Thursday, October 11, 2007

Binge, Bitch, Fuck

Well I was going to tell you all a very magical and delightful story, but something has been on my mind and I feel like venting and ranting about it. I don’t ordinarily do that on here, but today I decided to because I have an entire day to myself in which I have decided to do exactly as I please.

Last week I saw Elizabeth Gilbert on Oprah. The women in the audience were all clutching her book and screaming and hollering like damned fools. Oprah called Elizabeth Gilbert a “rock star” and talked about how everywhere she went over the summer women were reading Eat, Pray, Love. Then Oprah screamed and yelled over it some and Elizabeth Gilbert came out to more screaming and yelling. I don’t think I could ever be in Oprah’s audience because those women make entirely too much noise for me and I would feel like a real idiot jumping up and down and making a spectacle of myself the way they all do. Ok, maybe if I was on the holiday show where you get all that free stuff that costs like eight hundred thousand and twenty three dollars. Maybe then I might be able to muster up a few woo-hoos, but not over a book.

This past summer I was one of those women Oprah saw reading Eat, Pray, Love. I don’t mean that Oprah saw me literally, because trust me, if she did, she would have been mentioning me by name, but I was one of the apparent bazillions who read this book. I read it because someone lent it to me and because it involved food.

I kind of liked it. Parts of the book I loved. I enjoyed the chatty, mostly funny voice that Gilbert writes in and I love stories about people going to places where I’ve never been that explain cultures I’ve never encountered. I liked all that. Then I got my book club to read the book too because there were some things that I wanted to discuss. Guess what, they didn’t like the book. They didn’t like it for the same reasons that I didn’t. Then I heard some other people talking about how they didn’t like the same things either, and I got to wondering if all those women Oprah was talking about felt the same way. I think they probably did.

But back to the show for a second. Elizabeth Gilbert came out and I was expecting her to be the same sweet, silly kind of chatty personality that was in the book. In actuality she came off as a real asshole and then I had an epiphany of sorts. The reasons why no one I know liked the book were that A. the book was inaccessible because it describes a life that really only like .00001% of people can actually attain so all of us normal people can’t relate to it. B. Elizabeth Gilbert chose her own suffering. Now I’m sure that a lot of her depression was biological in nature, but she caused her own problems. No one did anything to her. People tend to relate more to stories where someone or something did something to a more innocent seeming person and then the innocent person had to find his or her way out of the mess. (hey, how about her ex husband’s story?) We don’t like stories about some fabulously rich and successful woman who has the life that everyone wants and then decides she doesn’t like that life that most of us would have gladly traded her for, and simply wants a different version of the fabulously rich and successful life she already had. And C. Elizabeth Gilbert came off as being appallingly self absorbed both in the book and on the show.

All the parts of the book I hated were about her self absorption. The parts I loved were where she talked about food and then talked about other people.

On Oprah, Gilbert talked about how women keep coming up to her and saying “Oh you wrote this book for me! I really needed this!” Gilbert, being an apparent self absorbed asshole turned around, ON OPRAH people, and said “No I didn’t, I wrote this book for myself.” Even if this was true, which I will argue that it isn’t, she could have at least been polite and gracious to her fans and said “thank you, I’m glad I could help you.” That’s all she would have needed to do.

But Elizabeth Gilbert did not just write this book for herself. She wasn’t some struggling writer who wrote the book all by herself at her desk not knowing if she would ever get it published. She planned it all out ahead of time. She wrote a proposal for the book, got a whopping advance and used that advance to travel for a year before she even knew what would happen to her. So that to me is not writing a book for yourself. That is writing a book you already know is going to be published, which means that you already know that book is for lots of other people. And seriously, who really writes a book for his or herself anyway except crazy hermits? Writers are all a bunch of exhibitionists and attention seeking whores whether we admit it or not. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t write. The intrinsic nature of writing is that it is almost always for other people to read and even if you say you just write for yourself, then you must know that at some point you will die and someone will find your writing and read it. So there, it isn’t just for yourself.

