NYT Magazine has a profile this week is on Elizabeth Gilbert, the writer who ate, prayed, and loved so hard that Julia Roberts played her in a movie. (She says, of that experience: “It’s stupid how beautiful she is. It’s like getting clubbed on an ice floe.") Her new novel, The Signature of All Things, is due out next month; she and reporter Steve Almond spend quite a bit of time talking about its anticipated reception and her climb out from the "ghetto" of "chick lit" post-Eat Pray Love:
The only time I saw Gilbert lose her equanimity, in fact, was discussing her fans. She detests the mind-set that certain readers are more desirable than others. “It’s the worst kind of arrogance. Shouldn’t the idea be that we want people to read, period? Isn’t it an honor if somebody chooses our books at all, whatever her background, whatever her education, whatever her level of perceived literary credentials?” She recalls meeting a woman in a Tulsa Barnes & Noble — “probably 65 years old, looked like an aging country singer with sad eyes” — who told her “Eat, Pray, Love” was the first book she’d read in her life, and she now understood why people read. “So if that’s the kind of reader I’m not supposed to want, well, Jesus Christ. Give me a few thousand more of those!”
Now that people have started telling her that “The Signature of All Things” will attract “a different level of reader,” she can’t help hearing the implicit slight in this praise: “You might be lucky enough to get out of your ghetto, now that you’ve found a better grade of readers, meaning male readers. I want to say: ‘Go [expletive] yourself! You have no idea who the women are who read my books, and if I have to choose between them and you, I’m choosing them.'"
Well, told. And for those of us who read The Last American Man and thought it could have been the last nonfiction book on earth, there's also a wonderful anecdote about how Gilbert used a childhood lesson in grinder salesmanship to help her break into journalism (and, eventually, feature films). [NYT Mag]