Malibu readers devour ‘Eat, Pray, Love’

Author Elizabeth Gilbert will sign copies of her book "Eat, Pray, Love" Sunday at Diesel, A Bookstore.

At thirtysomething, acclaimed author and journalist Elizabeth Gilbert found herself sobbing hysterically on her bathroom floor praying for a change in her life. The turning point came after a painful divorce and coping with depression when Gilbert set off on a personal journey of self-discovery and soul-searching to find balance and happiness. Currently number one on the New York Times bestseller list, “Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia” is a chronicle of Gilbert’s yearlong travels while she explored who she is and what really makes her happy.

Divided into three sections and further told in 36 short segments, the spiritual travelogue takes the reader on Gilbert’s stops in Italy, India and Indonesia. In Italy, Gilbert looked to master the art of pleasure while studying Italian and eating enough to gain “the happiest 23 pounds of her life.” While in India, she studied meditation and yoga, and in Bali, Gilbert apprenticed with a medicine man and fell in love.

Having penned several books and magazine articles (she regularly contributes to GQ magazine, in which a memoir she wrote became the story for the film “Coyote Ugly”), Gilbert does not see a difference between writing fiction and nonfiction. “I’m a fiction writer and a nonfiction writer, and in the end, it’s all the same writing muscles,” she said. “It’s just a question of what story needs to be told next and how.”

When she began writing “Eat, Pray, Love” she had no idea that it was going to be so very personal. “It didn’t occur to me to hold anything back about myself. I just wanted to write my way through this story, and I didn’t leave out anything that the story needed,” the New Jersey resident said. “My friends who read the book in manuscript said, ‘Man, this is really personal. Are you comfortable with that?’ and that’s the first I even thought of it, or realized how much I had exposed myself.”

Never having been a private person to begin with, Gilbert said she never got that filter which tells you maybe you don’t have to share everything with everybody, which could be why she wrote so openly.

“But I also believe that, if you’re going to do something, you should do it completely-what’s the point of the impersonal memoir?” Gilbert asked. “It’s been an interesting experience, now that the book is out there in the world, to see what that self-exposure really means. I meet people who say, ‘I feel like I already know you, after reading your book.’ In point of fact, they do. Or rather, they sort of know me. They know very well the person who I was at the time I wrote the book, as I was living those experiences.”

Several years have passed since Gilbert wrote “Eat, Pray, Love” and she said a lot has happened in those years. “I’ve altered with time, as we all do,” Gilbert said. “I doubt I’ll ever be quite so flagrantly self-revealing on the page again, if only because now I’ll be a little self-conscious about it and also because of certain ways in which I’ve grown up in the last few years.”

Gilbert continued to say that while she does not regret exposing so much of herself, which the story called for, she also sees that her deeply personal journey is similar to other’s journeys too.

Gilbert said she does not hang too much of her identity on either the really great or the really bad reviews. “Sometimes I find I can learn things from [reviewers] like ‘Oh, right, I didn’t realize I have that weakness in my work’ but mostly, by the time my books have been published, they don’t belong to me anymore so much,” she said. “All my intimacy with them is during the writing. After that, it becomes sort of a job-a job that I enjoy, but still a job.”

“Eat, Pray, Love” has been a bestseller at Diesel since the book was published in hardcover, said Leslie Graham, events coordinator for the Malibu and Oakland Diesel stores. Having been on the “Diesel 100” list in both stores, Graham said customers who bought the book based on the staff’s recommendations are coming back and buying multiple copies to give as gifts.

“The reason’ Eat, Pray, Love is selling so well is because sophisticated world travelers interested in spirituality and love, and of course food, populate Malibu in strong numbers,” Graham said.

Gilbert will be at Diesel, A Bookstore Saturday, at 3 p.m., to read and sign her book. Diesel is located at 3890 Cross Creek Rd. More information can be obtained by calling 310.456.9961.