While reflecting on this book and the Oprah interview, it occurred to me that much of Gilbert’s depression surely stemmed from this self absorption. Thinking about nothing but yourself and your needs and your feelings and your appearance and your goals and your plans all the time endlessly is fucking depressing. Every single miserable idiot I have ever met in my life, every depressed person, every unhappy, dissatisfied, trouble making, party pooping, pain in the ass human being I have ever met has suffered from the disease of self absorption. And I’m not immune to it either. The times in my life where I was at my lowest were the times when I was too concerned about myself.

So here’s a cure for you depressed, unhappy people who hate the way you look and hate the way your life turned out and hate the situation you’re in and hate your job, your car, your classes, your partner or whatever. It’s not all about you. I know it’s hard to believe but it’s true.

Try thinking about other people for once. Distract yourself a bit by realizing there is an entire world of people besides you. Instead of constantly thinking of how to make yourself happy, because that’s not working clearly, think about how to make someone else happy. Instead of thinking about what you can do to alleviate your agony, be it eating, drinking, smoking, doing drugs, acting like a jackass or clinging to people who don’t want to be clung to so you can cry and bitch and make yourself the center of attention all the time, why don’t you instead work on bringing others pleasure? That’s all. Think about other people instead of yourself and you will be happy. You won’t even need an Ashram in India and a bunch of mosquito bites and amoebas flying out of your ass to learn this. In fact, don’t even learn it, because that’s more thinking. Just do it. Who cares what you think anyway? It’s more important how you act.

After I watched Oprah and got all disappointed in Elizabeth Gilbert, I started thinking of other break-up/ divorce memoirs that have been published and how they were very similar – privileged, educated rich girl gets dumped or goes through a breakup of sorts and has to find her way through life in the big city/ big world. Big damned deal. Where's the real struggle? A spoiled girl doesn't get her way? So what? It's probably healthy. We know these girls are going to be fine ultimately because they're rich, educated and cute. There's no real conflict or lesson to be learned. All they have to do is just wait until they get their way again, which they will. These stories are all martinis and shoes and more things that normal people just can’t relate to. Most of these books are sold in stores like Target and Wal-Mart, and umm, publishing industry, the women who buy those kinds of books aren’t the same women who can afford a year of traveling or a Gucci purse. These books make us sick.

I’ve got a memoir for you that people can really relate to. How about this? Dirt poor, uneducated girl with a GED’s fiancĂ© gets another girl pregnant, kicks her out of her own house and sues her while she has to go live with her parents in Florida and deal with the constant parade of freaks and strange animals that come through her parents’ house on a daily basis. Then the girl, who used to be a kindergarten teacher’s aid, ends up working in a strip club. After that the girl dates 87 certifiable lunatics, finds a cat in a parking lot, shops at Target and Payless, becomes mildly slutty because she is desperate, gains 15 pounds and despite having a bad case of irritable bowel, works up the nerve to go to community college. After that she gets a disease while she has no health insurance, takes six remedial math courses, learns to sail boats, grows a garden of black sunflowers, gets an Indian name and has a three year long distance relationship. Eventually there is a happy ending when the girl realizes ITS NOT ALL ABOUT HER! Then she buys her own apartment, graduates, gets married, gets some health insurance and goes to grad school.

I even have the title.

Binge, Bitch, Fuck - How I Learned to Stop Thinking About My God Damned Self All the Time and Become a Productive Human Being.

54 comments:

Marcie said...

Okay, so I have never commented before, but I would have to say that I agree with every single word you had to say about this. I've read about half that book but I'm not sure I will continue. At least I bought it on Amazon.com, and not at a bookstore for full price. This is great, you should be a therapist. :)

Rich said...

Anybody every read Stephanie Klein's blog? She fits the rich girl with problems to a T. Her blog is laughable for her self indulgences and "problems".

Mim said...

I love it! You must write it and I will be your first customer!

PattyC said...

Thank God someone else feels the same way about the tripe that Oprah pushes on her show. Your blog is a million times more relevant and entertaining than some rich girl on a vacation. I hope you get your book deal!

St Yves said...

This was an AWESOME post. Haven't read the book- but you hit the nail right smack in. I hope someone gives you a huge advance so you can go off and write and book and put all this in it again so people can buy it and give it to people who need to read it : )

Mrs. Qball said...

Sign me up for the first copy, and you dont need to autograph it! (but you can if you want)

Heather

Charlottex said...

