Unfinished: Committed – Elizabeth Gilbert [TSS]

Title: Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Genre: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Source: Publisher

When I received Committed for review, I put it on the back-burner for awhile.  Middling reviews, coupled with the fact that I wasn’t really that interested in reading it, made me decide to prioritize it pretty low.  However, I noticed it recently and decided I’d give it a try.  After all, it’s about Gilbert’s exploration into marriages in other cultures.  I love reading books about travel and that part of it sounded interesting, so even if I wasn’t her biggest fan, the book had to have some redeeming qualities, right?  Right??

Wrong.

To be fair, I only made it 35 pages into the book, which is probably a record for me – I usually give a book until at least page 75.  And the cultural tidbits were indeed interesting, but Gilbert was unbelievable.  Her preconceptions, prejudices, and utter ignorance made me so angry that I couldn’t continue with this memoir.  Case in point:

“In the modern industrialized Western world, where I come from, the person whom you choose to marry is perhaps the single most vivid representation of your own personality.  Your spouse becomes the most gleaming possible mirror through which your emotional individualism is reflected back into the world.”

Umm…no?  Doesn’t the fact that it’s your individualism mean that your spouse cannot be a mirror, because you are both individuals?  Granted, I’m not an expert on marriage and haven’t been married for long, but my husband and I have different personalities.  We definitely complement each other in some ways, but we diverge in others.  He is most definitely not a representation of my personality nor a mirror to my emotional individualism.  We are both our own independent people.

“If you ask any typical modern Western woman how she met her husband, when she met her husband, and why she fell in love with her husband, you can be plenty sure that you will be told a complete, complex, and deeply personal narrative which that woman has not only spun carefully around the entire experience, but which she has memorized, internalized, and scrutinized for clues as to her own selfhood.”

What????  I really hope that the story of how I met my husband is not a deeply personal narrative because WE MET IN A BAR.  Not much spinning I could do about that, and even if I could, I wouldn’t want to.  Sure people ask, and I respond truthfully, but clearly, this is not crucial to my selfhood.  I can’t say I really know anyone who has constructed some grand tale about how they met their spouse (though sometimes the stories are really good on their own).  People I know don’t define themselves through their spouses, nor do they deconstruct how and when they met their spouses, and when they fell in love, for clues to their own identity.  That’s one of the most ridiculous and ignorant generalizations about Western women I’ve ever heard.

“Whatever the details, you can be certain that the modern Western woman’s love story will have been examined by her from every possible angle, and that, over the years, her narrative will have been either hammered into a golden epic myth or embalmed into a bitter cautionary tale.”

I’m sorry, but I don’t know anyone, male or female, who defines themselves through their spouse the way that Gilbert thinks every single Western woman does.  (Also?  Seriously, you think Scandinavian women, who are trending towards not even getting married to their male partners anymore, fit into these ridiculous generalizations?  Get your adjectives correct, you’re talking about American women, even though you don’t know much about them either.)  My love story with my husband isn’t an epic myth.  I don’t even really consider it a love story – I’ve never thought of it that way.  I love him, he loves me, we work together to be happy – that’s about all the thought I, and most people I know, have given it. 

I realize this is not a nice review.  I also realize that, at the end of the book, Gilbert might revise her opinions on American women and marriage, and come to the conclusion that she has no idea what she’s talking about.  But I wasn’t willing to give it that chance.  I don’t want to read a book by someone who starts out with such painful preconceptions that she applies to all Western women, rather than just her experiences.  After reading these pages, though, I can understand why GIlbert was so ambivalent about marriage if this is what she thought it was.  There has to be a reason for her strange ideas, and they might have been revealed, had I kept reading.

This is likely going to be the longest “Unfinished” review I ever write, and I wasn’t sure if I should even write it, considering I got 35 pages into the book before putting it down.  But I think it’s important to get my views across, especially because I felt so strongly about these passages in the book.  I certainly hope that Gilbert came to a place of peace with the idea of marriage by the end of the book, and understood that while getting married and the person you pick is incredibly important, examining how you met your husband is not vital to your own identity.

