Have Dental Floss, Will Travel

Mapping the world, one waxy strand at a time…

Vicariousness

I wouldn’t have gotten through this year without books-on-cd.

On my commute up and down the New Jersey turnpike, I’ve listened to everything from An Ordinary Man (the book on which the film Hotel Rwanda was based) to Kathryn Stockett’s The Help (a novel about race and class in the early years of the Civil Rights Movement), but generally I’ve stuck with fabulously mindless fluff, like David Baldacci, James Patterson, Jennifer Weiner, and Jodi Picoult.

Right now, I’m in the middle of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love.

I tried to read this last summer, and couldn’t get into it.  I saw the movie with a friend, and had a similarly underwhelmed reaction.

See, when I picked up the book last August, I’d just returned from six weeks of backpacking through Ecuador and Peru, biking through Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and racing through New Hampshire and Vermont.  I was feeling so completely filled with experiences – in amazing ways and overwhelming ways – that the prospect of a year of traveling around the world just wasn’t doing it for me.  I was satisfied, content, and ready to move back into the real world.

Now, though?

I’m a week away from having officially survived my first year of professor-dom.  I’m scrambling to finish up three big writing projects before their May 1 deadline.  There’s an umbilical cord attaching me to my computer and my phone, and even when I close my eyes at night, I see sentences and citations stretching across the page.

I’m simultaneously a ball of adrenaline and a sleep-deprived puddle of mush.  It’s actually kind of a fun combination, but in no way a sustainable one.

And so in has stepped Elizabeth Gilbert – with her over-written prose and her self-consciously self-absorbed exposition.  And I love it.

Last summer I found her writerliness annoying, but this week I’m finding it inspiring.

Last summer I wasn’t looking for an escape – I can’t put into words exactly how ready I was to be entering the world that I’d spent the previous five years preparing to be a part of – but right now I’m finding myself wistful for the weeks spent hiking through the Andes with my dad and Brent, without cell phone reception or reliable internet.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want a year off.  Give me a few days of double-feature movie days and I’ll be itching to start writing again.

That’s what I love about the rhythm of the academic calendar.  It’s a continual cycle that never lets you get too overloaded, too exhausted, too bored.

So, as I wait out the end of this part of the cycle, I’ll be writing feverishly at my coffee shops, grading furiously in my office, and looking forward to Gilbert’s poetic ramblings about gelato and yoga to keep me company on the drives home.

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6 responses to “Vicariousness

  1. Tasha @ Voracious April 28, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Ahhh Eat, Pray, Love….I read it, and I thought it was okay. It wasn’t earth shaking or life changing, like many people think it is. It was just a sweet, nice story. A lot of people ripped her to shreds for being so privileged and indulgent, but I say ‘that is her life, she was being honest, she lived her experience authentically, and her heart was in the right place’. I have seen an interview with her and she seemed just so kind, I couldn’t help but love her.

    Enjoy the book! (and ps, I finished answering your question!)

    • Abby April 28, 2011 at 1:28 pm

      It’s funny, I’ve had the same reaction to her as a person, I think especially because she’s actually reading the book on the cd’s. She just seems so genuine, it’s hard not to like her. Her voice is also eerily familiar to me – I totally feel like I know her, but can’t quite place why or from where. I think it’s in her s’s.

  2. Kari w/ Jogging with Fiction April 28, 2011 at 11:07 am

    I felt the same way as Tasha above. I actually really enjoyed only the Italy section of the book, the rest seemed like trying WAY too hard. I do LOVE books on cd, though, they have gotten me through a number of cross country trips without punching someone in the face 😉

    • Abby April 28, 2011 at 1:26 pm

      I’m not even quite through Italy yet, but I could see having the same reaction to India and Indonesia, based on what I saw in the movie 🙂

  3. Denise April 28, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    i never read it or saw the movie but heard only good things about it. i would like a year off, even more in fact. would love to just be able to wake up and live each day however i wanted to.

  4. Black Knight April 29, 2011 at 10:56 am

    I never read or saw the movie too but now I am curious and I am going to watch it.

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