Worst Book Ever (At Least, That I’ve Read)

I have a love hate relationship with movies. I enjoy a good movie but my tastes are fairly specific and I rarely venture out of my little bubble. My husband and I don’t often go to the movies together since if we are going to spend the time, money, energy and effort to get out of the house for an evening it does not appeal to us to do so merely to sit in a dark theatre with sticky armrests to watch something we will probably not enjoy. My idea of a date with my husband is a nice bottle of wine in a dimly lit restaurant, some decent food and a few hours to have an actual conversation without constant interruptions.

That being said I enjoy the occasional uplifting chick flick; or a fun musical or a romantic comedy. I enjoy it even more with my girlfriends and a nice meal before or after. (Actually,  I’m more about the food.)

So early this summer when I heard there was a new Julia Roberts film on the horizon I was happy, since I generally enjoy her movies. She is one of those actors I can still enjoy because she is talented, nice to look at, funny and has not yet opened her mouth. By that I mean she has not taken it upon herself to inflict her political/social/religious opinions on the rest of us via Oprah’s couch or the Larry King show. She seems to me to be someone who is talented and takes her work seriously and then disappears from the limelight to be with her family. I like that in an actor.

I do not like actors who think because they can make movies they should have a say in how the world should work. For example I enjoyed Tom Cruise movies early in his career and then he seemed to go off the deep end. Now he could make the best movie ever and I would no more spend $12 to see it than I would spend it to contract Ebola virus. Same about Sean Penn and if I ever got close enough I surely would pinch Susan Saradon, I find her that obnoxious.

So I am conflicted about movies but not about actors.

Anyway, I hear there is a Julia movie coming and I think that I might actually go see a cute romantic comedy.  Then I heard which movie.

Eat, Pray, Love.

Aaaarrghhh.

I was disappointed. To say the least. I read this book  when it first came out and I have to say I HATED it. H.A.T.E.D. it.

Gimme an H, gimme an A, gimme a TED……

You picking up on the depth of my feeling for this book? It’s not that the book was not well written; it was very well written for the god-awful-no-one-seems-to-care-about-grammar-or-syntax genre of chick lit. It’s not that the author, Elizabeth Gilbert, isn’t a good storyteller; she is. I read the whole book in spite of the fact that I hated it. She tells her story really well and I was not tempted to not finish the book. I was tempted to smack her.

So why did I hate it?  She drove me crazy. Here is a woman with a perfectly fine life, a decent husband, an interesting career and a nice house, yet she can’t stop whining about how unfulfilled she is. Eventually she leaves the poor guy (best thing that ever happened to him even though it probably was hell at the time) and takes up with some actor no one has ever heard of.  When the starving artist fails to fulfill her and then dumps her, she convinces her publisher to pay her to take a year and indulge in her whims and to reclaim her identity — which apparently could only be done by indulgence in food, self absorbed “spirituality,” and a sexual romp through a tropical island. Hence the subtitle: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia – emphasis on “everything.”

Gilbert takes off for Italy to indulge in food since she has been emotionally and physically starved by her unhappiness. Of all the idiotic….

Well, she makes the point that the food is wonderful and she gains weight but don’t think this princess is chubby because she was soooo thin from the abuse of having to live with a nice guy in a nice house in New Jersey.

Then she needs to be spiritually fulfilled so it is off to India to an ashram to learn to find God by meditating for hours at a time.  By this time I was hoping an elephant would stomp on her. Find God in India when you could have found Him in your living room? Or here’s a radical notion, go to church. Who would have thought? God in church. When you just spent FOUR MONTHS IN ROME. An even crazier idea is find God by helping others in need. Just a thought. Rather than trying to find God by quelling the teenage-like angst in your head why not venture out and help someone else? See the face of Christ in the poor of India like a certain little nun we all knew and loved and stop whining about how your path to spirituality is blocked because you are so deep and riddled with complex thoughts that are too much for the rest of us to comprehend.

Ppplllffttthhh….

Next stop is Bali where she tries to incorporate the two halves of her new life, the physical and spiritual and it ends with her having an affair with a man she barely knows and regarding which the reader is subjected to more detail than is necessary. Honestly lady, have some dignity. Have some self respect. Write a book your mother could read without wanting to die of embarrassment.

From what I understand, and this is screamingly funny, she marries the guy and they — you ready for this — settle down and buy a house in New Jersey. So she ends up exactly where she started and her next book is about being married. We all were conned. She has all this angst about her married suburban life and then leads us through 350 pages of prattling about it to end up where she began. If you bought the book you should feel cheated.