Edit: After writing this review, I discussed Committed with some Twitter people, and Natasha from 1330v informed me that, later in the book, Gilbert discusses the marriages in her family and it becomes clear why she has such a warped view of marriage.  I think this information would have been very helpful earlier in the book, as well as Gilbert presenting the musings above as opinion, rather than broad generalizations.  If I had been cognizant of those details when reading these sections, I may have chosen to continue with the memoir.

Comments

  1. Love this review. I think Gilbert has become a little over-confident in her successes, and may just think anything she writes is going to be insightful and regarded with awe. I have a serious attitude towards both of her books and movie. I’m not buying what she is selling.

  2. Love this review. I think Gilbert has become a little over-confident in her successes, and may just think anything she writes is going to be insightful and regarded with awe. I have a serious attitude towards both of her books and movie. I’m not buying what she is selling.

  3. I forced myself to keep going in Committed, but I never enjoyed it. Very disappointing.

  4. I forced myself to keep going in Committed, but I never enjoyed it. Very disappointing.

  5. I hadn’t planned on reading this one, but I have enjoyed the articulation of your thoughts. It’s interesting that she made statements like that without qualifying them a bit more.

  6. I hadn’t planned on reading this one, but I have enjoyed the articulation of your thoughts. It’s interesting that she made statements like that without qualifying them a bit more.

  7. This book sounds awful! I agree that warped thoughts should have been discussed earlier. There is so much emphasis on retaining your own identity nowadays, where has she got mirroring from?

  8. This book sounds awful! I agree that warped thoughts should have been discussed earlier. There is so much emphasis on retaining your own identity nowadays, where has she got mirroring from?

  9. Anonymous says:

    I only read Eat, Pray, Love to see what had captured the imagination. As a longtime meditator, I found the Pray part to be insufferable. As a well-traveled American, I was really embarrassed by the Love part. I really had hoped that Americans had become slighly more worldly. I am not at all surprised by the excerpts you quoted which is the reason why I would never be able to get to Page 1.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I only read Eat, Pray, Love to see what had captured the imagination. As a longtime meditator, I found the Pray part to be insufferable. As a well-traveled American, I was really embarrassed by the Love part. I really had hoped that Americans had become slighly more worldly. I am not at all surprised by the excerpts you quoted which is the reason why I would never be able to get to Page 1.

  11. I’ve never read Gilbert and honestly don’t plan on it, but just from the quotes you’ve given, I think the problem is possibly language. For example, I think (perhaps hope?) what Gilbert meant in the first quote is not that your husband’s personality is a mirror of your own, but that your choice of him as your husband is the representation of YOUR personality and vice versa. I see that. It’s abstract and in no way a fact, but I get it. You made that choice and it’s one way other people can understand you. I’m still not interested in reading Gilbert anytime soon and your review reminded me of that 😉

  12. I’ve never read Gilbert and honestly don’t plan on it, but just from the quotes you’ve given, I think the problem is possibly language. For example, I think (perhaps hope?) what Gilbert meant in the first quote is not that your husband’s personality is a mirror of your own, but that your choice of him as your husband is the representation of YOUR personality and vice versa. I see that. It’s abstract and in no way a fact, but I get it. You made that choice and it’s one way other people can understand you. I’m still not interested in reading Gilbert anytime soon and your review reminded me of that 😉

  13. I burst out laughing when I saw this post, because about a month ago, I made an almost identical one on my personal blog after reading this very excerpt from Committed in an article from The Atlantic. I read a lot and never ever have I come across a writer who made me rage as much as Elizabeth Gilbert does. For someone to pretend to be an authority on marriage after walking out on her husband due to boredom is the ultimate hypocrisy, never mind the selfishness, ignorance and outright stupidity this woman exemplifies in every word she writes.

