On the Road with Liz and Jim

I finished Liz Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love the other day, finally. The subtitle for this book is One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia. Quite the sub, I must say. I really enjoyed Italy and found some interesting things in India, but by Indonesia, well, let's just say crossing the finish line was hard.

Gilbert is a wonderful writer, no debate. She's got an ear for dialogue that's an inspiration to me; if you aspire to be a fiction writer, I'd suggest reading this book. The writing has an attractive quirkiness that reminded me of Anne Lamott before she shifted to Plan B. Liz's (I can call her by her first name now that we've traipsed all over Italy, India, and Indonesia together) theology is one that even mother Oprah would love and does.

If the book's not from the library, meaning I own it, I read with a pen close at hand, making marginal notes and underlining words or phrases along the way. Here's something I underlined:
He said, "Just as there exists in writing a literal truth and a poetic truth, there also exists in a human being a literal anatomy and a poetic anatomy. One, you can see; one, you cannot. One is made of bones and teeth and flesh; the other is made of energy and memory and faith. But both are equally true."

That's beautiful. And, I believe, equally true.

I tried to determine just why it took me so long to finish Liz's journey. Like I alluded to earlier, I had to hunker down and plow to the finish. As best I can tell, Liz just got too, well, feminine for me there at the end. Now Liz is a female, so I should've expected as much. But those last pages in Indonesia where she found her Brazilian boyfriend, Felipe, just got too romantical for me. If you're a female, as Liz is, then you might relish that leg of the journey, but if you're a male, like me, well, it was just too much. I found myself itching and scratching to leave Indonesia and get back on American soil, by God, and get that Brazilian boyfriend's philosophy out of my head and spend some time in the company of a man who loves dogs and sunrise and believes cell phones to be of the devil. Sayonara, Liz; hello, Jim Harrison.

This weekend, I finished Harrison's latest The English Major. Now I've read just about everything big Jim's written and he's at the top of my list of favorite writers. He, like Liz, is a stellar writer and has an ear for dialogue that consistently rings true. I'm not sure Oprah would embrace Jim's theology, but I'm quite sure Jim would lose zero sleep over that one. And this book, like Liz's, is of the travelin' kind, except it stays at home rather than abroad.

I'll say this book isn't one of Jim's best works. But it has all the reassuring Harrison masculinity that I've come to expect from the old bear and in the wake of Liz and Felipe taking off their shoes and saying Attraversiamo, to read about major character Cliff grieving the loss of beloved dog Lola seemed to set things aright for me. And when Cliff flushed a cell phone down the toilet, well, let's just say I had to grab a Kleenex.

I read Jim's new book with a pen at hand. Here is something I underlined:
The world is a wobbly place and so is my mind.

God bless you, Jim.

Two caveats. As I said, Liz's theospirituality is all over the place; Italy, India, and Indonesia, to be exact. If you need a train that stays on the tracks, Liz ain't your girl. And Jim likes to cuss and talk about women's butts, alot. Not much I can elaborate on there, other than that might be a deterrent to you getting in the passenger seat of Cliff's Ford Taurus and setting off across the fifty states.

1 comment:

  1. Oooh! I like to cuss.

    I mean, thank you, Brother John, for your insight and care in reviewing these books for us.