I have no patience with this nonsense. Seriously this book is the most self absorbed, smug, spiritually-vacant, narcissistic, egotistical, annoying piece of nonsense I have ever had the misfortune to apply to my brain. My own fault actually since I continued to read the nonsense but as I said she is an excellent storyteller — and I kept hoping someone would smack her across the face and tell her to snap out of it. Never happened and of course now she is a bizillioniare with a second book (no I won’t be reading that one) and a hit movie to her credit.

Sigh.

We are a navel gazing society that can’t even recognize that a woman cannot possibly find herself while running away from everything that is meaningful in life. I don’t mean that a woman has to be married or live in the suburbs to be fulfilled, but if you are so self-involved that every little tiny thought of dissatisfaction or anxiety that pops momentarily into your head convinces you that your very identity is in peril it is unlikely you will find yourself anywhere. Personally, I’m so sorry I found her. I wish I had left her in the library.

And now I find out that this nonsense has infected the brain of Julia Roberts.

In an interview with Elle magazine already on newsstands, she announces that ever since filming scenes in India for Eat Pray Love, she has become a Hindu. Roberts, who was raised Catholic, says she and her family now worship as Hindus and go together to a temple to “chant and pray and celebrate. I’m definitely a practicing Hindu.”

Apparently, she not only named her production company “Red Om Films” but also allowed a Hindu priest to rename her children. The Times of India newspaper reported last fall that Swami Dharam Dev claims to have given Roberts’ three children the names of Hindu gods. He told the Associated Press: “I have named her twins Hazel and Phinnaeus as Laxmi and Ganesh, while Henry will be called Krishna Balram.”

Are you kidding me? Really? She converted to Hinduism because of a movie?

Another Hollywood actor looking inward and finding out that really they are so wonderful they need to chant about it. Spare me.

Sigh. Not again. I wish she hadn’t given that interview, because now I will never be able to enjoy her movies.

Scientology, Hinduism, Buddhism, New Age, flakey, baloney babble…what is going on out there on that left coast? Moral relativism, intellectual vapidity and spiritual emptiness has left people willing to believe in anything that makes them feel better about themselves. Next they’ll be worshipping at temples devoted to red wine and dark chocolate.

Happily I can eat, pray and love to my heart’s content — all within the confines of  my home with the people whose very lives bless and  fulfill me and a God who has blessed me beyond anything I deserve. I need not seek Him in out of the way places but rather find Him here every day in my home; and a mile away where His real presence resides in my church and in the face of those I meet all around me.

Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure no one wants to make a movie about that.

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • kirbys

    FUnny!But sad but true, too!

  • Claire

    Excellent article, Mary Ellen. I refuse to read the book or see the movie; seeing this woman on Oprah was more than enough for me.

  • comayo

    Congratulations Liz for your Pro Catholic Life, I feel your pain. But
    JR is another Ex of a lost Sheep. Sad but true, and (we pray) she finds that
    truth eventually b\c of some long gone Grandmother who went to daily mass for her
    progeny. At least JR is having kids and keeping them. Not much virtue in that
    BUT we are in a most fallen world and ALWAYS have been. Hollywood will be at the back of the line of the flock. We should really pray for them who have such power in the world. Look at Anne Rice? Renoucing Christianity on FB! Laughable!
    Sad but true again. Pierre Caussaude described Hell as one relentless
    scary place, but in vain and can never conquer, really. You cannot wish Hell on anybody(rhetorical). Good report for those who try to shy from the secular Pubs.
    Peace!

  • Xaviertrth312

    Agreed!

    I saw her interview, Gilbert’s, on Oprah, and she is definately billed as a spiritual guru. I belive her next book was about Marriage – and her opinon that it is all a farce, and just a way for men or people to consolodate material wealth and power. I think she is a very troubled person.

    Yes, totally narcesistic (sorry i can’t spell). But she does talk about some interesting ideas – like not having boundaries in relationships – and just feeling empty, which get’s people’s attention because we all feel like that at times.

    I think Julia Roberts is definatly right up there with the overly opinonated hollywood crowd And, since you mentioned Susan Sarandon – I think she should publically appologize to Brook Sheilds for condoning the movie “Pretty Baby”. Is it gonna happen? I doubt it. Brook Sheilds has been pretty open about a lot of things in her life, and things and people who have done her harm, but Susan Sarandon should be at the top of that list as well.

  • http://primeraluz.org ccr1333

    I understand George Harrison was also born and raised in a Catholic family, then came the Maharishi, etc. A number of people that are now Scientologists, Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses were once nominally Catholic. I met one of those once and he was quick to inform me: “I have 16 years of Catholic education.” Oh, well!