  14. I burst out laughing when I saw this post, because about a month ago, I made an almost identical one on my personal blog after reading this very excerpt from Committed in an article from The Atlantic. I read a lot and never ever have I come across a writer who made me rage as much as Elizabeth Gilbert does. For someone to pretend to be an authority on marriage after walking out on her husband due to boredom is the ultimate hypocrisy, never mind the selfishness, ignorance and outright stupidity this woman exemplifies in every word she writes.

  15. I liked parts of Eat, Pray, Love, but have zero interest in this new one. And I refuse to see the movie.

    I had to laugh at your comment that you met your husband in a bar, though, as that’s where I met my boyfriend.

  16. I liked parts of Eat, Pray, Love, but have zero interest in this new one. And I refuse to see the movie.

    I had to laugh at your comment that you met your husband in a bar, though, as that’s where I met my boyfriend.

  17. I didn’t read Eat Pray Love, because on principle I avoid books that Oprah recommends, but after reading review after review calling Gilbert, among other things “self absorbed” I am glad I avoided the trap.

    Now I can assure you that I will avoid Ms Gilbert totally & completely.

    Great review!

  18. I didn’t read Eat Pray Love, because on principle I avoid books that Oprah recommends, but after reading review after review calling Gilbert, among other things “self absorbed” I am glad I avoided the trap.

    Now I can assure you that I will avoid Ms Gilbert totally & completely.

    Great review!

  19. Anonymous says:

    Hi Charlotte’s Web..
    Based on a different principle, though, don’t pass on A Fine Balance. That is an exquisite book and would be a shame to miss it.

    I already made a comment (anonymous above), but can recommend the real Eat, Pray, Love which is Last Seen in Lhasa by Claire Scobie. THIS is the one that should have climbed to the top of the list.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Hi Charlotte’s Web..
    Based on a different principle, though, don’t pass on A Fine Balance. That is an exquisite book and would be a shame to miss it.

    I already made a comment (anonymous above), but can recommend the real Eat, Pray, Love which is Last Seen in Lhasa by Claire Scobie. THIS is the one that should have climbed to the top of the list.

  21. You had me giggling at the “we met in a bar!” comment. Based on your comments it almost sounds as if the author has this over romantacized view of marriage where every Western woman has some “pretty woman” moment with her man. So rediculous.

    You may not have finished this memoir but I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the bits you did.

  22. You had me giggling at the “we met in a bar!” comment. Based on your comments it almost sounds as if the author has this over romantacized view of marriage where every Western woman has some “pretty woman” moment with her man. So rediculous.

    You may not have finished this memoir but I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the bits you did.

  23. I have to thank you for this post! I read “Eat, Pray, Love” a while ago (maybe a year or two? Back when it was THE book to read) and found Elizabeth Gilbert to be nothing short of a raging narcissist. I’ve held onto that opinion–I have opted not to see the movie, even though turning down a Julia Roberts flick is never easy. But, I was actually considering reading this book in hopes that maybe, just maybe, Gilbert grew up a bit. While you may only have read 35 pages of the book, I must say thank you for taking that bullet for us! Any desire I have to read Committed is now gone.

  24. I have to thank you for this post! I read “Eat, Pray, Love” a while ago (maybe a year or two? Back when it was THE book to read) and found Elizabeth Gilbert to be nothing short of a raging narcissist. I’ve held onto that opinion–I have opted not to see the movie, even though turning down a Julia Roberts flick is never easy. But, I was actually considering reading this book in hopes that maybe, just maybe, Gilbert grew up a bit. While you may only have read 35 pages of the book, I must say thank you for taking that bullet for us! Any desire I have to read Committed is now gone.

  25. Oh barf!! I’m surprised you made it page 35. Haaaaa!!!! I don’t even know the date when I met Mr. BFR. We think we met at a Christmas party, but we’re not really sure about that. I guess I’m just not your typical romantic Western woman. I have no myth about my relationship with my husband. And my relationship with him is not at all what defines me or how I think of myself.

