I've spoken before about my inability to disprove the idea that I am, in fact, a middle-aged to elderly woman instead of a hairy twenty-something man. I have another piece of damning evidence to submit to the court. Imagine this man, younger, skinnier, hairier, lost, listening to Eat, Pray, Love on audiobook on repeat while baking furiously for weeks. This is how I spent a not completely insignificant two or three months of my life, healing from a deadly severe bout of depression and a couple of damaging relationships. During that time Eat, Pray, Love proved to being the strongest piece of alchemy for my healing. Funny, poignant and honest, it led me out of the dark.
Cut to several years later, and I'm lying in bed with my fiancée, reading aloud from Committed. In the months leading up to our wedding, we'll read the entire thing together, from cover to cover, pausing in spots to reflect on the idea of 'marriage'. Is it necessary? Will it mean the same for us later on? Is this woman comfortable with marrying a man who listens to Eat, Pray, Love while baking? You know, the key questions.
In between these life altering moments stands two other works. The Last American Man was read shortly after Eat, Pray, Love, and was one of the first pieces of non-memoir non-fiction that made creative non-fiction one of my favourite forms of writing. Underestimated and uncelebrated, The Last American Man is a stunning portrayal of colonialism, masculinity and America.
At the other end is The Signature of All Things, proving that one author can straddle the fictional and non-fictional worlds with equal skill and zest. The Signature of All Things is a superbly written novel. It's a technical masterpiece.
Elizabeth Gilbert wrote all of these. There are few other contemporary living writers who have had as much effect over my writing and personal life. Perhaps most importantly, Elizabeth has illuminated the space between these lives, and gives voice to the downright weird, inexpressible but valuable connection between the two.
Tonight, I'm going to the Powerhouse to see her speak, on behalf of Brisbane Writers Festival, and I could not be more pleased. I've become all nostalgic for those days where I heard her voice in my ear, my clothes covered in flour, still in my pyjamas, nursing several oven burns on my fingers. It was an unpleasant time, but it's Elizabeth Gilbert who is in large part to thank for making it a positive experience. There is no nobler calling for an artist, I believe, than to be healer and entertainer both.
This article was originally posted on 05/03/2014 Blog - David Burton