I am listening to Stephen Metcalf, Katie Roiphe and Julia Turner discuss Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert on the Slate Audio Book Club podcast.
Metcalf hates Eat, Pray, Love. Did he just say that he hates the book, hates the author, and hates anyone who would try to defend either the book or the author? It’s hard to tell. It feels as if Metcalf makes sentences by pulling words from an enormous bag, a bag that contains adjectives and adverbs in high proportion. He takes these words and flings them into the air, creating sentences of sidereal splendour, sentences that are as inaccessible as the stars – at least for me. He is a caffeinated personality, Metcalf, and I like him.
Roiphe loves Eat, Pray, Love. She has written an article for Slate in which she describes it as “…a transcendently great beach book.” She is suggesting to Metcalf that he take a breath, that his hate is irrational, that the book has heart, even if it is pulseless artificial heart - a Dick Cheney heart. Metcalf can rant all he likes, Roiphe will not placate him; she is not that kind of woman. There is a palpable tension between them, but they have more in common than they realise. And he likes her: of course he does.
Turner likes Eat, Pray, Love. She is ready to talk about Gilbert’s book, but finds herself, rather reluctantly, in the middle of a group therapy session. She wonders if her colleagues, Metcalf and Roiphe, will leave the room holding hands, but she dare not say as much.
Metcalf is vitriolic. He detests Elizabeth Gilbert and tells his fellow book clubbers this in emphatic tones. The listener, in this case me, sees through Metcalf’s wordy criticism. His dislike of Gilbert is simple: she is a manipulator - her book reveals this - and Metcalf will not be manipulated by a woman. Oh no, Metcalf likes women who play it straight - like Katie Roiphe, for example.