    What have we been teaching our children? What have pastors been teaching to the flock? What are we doing to educate the Catholic laity?

    Thank God for EWTN, CE, and so many other lay ministries that are doing the heavy lifting while many who should be teaching are not doing their job.

    Millstone necktie anyone?

    P/S What happened to the English word “actress”? Is it “sexist” to speak English properly? Are we going to call Mary a “Jew” instead of a “Jewess”? A seamter instead of seamstress?
    Just asking.

  • slbute

    Mary Ellen, don’t beat around the bush. Tell us what you REALLY think about this book! (Smile)

  • gr8flheart

    While I appreciate what Ms. Barrett is saying in this article, I couldn’t help but cringe at the mean-spirited and unchristian tone of this article.”By this time I was hoping an elephant would stomp on her” I get that you hate the book beyond all measure, but couldn’t you have made your point in a way that wasn’t so hostile? For the record, I am NOT a fan of the book (couldn’t get through it) and didn’t even consider seeing the movie.

  • Linda

    I loved the article, Mary Ellen! You gave me a good laugh while reflecting on a serious topic. It is sad, but I know I’ve seen it many times – people who are empty inside but seeking to fill that emptiness with everything but the One who can fill it. The incredible poem “The Hound of Heaven” addresses this beautifully.

    God bless you and thank you for sharing this!

  • yblegen

    Thank you so much!!! I was beginning to think I was the only one who had reservations about the book. I can’t say I hated the book because I stopped reading as soon as she indicated that she didn’t believe Jesus is God, the second person of the Blessed Trinity.

  • arlawless

    gr8flheart, I totally agree with you. I don’t know what’s happened to so-called Christians (Catholics!) lately. So full of hostility. It’s a shame.

    On top of that, Mary Ellen unfortunately had to toss in her little political jab. “… what is going on out there on that left coast?” she asks. Come on. Is that really necessary? Not only is it unnecessary, but it isn’t even accurate. I believe Julia Roberts lives in New Mexico, NOT the west (“left”) coast. So does “Scientology, Hinduism, Buddhism, New Age, flakey, baloney babble” really have to do with those stupid, liberal California lefties? I think not.

    So sad Mary Ellen has to stoop to such immaturity. I actually agree with the main gist of the article, but she lost my respect and her credibility.

  • http://www.catholicexchange.com Mary Kochan

    gr8flheart and arlawless,

    I strongly recommend prunes!

  • arlawless

    Mary, funny you’d say that to US and not to Mary Ellen Barrett!

  • http://www.maryellenbarrett.com mebarrett

    gr8flheart and arlawless:

    Thank you for your comments. I understand that you might find my approach a little snarky, those of us from that “right coast” tend to be that way.

    Believe me if Mary thought I needed some prunes, she would tell me.

    To address your comments; certainly I am not interested is seeing anyone literally stomped by an elephant. You must allow for the use of hyperbole in writing. Hyperbole is a rhetorical device that uses exaggeration and is not really meant to be hostile. Perhaps you should try to not assume mean spiritedness but rather lighten up. If you don’t find it amusing, and you are certainly entitled to hate my sense of humor, just move on but don’t assume I’m hostile. I just have no patience for nonsense.

    As for the “left coast” comment being a political jab, it really wasn’t. I know this for a fact because I wrote it and when I make a political jab, as I often do, it’s much more pointed. The line refers to the “Hollywood culture” which Julia Robers is certainly a part of since she makes her living as an actor. I have no idea and nor do I care where she lives, it has no pertinence to the issue at hand.

    There is a prevalence of replacing God and faith in God with a kind of psycho babble religion of introspection all over the world but those with a certain celebrity are the most vocal about their beliefs and since they are they leave themselves open to criticism. Much like I have here. When you are out there, you are out there and people with opinions are going to let you in on them. Celebrities who insist on sharing in detail every path their life takes and in doing so hoping to influence the less (being Christian here) intellectually gifted in following their own brand of spirituality should not expect people who know the difference to remain silent. For that matter your shouldn’t expect people of faith to remain silent either.

    I am sorry to have lost anyone’s respect but I don’t think my calling out those who believe this nonsense diminishes my credibility as a Catholic.

    Now go eat your prunes.

    Blessings,
    Mary Ellen Barrett

  • ladybugs

    Hey Mary Ellen,

    I live on the Left Coast and TOTALLY agree with you on this topic!

    I couldn’t even finish the book it was so disgustingly narcissitic!