  26. Oh barf!! I’m surprised you made it page 35. Haaaaa!!!! I don’t even know the date when I met Mr. BFR. We think we met at a Christmas party, but we’re not really sure about that. I guess I’m just not your typical romantic Western woman. I have no myth about my relationship with my husband. And my relationship with him is not at all what defines me or how I think of myself.

  27. I read and enjoyed Eat Pray Love when I read it in 2008 and I want to re-read it this year for the Flashback Challenge. I was in a similar place as Gilbert was when I read it and so I identified a lot with it and the book actually helped me to move on from an abusive relationship that I was kind of stuck in a spiral about.

    With that said, I haven’t really had much interest in any of Gilbert’s other books. From what I have read and heard she seems to be a one-hit-wonder. Her views on marriage are definitely an over-romanticized view and do not reflect in any way the modern American woman’s view of marriage. Like you said, she may have changed her viewpoint later, but how many people are going to stick around to find out?

  28. I read and enjoyed Eat Pray Love when I read it in 2008 and I want to re-read it this year for the Flashback Challenge. I was in a similar place as Gilbert was when I read it and so I identified a lot with it and the book actually helped me to move on from an abusive relationship that I was kind of stuck in a spiral about.

    With that said, I haven’t really had much interest in any of Gilbert’s other books. From what I have read and heard she seems to be a one-hit-wonder. Her views on marriage are definitely an over-romanticized view and do not reflect in any way the modern American woman’s view of marriage. Like you said, she may have changed her viewpoint later, but how many people are going to stick around to find out?

  29. Gilbert sounds like a pretentious ass, and I am sure this book is not for me. Very awesome review on this one!!

  30. Gilbert sounds like a pretentious ass, and I am sure this book is not for me. Very awesome review on this one!!

  31. This woman is a pistol! This just goes to show that ANYONE can get a book published about ANYTHING. Thanks for warning me about this one, I think I’ll pass on reading it!

  32. This woman is a pistol! This just goes to show that ANYONE can get a book published about ANYTHING. Thanks for warning me about this one, I think I’ll pass on reading it!

  33. To read Elizabeth Gilbert you must constantly think “well, aren’t you precious?” in your best Southern accent. I slogged through both EPL and Committed and agree with your entire review!

  34. To read Elizabeth Gilbert you must constantly think “well, aren’t you precious?” in your best Southern accent. I slogged through both EPL and Committed and agree with your entire review!

  35. Loved your review. If you can find so much to dislike in merely 35 pages, it really makes no sense to continue.

    I kind of get pissed off by generalized statements too. I’m staying away from this one.

  36. Loved your review. If you can find so much to dislike in merely 35 pages, it really makes no sense to continue.

    I kind of get pissed off by generalized statements too. I’m staying away from this one.

  37. I really don’t think this is true for anyone at all.. leave alone American women.. Of course there are some poeple who do it.. but ti will be like a horrid generalization :-/

  38. I really don’t think this is true for anyone at all.. leave alone American women.. Of course there are some poeple who do it.. but ti will be like a horrid generalization :-/

  39. Wow. I…wow. It’s like she took all the worst stereotypes you find of women in bad romantic comedies and tried to pass them off as fact. Not only are they gross generalizations, they kind of make women as a whole seem ridiculous. Not something I am interested in reading.

  40. Wow. I…wow. It’s like she took all the worst stereotypes you find of women in bad romantic comedies and tried to pass them off as fact. Not only are they gross generalizations, they kind of make women as a whole seem ridiculous. Not something I am interested in reading.

  41. Oh, wow. Those quotes are absolutely atrocious. I do not fault you one bit for putting the book down after 35 pages. Don’t think I’ll be picking this one up any time soon!

  42. Oh, wow. Those quotes are absolutely atrocious. I do not fault you one bit for putting the book down after 35 pages. Don’t think I’ll be picking this one up any time soon!

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