crying and shaking on bathroom floors.  And I’m just not that into the public divulging of one’s crying and shaking moments.  It was sort of like a game at work, every day I’d come into the office and report that I still wasn’t feeling anything – no matter how many women stopped me on the train platform to tell me how the book changed their lives.  Gilbert’s walking tour of Rome made me want to go back for another visit, but I was far from wanting to meditate with a scented candle before bed.  Then Gilbert got to Bali (aka the Indonesian leg of her world tour) and before I knew what was happening, I started welling up.  In the midst of dealing with her personal drama, Gilbert would provide these wonderful comments on the people and culture of Baliand whatever wall I had going into this research project started to give. My breaking point came when – and in the spirit of full disclosure, I guess this is kind of a spoiler alert – Gilbert described how she befriended the wife of Ketut, the aged medicine man she was studying with in Bali.  This woman wasn’t Gilbert’s biggest fan when she first arrived, but after Gilbert took strides to preserve Ketut’s writings by photocopying his crumbling tomes of herbal remedies, the wife warmed up to her.  To show her appreciation, the wife would bring Gilbert whatever little gifts she could spare, one day it was a cup of coffee – a rare commodity in Bali, we’re told – and the next day she brought Gilbert a boiled potato.  This image got to me.  In a nation where gift certificates to spas and fruit baskets are exchanged without any real intention behind the action, this simple gift of a boiled potato held such significance, such a heart-felt “thank you.”  I haven’t been able to shake the scene since.  So what did I learn from my research?  Maybe the secret of the success of Eat, Pray, Love is that it will eventually get to you. Some readers will find solace in the crying and shaking, while others will find themselves rethinking how they say “thank you” to others.

 

I guess we can chalk that up to my first reading confession of 2009.

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