Elizabeth Gilbert's memoirs begin in crisis.
In Eat, Pray, Love, she's on her bathroom floor at three in the morning, desperate to end her marriage.
In the just-published sequel, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, Felipe -- the Brazilian she loves too much to marry -- is detained by Homeland Security as he tries to enter the United States and, six hours of interrogation later, is jailed and deported. (In fact, not really "deported," because he had a valid visa, a business in America and no criminal past; Homeland Security just decided he was coming to America too often.)
How can Felipe re-enter the United States? Well, if he and Liz were married... Now, if you or I were writing Committed -- hell, if almost anyone were writing it -- the book would be a closely reported narrative exposing the policies of our government in a time when terrorists seem to enter our country freely and grandmothers are strip-searched. It might include a meditation on love separated and love expatriated. And then it would explain how two people who were marriage-phobic came to love the knot.
Committed, I am astonished to say, is not that book. There are some memorable vignettes, but it's mostly a skim-the-surface tour of marriage through the ages. It lacks wisdom. It's dull. There's nothing to connect the reader to Gilbert. But Viking is unleashing a Palinesque million-copy first printing, and American women are about to be buried under the hype.
Don't say you weren't warned.
(For those in the Cult of Liz, who surely believe I'm a jealous hack trying to damage a writer with a golden reputation, you might consider the first review I encountered. It describes Committed as "a strained book that's part travelogue and part journal entries, but which mainly reads like a Western Civ term paper that was written at the last minute." And the just-off-the-presses New York Times review? Dreadful: "She makes writing a book sound like busywork... the strain is as palpable as the voice is cute, and the drama is virtually nonexistent.")
(Cross-posted from HeadButler.com)