OMG. Please write this book. Please! And then please publish it. If you can't find an editor smart enough to put it out, self publish a couple of hundred from a small independent press (I know a couple if you need names) and sell it through your site. I garuntee that they will be snapped up within 48 hours. All of them. Even if you put them up at $50 a pop.
Keep writing!
:)

Leonesse said...

AMEN SISTER! I have never been able to stomach many genres aimed toward women. I like a good hard luck story, I suppose, but a realistic one. You should have such problems. Natch.

I have wondered what people would do if they could read my childhood. Mine included swingers, pet owls, knife wounds, playing in dive bars, and plenty of unofficial foster homes.

Lana Wood said...

Hola SNM,

I love you, in a totally platonic, not homoerotic,kinda way. I will BUY your book. Not just sit on the floor at Barnes and Noble or Borders and read it for free while I fend off the hobos and DILFs.

Thanks for writing about this. Like a lot of the stuff you write about, I can really relate.

I happened to see that episode of Oprah. I have not read that book nor will I. I did not like the author. When Oprah first started the book club I liked the books. They were thought provoking, and worth reading. I have not read an Oprah book in years.

While I truly admire Oprah and all she has accomplished, not to mention her genuine efforts to use her fame and wealth positively, I feel like she has forgotten what it is like to be a regular person and has lost touch with the realities of the lives of "real" people.

nandy said...

BRAVO!!

I love your insight about depressed people. One of my first suggestions to friends/people who say they are depressed over a break-up is "Get out and volunteer someplace. Help somebody, and at the same time, you'll see just how bad off you could be, but aren't. When you increase your self-worth, your situational depression will fade away."

A Margarita said...

I would buy that book. I'm tired of reading about shoes, handbags and nannies. You are so right. Shifting the focus off ourselves betters the world and makes us feel better abut ourselves for doing so.

NicoleinAZ said...

***CLAPPING***

You GO girl! I'm all over it like a chicken on a june bug, you write it, we'll buy it.

Now please take a bow.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU SNM! I don't watch Oprah much but I caught that show and all I could think of was how self centered the whole thing was. It was disgusting. I kept waiting for something promising to come from the story, but there was nothing but selfishness. And you captured that spirit perfectly and said it better than I could! (I wondered how she afforded to take a year off - that she was living off of an advance says a lot.)

Morrigoon said...

Haven't read the book you're talking about, but I *would* read the book you are joking about writing. No, really.

And you can feel free to print this sh*t up and show it to publishers to prove you have an audience ready to buy your book.

Chiada said...

Wow, great post! I know you're venting and stuff, but you had me cracking.up! I agree with the others in that I would absolutely buy a book you write.

Anonymous said...

They say that money can't buy happiness. That may be true, but money can buy you food, clothing, and shelter. I feel that everyone should be deprived of at least one of those things at some point in life. It really makes you open your eyes and see the world through different eyes. People who have suffered (even a little bit) have so much more to say than those who haven't.

I would love to read your book!

Anonymous said...

Agreed. That's all I have to say.

Moi said...

I LOVE your stories, and read your blog every single (work) day. I would buy 34 copies of your book and give everyone one for Christmas - just let me know where I can buy it!

Rachel said...

So, I haven't read Gilbert's book, so I don't have anything to say about that. In fact, I don't read memoirs much (although I do love your blog!).
However, since I teach freshman English at a community college, I loved your comments about no one writing for him/her self. So true! I cut and pasted it so I can use them in class when I talk about audience. Hopefully, the use of the word "whore" will shock them out of their 7 am stupor. Thanks, SNW!

Anonymous said...

You are so right. I think I have been that person lately too. I even called up an ex-boyfriend cause I was running out of people to complain too. Ick! I kept wondering what was wrong with me and now I know. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for speaking the truth about this piece of crap book.

Anonymous said...

never read the the book, but needed the "stop being depressed, its not all about you."

thanks.
its one of those PMS/depressed/stressed/IBS days
with a dash of bed bug bites on the side ;)

please write. i adore your stories.

Anonymous said...

I'd say to write a book too, but I don't know if you'd ever finish with all of the crazy things still happening. You'd have to write one every few years or so :)

Keith

Tamarillicent said...

Word.

Tina said...

I want to buy your book now! Even if it's an Ebook (although I love real books more)!

Anonymous said...

I just love the holy fuck out of you.

