"Which is - you know, like check it out, I'm pretty young, I'm only about 40 years old. I still have maybe another four decades of work left in me. And it's exceedingly likely that anything I write from this point forward is going to be judged by the world as the work that came after the freakish success of my last book, right?" -- Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth M. Gilbert (born July 18, 1969) is an American novelist, essayist, short story writer, biographer, and memoirist. She is most known for her 2006 memoirs, Eat, Pray, Love, which as of July 2010, has spent 180 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list, and was also made into a film by the same name in 2010.
"But when it comes to writing the thing that I've sort of been thinking about lately, is why? You know, is it rational? Is it logical that anybody should be expected to be afraid of the work that they feel they were put on this Earth to do.""But, ancient Greece and ancient Rome - people did not happen to believe that creativity came from human beings back then, OK? People believed that creativity was this divine attendant spirit that came to human beings from some distant and unknowable source, for distant and unknowable reasons.""I should just put it bluntly, because we're all sort of friends here now - it's exceedingly likely that my greatest success is behind me. Oh, so Jesus, what a thought! You know that's the kind of thought that could lead a person to start drinking gin at nine o'clock in the morning, and I don't want to go there.""You know, even I have had work or ideas come through me from a source that I honestly cannot identify. And what is that thing? And how are we to relate to it in a way that will not make us lose our minds, but, in fact, might actually keep us sane?""You know, I think that allowing somebody, one mere person to believe that he or she is like, the vessel you know, like the font and the essence and the source of all divine, creative, unknowable, eternal mystery is just a smidge too much responsibility to put on one fragile, human psyche. It's like asking somebody to swallow the sun."
Gilbert was born in Waterbury, Connecticut. Her father was a chemical engineer, her mother a nurse. Along with her only sister, novelist and historian Catherine Gilbert Murdock, Gilbert grew up on a small family Christmas tree farm in Litchfield, Connecticut. The family lived in the country with no neighbors, and they didn’t own a TV or even a record player. Consequently, they all read a great deal, and Gilbert and her sister entertained themselves by writing little books and plays.
Gilbert earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from New York University in 1991, after which she worked as cook, a waitress, and a magazine employee. She wrote of her experience as a cook on a dude ranch in short stories, and also briefly in her book The Last American Man (Viking 2002).
Esquire published Gilbert's short story "Pilgrims" in 1993, under the headline, "The Debut of an American Writer". She was the first unpublished short story writer to debut in Esquire since Norman Mailer. This led to steady work as a journalist for a variety of national magazines including, SPIN, GQ, The New York Times Magazine, Allure, Real Simple, and Travel + Leisure. As stated in the memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert made a career as a highly-paid freelance writer.
Her 1997 GQ article, "The Muse of the Coyote Ugly Saloon", a memoir of Gilbert's time as a bartender at the very first Coyote Ugly table dancing bar located in the East Village section of New York City, was the basis for the feature film Coyote Ugly. She adapted her 1998 GQ article, "Eustace Conway is Not Like Any Man You've Ever Met", into a biography of the modern naturalist, The Last American Man. It received a nomination for the National Book Award in non-fiction. "The Ghost", a profile of Hank Williams III published by GQ in 2000, was included in Best American Magazine Writing 2001.
Gilbert's first book Pilgrims (Houghton Mifflin 1997), a collection of short stories, received the Pushcart Prize and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. This was followed by her novel Stern Men (Houghton Mifflin 2000), selected by The New York Times as a "Notable Book" In 2002 she published The Last American Man (2002), a biography of a modern woodsman and naturalist, which was nominated for National Book Award.
Eat, Pray, Love
In 2006, Gilbert published One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia (Viking, 2006), a chronicle of her year of "spiritual and personal exploration" spent traveling abroad. She financed her world travel for the book with a substantial publisher's advance.
The memoir was on the New York Times Best Seller List of non-fiction in the spring of 2006, and in October 2008, after 88 weeks, the book was still on the list at number 2. Gilbert appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2007, and has reappeared on the show to further discuss the book and her philosophy, and to discuss the film. The book was optioned for a film by Columbia Pictures, which was released as Eat Pray Love on August 13, 2010, with Julia Roberts starring as Elizabeth Gilbert.
Gilbert's fifth book, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, was released by Viking in January 2010. The book is somewhat of a sequel to Eat, Pray, Love in that it takes up Gilbert's life story where her bestseller left off. The book is a thorough examination of the institution of marriage from a multitude of historical and modern perspectives ... including that of people, particularly women, reluctant to marry. In the book, Gilbert also includes perspectives on same-sex marriage and compares this to interracial marriage prior to the 1970s.
In an interview, Gilbert mentioned The Wizard of Oz with nostalgia, adding, "I am a writer today because I learned to love reading as a child...and mostly on account of the Oz books..." She is especially vocal about the importance of Charles Dickens to her, mentioning his stylistic influence on her writing in countless interviews. She lists Marcus Aurelius' Meditations as her favorite book on philosophy.