    I think you’re right on in your commentary and I’m glad you had the guts to say it.

  • dkpalaska

    Thanks for putting this out to a wide audience, Mary Ellen. While all of us try to be “in the world and not of the world”, it can be hard not to be swayed by public opinion or see the rubbish clearly. Or sometimes you wonder if you are the only person out there who sees narcissistic nonsense like “Eat Pray Love” for what it is. For either of those folks, I’m glad your spot-on and unhesitating article is in the blogosphere. I hope it turns up in every single Google search someone does about the book or movie! And gives many others the courage to bring up your points when friends rave about what they’ve seen/read.

    God bless you!

  • arlawless

    Believe it or not, Mary Ellen, I don’t have patience for nonsense, either. Seems to me that the difference between you and me is our *definition* of nonsense. ;-)

  • mira

    I went onto my church’s website the other day to look up some information. The site has a sidebar full of links to different Catholic websites. The first link was “Worst Book Ever”. I was intrigued. What could the worst book be? I clicked on the link and it brought me here. I read Mrs. Barrett’s article. I was shocked. How can a Catholic website carry such a mean, ugly piece of character assassination? That piece is unChristian. I hope it’s taken down. But since it’s still here four days later, I would like to rebut some of Mrs. Barret’s claims and defend the talented and humane Ms. Gilbert.

    “Here is a woman with a perfectly fine life, a decent husband, an interesting career and a nice house, yet she can’t stop whining about how unfulfilled she is.” How do You know her husband is decent? She gives very little information about him, by design; she says that since she was the one who ended the marriage, she wasn’t going to defend herself or reveal damaging facts about him. We do know that he was cruelly insensitive to her when she was obviously having a nervous breakdown, and that he took her for everything she had in the divorce. As for her interesting career and her nice house, she earned them. She worked hard for years to build her career, and she earned her wealth, too; one thing she does mention about her husband is that he made less money than she did, and I doubt her farmer parents bought that house for her, either. She had a perfectly fine life? During her nervous breakdown? I guess you mean she had perfectly fine worldly circumstances and therefore had no right to be unhappy. I wish that having a nice house and money in the bank guaranteed happiness, that people weren’t endlessly swayed by their emotions and thoughts, but that’s not the way it is. If your heart is happy, you’re happy; if it’s not, you’re not. Elizabeth Gilbert had the nerve to walk away from the American Dream and follow her heart. She had the temerity to assert the legitimacy, even the primacy, of emotion as a cause for action. She’s a very brave woman.

    “Then she needs to be spiritually fulfilled so it is off to India to an ashram to learn to find God by meditating for hours at a time … Find God in India when you could have found Him in your living room? Or here’s a radical notion, go to church. Who would have thought? God in church. When you just spent FOUR MONTHS IN ROME.” It’s none of your business where someone else finds God. You think you’re pious because you worship in a church and she is ridiculous and wicked because she worships in an ashram. As for finding God in Rome, I’m sure a person raised a New England Protestant would never think to look for Him there. “Scientology, Hinduism, Buddhism, New Age, flakey, baloney babble … ” You called Hinduism and Buddhism “baloney”. Go ask your priest what he thinks of that.

    You accuse Gilbert of having a “sexual romp through a tropical island.” What a dirty-minded thing to say. In fact, Gilbert swears off sex at the start of her traveling year, a goal she falls only a month or two short of. She has sex with one man, whom she doesn’t “barely know” as you say, with whom she has a serious relationship, and who is now her husband. You say Gilbert should “write a book your [Gilbert's] mother could read without wanting to die of embarrassment.” Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a beautiful book. You’ve written a provincial, hateful, vicious diatribe. You’re the one who should be embarrassed.

  • http://www.catholicexchange.com Mary Kochan

    This is a very interesting object lesson in the communication divide that Alasdair MacIntyre wrote about in After Virtue. A portion of the population has shifted to what MacIntyre calls “emotive” communication, while others still use the previous communication paradigm. But they cannot communicate with each other because the entire purpose of claims has changed. For one, claims have to do with truth, whereas for the other claims have to do with feelings.

    Very interesting.

    So is a claim like “It’s none of your business where someone else finds God” a claim about truth, not at all. It is a claim that it gives me a mean, nasty feeling to see anyone criticize somebody else’s religous choices. I would not do that because it would feel bad to me.

    To the writer of the story, relgion had to do with feelings, not truth and those who sypathize with that perspective will sympathize with the book. While for those to whom religious discourse is about truth will find it obnoxious and silly.

