Monday, February 7, 2011

thoughts on Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

Committed: A Love StoryI spent a year reading Committed, Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir/treatise on marriage. I started the book the week of my wedding, which was one year ago today. As I've spent more time this past year pondering marriage than I ever have before, I relished dipping into Gilbert's words on the subject.

I still hold Eat, Pray, Love as one of my all-time favorite books. If you didn't like it, then you probably won't like Committed either. They're incredibly different memoirs, but both are incredibly reflective, honest and personal; it's a style you either love or hate. I love her turn of phrase: "the happier twin sister of loneliness: privacy."

Mr. Nomadreader and I have been together for five years now, and I love him fiercely. Sometimes I'm still surprised we got married. We committed to living our lives together years before we got married (or engaged) and adopted the general attitude that when it became important for one or both of us to get married, we would, but until we felt the need to, we were fine just being international love partners (a phrase we coined because partner seemed too generic, life partner too severe and we wanted something to convey our commitment both to each other and to a life of travel and fun.) All of this leads into the main point: if you are a person who always dreamed of a wedding or even one whose relationship (or ideal relationship) entails a linear path of dating, engagement, wedding, then this book might not mean much to you. If, however, you are like me and were not quite sure if marriage suited you, or simply don't find it a necessary step in a romantic relationship, then you might just love Committed as much as I did.

The premise of the book is simple: both Gilbert and her boyfriend (a term she finds silly at her age) are divorced. Neither wants to get married again. He is not a U.S. citizen, and returning from a trip abroad, he is detained by customs. They're faced with getting married or him never coming back to the U.S. Gilbert wrestles with her aversion to getting married while never doubting her love.

Favorite passages: "The person whom you choose to marry is perhaps the single most vivid representation of your own personality. Your spouse becomes the most gleaming possible mirror through which your emotional individualism is reflected back to the world. There is no choice more intensely personal, after all, than whom you choose to marry."

"Marriage in the Western world changes with every century, adjusting itself constantly around new social standards and new notions of fairness. The Silly Putty-like malleability of the institution, in fact, is the only reason we still have the thing at all."

"It took me over three and a half decades to get to this point--to learn the limitations of sane human intimacy, as nicely defined by C.S. Lewis, when he wrote of his wife, 'We both knew this: I had my miseries, not hers' she had hers, not mine.'"

"Forgiveness may be the only realistic antidote we are offered in love, to combat the inescapable disappointments of intimacy."

"'MARRIAGE IS NOT PRAYER!' he insisted (italics and capitals his.) 'That's why you have to do it in front of others, even in front of your aunt who smells like cat litter. It's a paradox, but marriage actually reconciles a lot of paradoxes: freedom with commitment, strength with subordination, wisdom with utter nincompoopery, etc. And you're missing the main point--it's not just to 'satisfy' other people. Rather, you have to hold your wedding guests to their end of the deal. They have to help you with your marriage; they have to support you or Felipe, if one of you falters."

Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Length: 304 pages
Publication date: January 5, 2010 (it's in paperback now)
Source: I bought it for my Kindle

Here I am with my wonderful husband, who is still my international love partner first and foremost, at our wedding. We got married at the Country Music Hall of Fame Library in downtown Nashville, and our card catalog pose (with sparkling wine, of course) remains my favorite photo of our wedding. My thoughts on marriage are still incredibly complicated, and I'm as drawn to tales of marriage now as I was a year ago. It's a powerful theme I seek out in fiction, memoir and film, and I plan to write about it semi-regularly here in the coming years. Happy anniversary to Mr. Nomadreader, my most doting reader, who takes the time to talk to me about each and every blog post I write. This one is for you, who may not have said it the way Felipe did, but sure has let me live like it: "a woman's place is in the kitchen...sitting in a comfortable chair, with her feet up, drinking a glass of wine and watching her husband cook dinner."

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  1. Happy Anniversary, Mr. and Mrs. Nomadreader! :) Love the photo!

    I've read some excerpts of both Elizabeth Gilbert's books and they didn't hold much appeal for me ... but am glad you enjoyed them!

  2. As an old fogey who's been married for years and years, I'm not sure this one's for me. Happy anniversary to you!

  3. a.) happy anniversary!
    b.) I think I am in love with your relationship (especially if your husband let's you live like Felipe's quote)
    c.) I ADORED both EPL and Committed. I lost myself in them and in Committed feel like I finally found someone who got me.
    d.) The first quote that you quoted is the reason that I take marriage so seriously and am not planning on doing it unless I find someone who is my mirror (per se).
    e.) I hate the paperback cover (what do you think about it?)... just saw it for the first time the other day. I think it makes it look like a YA romance. Loved the hardcover cover better... wish they had just carried it over to the paperback.

  4. What a sweet anniversary tribute! I can't decide if this book is for me though, even if my relationship hasn't taken the traditional path!

  5. After recently finishing Eat Pray Love I've wondered about this one. I think I'd want some distance between the two, but I think I'd consider reading this one in the future.

  6. I had no interest in this book until I read your review. My boyfriend (and yes, that does seem like a silly term) and I have been together for 19 years, and neither of us has any desire to get married. So it might be interesting to get Gilbert's take on what it's like to get married when your ambivalent about marriage.

  7. I enjoy her writing so I would probably enjoy her thoughts on this. Right now I am reading The Last american Man and I am reminded by how much I have enjoyed her writing.

    Happy anniversary!

  8. GREAT review! Thanks for sharing your experience. I'm one of those peeps who is not married (though I tell colleagues I am to cut down on the judgemental southerners giving me a talk) because sometimes I wonder if it's for me or really all that important. I think I might have to try this book myself.

    Happy anniversary to you both! :)

  9. I really enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love and found it a good fit for where I was at in life. Now, I'm married, so I guess I better pick up this next one. :)

    And Happy Anniversary to you and your husband!

  10. A little late... but Happy Anniversary!

    I don't get to do as much reading as I would like lately, or see any new movies, so I don't make many comments on your blog - but it really is great!

    I too am a fan on Eat, Pray, Love... like her writing style and can relate to her inner conflict on marriage, even though I AM a Mrs. now.

    Looking forward to reading more. Hope to see you and Mr. Nomadreader soon ;)


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