~ Shari Ann

Hobo Stripper said...

So it would have been better if she'd gone on Oprah and said, "really, if it just helped one person it would all be worth it."

Just joking. I've never read it.

I hope you publish your memoirs someday soon.

Elizabeth said...

That's the description of every chic(k) lit book I've ever read the back cover of.

Awesome, and on-target commentary!
So why don't YOU have your own book out yet? :)

Pumpkin said...

Damn tootin' lass!
x

saintseester said...

I love the title! It's great.

Anonymous said...

I read Gilbert's book. And it reminded me of a lesson a teacher gave about writing - if the main focus of the piece is "I" then the writer screwed up. Gilbret screwed up massively. As I was reading it, I kept thinking "get over yourself"

Your book? I would read in a heartbeat and probably buy lots of copies to give away to friends.

MP said...

OK..I have had that book in my hand 5 times but always put it down cause it didn't seem that great..glad I did. Water for Elephants which was NEXT to it on the shelf at Target..FABULOUS!

Yeah, I figure one of these days we'll read your story..stories. I'll pay full price too! Then some day I'll go to Floriday and you will autograph it for me..then in 20 years I'll sell it on ebay and get rich!

I was so thrilled when I found your blog. I can't get enough of the stories from the past..then realized I love the NOW stories too..especially mom and dad!

Anonymous said...

I, too, am tired of books about designer shoes and handbags and other things I can't afford. I thought I was the only one disgusted; I know I am outside the age demo. for the average women's fiction, so maybe that's the problem.
When my favorite so called "chick-lit" writer recycled a sweet loopy hippy character into a high powered New York career woman, I knew I'd had enough.
SNM, you might like this woman's earlier work, though. At her best, she is hilarious, writes about family, writes a good sexy/ romantic story, and still manages to get the bite of real life in there...serious things like alcoholism and divorce. I've seen no other "light women's fiction" writer able to do that, and still be funny.
She is Irish, her name is Marian Keyes, and her best books, IMO, were her first, Watermelon and her second, Rachel's Holiday.
Check her out sometime. I'm sure you'll be writing more than light romance, but she's good. Or was.

Thanks for taking the wind out of Oprah!

Anonymous said...

About 20 years ago, I was so depressed I wanted to die. Instead, I decided to turn myself into a servant. I served my family as if I was their employee instead of their mother/wife/daughter/sister. It wasn't long before I had snapped out of my depression, for good, and I haven't wanted to end my life anymore since then.

By the way, if you publish a book I promise to buy copies for all my friends - plus one for me!

drawer queen said...

I read the book. I liked the book. (most of it) But you've got a point, and your depression observation was dead on. Love the title...get the movie rights lined up ASAP.

Anonymous said...

...you are my hero!

SJ said...

We all have this habit of getting self absorbed and your right that's the worst thing to do. I still mope some, but a while back I discovered that I always felt better if I turned it around into doing something nice for someone else. I was feeling a little sad, tomorrow I'm going to benefit for homeless animals tomorrow. When I broke up with my ex, I threw all my energy into raising money for those injured fire fighters, I only raised $500, but it was money I worked hard to raise and I was proud of it.

The thing is if everyone in the world stopped sitting and feeling sorry for themselves and turned it into something positive can you imagine what a great world this would be?

BTW I am not discounting the healing properties of a good, stiff drink. I swear there is something to be said for kicking back with a good dirty martini to get over the ho hums :)

Anonymous said...

Dearest SNM,

I have to thank you for your post. Today was the first day in a long time that I got off my depressed butt and did something. I have been in a horrid state of depression this last year and most of it thanks to dwelling on my own problems and self and then tiring others out bitching about it.

I appreciate the reminder that your insight provide.

Regards!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I would so buy your book, and read it, and give copies to all of my friends and family. Your blog is well-written, fascinating, hilarious, and completely different from the other blogs out there. If you don't get a book contract, there's something wrong with publishing companies.

Anonymous said...

Powerful blog my dear. Kind of a Rick Warren suggestion with street wise humor.

Anonymous said...

My mom was just telling me about that Oprah show. I've been wondering about her book selections lately...

I share your disgust with chick-lit authors. Don't want to read about fashion and that crap. Want to read about something that matters. Some sort of insight.

