When Oprah Lets Me Down.

I'm always on the lookout for suggestions for my next read. We have a somewhat limited existence here, so I rely a lot on Amazon reviews, other people's blogs (a.k.a. Heather's), and my instincts. Mostly, I end up happy. Veganomicon, my current favorite book (I read cookbooks like regular books), was a purchase based solely on an Amazon 5-star rating, along with photos taken by vegans and omnivores worldwide of the amazing feasts they'd made using the book. I was happy. It was worth it. The novels I've read so far this year have either been "classics" or had come highly recommended by the same rating system and so far...so good. With the exception of Atonement, which I KNOW everyone seems to love, but which I have now read twice and finished, both times, less than enthused about.

It wasn't the first time I have reread a book to make sure I wasn't missing *that thing* that makes a good book really great. I am a fast reader and used to have a bad habit of skimming books. Even though I could still replay the story line as well as someone who had concentrated on every word, the thought that I had missed something was always in the back of my mind. However, each time that one of those books is rereleased with an Oprah sticker on it, I confess that it pushes me to read it again. I'm no big fan of Oprah's, but I figure that the sticker implies a certain level of readership that would cause the book to deserve a second chance. It was because of that sticker that I fell in love with Love in the Time of Cholera, by far the best book I've read this year.

However, sometimes that sticker lets me down.

Every time I get on a plane, which is actually pretty often, I buy a new book for the trip. There is no rhyme or reason to my choices for airplane reads, but it's one of the little rituals I look forward to, now that air travel itself has lost all appeal to me. Though, I have to admit that because I live here, airport shopping has now reached a whole new level. Back in October, I purchased a copy of Eat, Pray, Love at Costco for $9.99. I'd read reviews, but it was still fairly new, and so difficult to judge based on those alone. I decided to save it for the trip (my move), and put it inside my carry-on suitcase so that I wouldn't be tempted to start it before leaving. By the time I left, the book had gained serious popularity. It was like some sort of phenomenon...the reading of which famed to be some sort of life-changing experience. I was excited to be reading it at such a critical point in my life and hoped, somewhat näively, that I would glean something profound from it. I opened it the second I'd gotten settled in aisle 12D and dug in.

The book, in case you haven't read it, is split into three sections...or four, if you count her little introduction where she explains why and how the book was written and her meaning behind it. Without giving away the story line to anyone who hasn't already lost hours of their life to it, she cheats on her husband, goes through a very messy divorce and decides to spend a year finding herself in various different ways in Italy, India and Indonesia. In that order. Italy was great. India made me want to rip my hair out (or hers, preferably), and I didn't even get through all of Indonesia. She essentially whines her way through a year, eating in Italy, meditating her way to hallucination in India, and...well, I don't really know what she was up to in Indonesia because it was just THAT boring. In short, I didn't like it. At all.

Still, the book gained more and more popularity, Oprah jumped on the train, and women everywhere were touting it for it's deep, purposeful and profound messages. Like Atonement, it made me doubt my reading skills and wonder if I had missed the whole point. Was it really that good? Did I give it a fair chance? So, instead of buying a new book when we went to Mexico in February, I packed Eat, Pray, Love up for a second go. I cracked it open on a beach chair beside the pool, ready for that "aha" moment that would explain what everyone was so excited about. Again, I loved the part about Italy...and it was a steady decline from there on out. No dice, people. I would be happy to ship my copy to anyone who wants to give it a try.

But, that being said, I know that there are a LOT of people out there who absolutely adore this book and to them I send a virtual thumbs-up for "getting" what I seem to have missed. Maybe I just don't get why all the whining is necessary, coming from someone able to take a year out of her life, with no worries about money or other responsibilities, with a green light to do absolutely whatever she wants. I know I'm not alone in this view...there are a lot of people standing on my side of the fence as well. My Mom is one of them, so maybe it's a genetic thing.

My latest book is Pillars of the Earth, which my Mom was reading while we were in Mexico. She had the Oprah edition, which was printed on the heaviest paper imaginable. This is unfortunate when the book is 973 pages long. Come on, Oprah. The thing weighed 5 pounds, at least. I ordered the non-Oprah edition, printed on cheaper paper, and I can comfortably carry it from Point A to Point B (literally, an issue with the other one) and have just gotten sucked in by the first 10 pages. I can tell I'm going to love this book. Ever since my day at Salisbury Cathedral in 2006, I've been dying to go see others, so this book is right up my alley.


Heather said...

Pillars sucked me in right away too. James also loved it.
And I'm about half way through "World Without End" the so-called sequel, though it was written first (but takes place 200 years later). Also very good.

I would like to read Eat, Pray, Love. Feel free to ship it anytime ;-)

I have found a great little used bookstore about 32 seconds up the road from our place and it's going to save me money - you can bring the books back for store credit. Not that this is a new concept or anything, just a new one for me. Convenience always wins.

Ps. I still really liked "Atonement".

Heather said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I was given Eat, Pray, Love as a birthday gift and was very excited to dig right in. What a let down! I asked several people while reading it if I was an idiot because I just didn't understand the deeper meaning! I kind of felt like an 8 yr old kid with the attention span of a gnat because I couldn't stay on track! :o)
SO very glad I'm not the only one that found that a boring read!

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