  • https://maureenwittmann.blogspot.com mwittlans

    I really enjoyed the article when I first read it. However, after reading the comments and finding charges calling Mary Ellen “unchristian” I went back and reread it.

    I know ME. I know her to be a wonderfully devout, loving Catholic mother and wife. So, perhaps my first reading was clouded by my friendship with the author.

    Yet, after rereading, I’m still not getting it. Okay, she could have left out the elephant comment. I know she didn’t mean it literally but I have a pretty thick skin. It would’ve been considerate to those more sensitive to leave it out.

    I don’t see social commentary as unchristian. I think what would be unchristian would be to say nothing. It’s a good thing to dissect the pop culture and how it relates to us as Catholics. It’s okay to call ugly “ugly” and evil “evil”. Call it what it is. Jesus did no less. He called sinners on the carpet. Yes, he dined with the tax collectors and all, but they were repentant.

    So, anyway, keep up the good fight Mary Ellen and keep calling them as you see them honey.

  • http://montagedujourde-helenrr.blogspot.com/ helenr2761

    I heartily agree with Mary Ellen, however I do have to point out that many people either hate the book, or love it…few are lukewarm. It speaks to something in some readers’ psyche to the point that they write things such as “you are a bunch of haters” or “you are just not ready to understand” when others write that they don’t like the book or hated it. The difficulty I think is that the book was promoted as a spiritual & physical journey of an individual yet many see it further as a type of self-help book for the unsatisfied, unfulfilled, unhappy lives lived. It really isn’t that kind of book, though one might gain insights or ideas from reading the novel. As it was also on Oprah’s book list, this has driven it’s popularity, which may or may not be a good thing. Many seem to have difficulty with the person of the book, and that this is just one person’s journey. Nothing more.

    Mira, I don’t think it is a beautiful book, but that is okay because we can agree to disagree-that is the beauty of life. It’s an ok book but not something I’d keep in my library or use to teach with-for one thing, I shy away from using popular fiction that way, and as well, it really does not follow the Catholic faith. I believe this is one area that has been ignored, and one of the reasons I don’t really care for the book. The author is seeking wisdom, spirituality, god in all the places-but Rome. She’s Catholic, but does not return to the faith to see if she can ‘pick up the reins’ and deepen her faith there…I understand, many Catholics don’t return, and sometimes that’s the way it is. She visits an ashram and explores Hinduism. Hardly a book for a Catholic church to recommend, though it doesn’t stop anyone from reading it or appreciating her journey and struggle. She also sleeps around and is Very descriptive about personal things in parts of the book, again, not something recommendable (and something I can do without). So while many get a lot from the book and enjoy it, it does have troubling areas for someone who is Catholic. (As do books such as The Secret or A New Earth.)

    I am a native Californian by the way and completely agree about the ‘left coast’ comment. Sometimes I wonder if Hollywood recognizes how unreal the world they dwell in is-as for the movies they produce many leave me cold, I tend not to want to see many of them. It is a world of money, drugs, narcism, and so on. Yes, there are good people there however they are really hard to spot. As I am close to cities that are left, I can also say that some also have people that fit the bill as left and into the chase the current religious spirituality craze. Yet many are not and are fine people, but I don’t think Mary Ellen is referring to them. (I tend not to even pay attention to Hollywood anymore though, or gossip magazines, or news about pop stars or…) It is tiring really to see the path beat to Oprah, the next new great book for the masses paraded out, the movie, etc etc. I find that to be as nauseating as the book made some people who read it, truthfully.

    As for Mary Ellen being unchristian, nah, she’s calling it like “she” see’s it-it rocks the boat yet it should make one think about why one might like a book or not. At the very least, one could take a step back here and say “what is the book really about?” It’s understandable that some want the OPINION piece pulled, however if we had everything pulled we didn’t like, that we called unchristian and mean, well, there would be very little out there to read and challenge our point of view, now wouldn’t there? Yes, she is edgy in her review, though I found that humorous, and used violent imagery, but that was HER reaction to the book (YOU don’t have to share it, and can disagree vehemently, which is a right any one can share). I’ve heard and read much worse, actually, about the book and the author. Which is interesting. This is where the emotions come in, as people often get very emotional about books. Way back in the dark ages, in one of my college classes, you could not be emotive about the novel-or you’d have to remain silent the rest of class. The professor had the idea that to discuss the novel emotively took away all objectivity. I can’t help but observe he was correct, especially when it comes to some of the ones written today, especially this one.

  • susiesgirl

    I browsed this book and found it disturbing, so I set it back on the shelf. I picked it up a month later and had the same reaction.

MENU