I loved what you said about depression and about writers. I knew writers were an odd breed, but I've never seen it stated quite the way you did. I like it. I've been fortunate never to go through a bout of depression that's very deep, but I hope you're around to kick me out of it if I ever fall into that pit.

-kerry

mckay said...

you really should pitch this to the publishers of the EPL book. they'd eat it up and looking at the number of positive comments, they'd make a ton o money on it, as well.

Green said...

Dude. Want to come live next door to me and be the kind of neighbors who are friends?

Why doesn't this woman know she shouldn't be a conceited asshole to her fans? Everybody (except her, apparently) knows you're only supposed to be a conceited asshole to the little people who work for you.

Heidi the Hick said...

Whooo! sing it!!! yeah!

Okay I haven't read that book- I'm even commenting without first reading all the other comments here- and I likely won't read the book since there are about 43 on the shelf waiting patiently for me.

First of all, write that damn book! Sounds interesting!

Next, a note on depression. Again, clarifying that I haven't read it...that woman, if she is as you described her, is not depressed. I am so frickin sick of people blabbering about how depressed they are when really they are simply really bummed out because life is, like, y'know, hard, and stuff. NO. Depression is when you are too far gone to think about killing yourself and wish you could just die.

Is this book really about self discovery? Hmmm. That can be really boring.

I have mixed feelings about Ms Winfrey. She's done a lot of good. She's also hyped a lot of books that look really darn boring to me. Having said that, if her people ever called me...I'd be there at HER earliest convenience. With a smile. And gratitude. Cuz y'know what? I may want to hermit away and write and play in the dirt, and not let anybody know where I make my home, but deep down I am an exhibitionist who writes for myself, sure, but I want everybody to read it!!!!!! Because yes, I am an attention-whore!

Way to call it!!!!!

miss tango in her eyes said...

i´d buy it!

gulfsidebo said...

I love the title!

? said...

I really think the title in and of itself could be a really good book.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU. You have restored my faith in the world. Did that woman say she has continued to refuse visitation with her kids? Why aren't THEY on Oprah?

Anonymous said...

EPL has nearly ruined my life.

Let me explain.

My wife left me out of the blue. I explained my story to a young lady on a long business flight. She said, "hey that sounds familiar" and pulls out EPL. Never heard of it.

And then I remember - that was the last book on my ex-wife's night stand.

No abuse. No infidelity (at least on my part - can't speak for her who knows). No addictions. We both had decent jobs and a decent house in a nice neighborhood. Communications issues - yes I admit.

I am about done with the book. And it is all clear to me now. She is Liz. Its that simple.

All I can say is I hope she finds her happiness.

Anonymous said...

i know i am way late to this one, but if you publish it i will buy it. promise.

Valerie said...

I tripped over your page by accident, because I just finished reading this stupid book and have to write an excerpt of it as a screen adaptation for a class, so I was googling a bit of info. Girl, I must say, I think I love you. I laughed more at your blog than at Gilbert's whole damn book. I'll have to drop by from time to time and see what else you have to say on topics various and myriad. After you reach fame with "Binge, Bitch, Fuck" then maybe you can start the sure-to-be-huge anti-Oprah alliance. She was great in the early nineties; now she's10% giveaways, 40% advertising, and 50% twaddle. I've seen Apple commercials with more benefit to society. Make sure you hawk your book at a small chain so I don't have to brave the big box crowds, and I'm down for two copies. :) Best wishes.

Anonymous said...

I'm new to this site. I like it.

BTW, I also find Elizabeth Gilbert to be self-absorbed and narcisstic.

Anonymous said...

Did Elizabeth Gilbert come across more arrogant and self absorbed that you do? I think it's a very close call. I don't like Gilbert either but at least she doesn't think using the word Fuck in a title makes her clever.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what you have said for the most part and thought I would comment as I have just read the book and watched the film. Elizabeth Gilbert reminds me of the first girl to tear me to shreds. For so long I have wondered why she ran away and now I realise that she was indeed spoiled and self absorbed. So thankyou Liz. I only hope that when this girl eventually finds happiness that she will appreciate it. Something tells me it may be a long time before that happens. The issues lie within. We are here for each other. Not for ourselves. I weep for Elizabeth Gilbert and all the people like her.

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