In A Note to the Reader at the beginning of Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Committed, she lists twenty-seven women friends as the readers for whom she wrote this book – her follow on to the massively successful Eat Pray Love. It is a mark of the immediacy of her writing that I was disappointed not to see my name in that list and from here on in have come to think of myself as the twenty-eighth friend.

That said, Committed is no Eat Pray Love. For starters its title is not nearly as catchy. I would go so far as to say that the author has probably had some sort of subliminal effect on the English language with the catchy EPL – one can hardly say the word “Eat” now without the other two words following hot on its heels.

In fact I am somewhat bewildered as to why Committed was selected as the title of this book. Why not Marriage? The book is resolutely about marriage and barely scrapes the surface of all those other partnerships (increasingly popular in this day and age) that have not resulted in some sort of public, legal wedding event.  It is no spoiler to say that at the end of this book Elizabeth and Felipe do marry and succumb to the delights of a wedding ceremony to boot. It is such a pity that Gilbert  is unable to attend the festival, I would so have loved an opportunity to ask her more about the choice of title.

What does the reader get from Committed? Well, for starters there is a really good expose of marriage from an economical, historical, social, familial and cultural perspective. It should be compulsory reading for every thinking couple. In addition you get to follow the love story of Elizabeth and Felipe through the months leading up to their marriage. But wait, there’s more – because much of the book is set in South East Asia so all those lovers of Gilbert’s travel writing will have a little something to look forward to (although after reading Committed, I am in no hurry to visit Cambodia) and it is all presented in Gilbert’s inimitable style – informative, open, chatty and at times directly engaging.

But, in the world of Venn diagrams, I think that Gilbert may find there is scant overlap in the readership circles of these two books. The millions who loved EPL may recoil from the research details of Committed, the readers who hated EPL probably won’t try the next book anyway. So where does that leave us? With a new set of readers who will pick up the book on the strength of its somewhat misleading title? Or the tiny group of which I suspect I am probably a part: those who loved Eat Pray Love and who find to our delight that we love this next book as much, if not better.

12 thoughts on “Committed

  1. onederccl 4 May 2010 / 2:00 pm

    I think “Committed” is very fitting title for her book – after all, it is because Elizabeth and Felipe are so committed to each other that they decide to try to let go of all their bad associations with marriage in order to be together.
    As a skeptic of marriage myself, I loved this book. I don’t think there is any reason for people to get married these days, unless a) the symbolism of marriage is important to you personally or b) the government tells you that you can’t live together where you want to unless you are married (as was the case with our couple in “Committed”). However, part of me couldn’t really understand why getting married was such a big deal for the author – her and Felipe were already as (if not more) emotionally committed as any married couple anyway; the only difference is the paper work.
    I also recommend “The Last American Man” (written before “Eat, Pray, Love” fame) for anyone who likes Elizabeth Gilbert as much as I do 🙂

  2. joyciescotland 4 May 2010 / 2:05 pm

    Getting married was probably only a big deal for Gilbert as it gave her a nice, emotive subject to hang her second book on.

  3. Lynne 4 May 2010 / 2:53 pm

    Nasty old cynic that I am, I’m looking forward to the sequel, detailing her divorce. Will she call it “De-committed”? ? “Un-married”? “Re-recycled”? I think “De-commissioned” is nice.

  4. joycie 4 May 2010 / 7:46 pm

    Hahaha….I love your cynicism Lynne. I kinda like “Dumped” as a title.

  5. Marion H 6 May 2010 / 12:26 pm

    Being a lover of puns – I wondered if it was a play on the word – committed to each other – committed to an institute (as in an asylum rather that the institute of marriage)?

    • Roberta Smith 7 May 2010 / 9:28 am

      Will we ever know? Not in the next book I don’t think – apparently it is a novel.

  6. joyciescotland 6 May 2010 / 12:42 pm

    Aaah, now I did also think about “committed” as a placement in a prison or asylum but I am working on being less cynical and bitter!!!

    • Roberta Smith 7 May 2010 / 9:26 am

      I thought that too – I am so sorry she won’t be at the festival to harass on this ticklish business of titles!

  7. Nicole 6 May 2010 / 8:09 pm

    When I finally find myself less committed (that’s one of those words where you have to check how many m’s and t’s you put in!) to the more mundane tasks of work, study and house maintenance, I am going to read BOTH those books. They sound awesome enough to make it to my book notebook – where I put in all the books that look fascinating but I can’t read just now because I will exceed my ‘sensible book quota’ for the month.

  8. Roberta Smith 7 May 2010 / 9:25 am

    Give me a benchmark number here, what’s a “sensible book quota” for the month for you?

  9. Allison Broster 10 May 2010 / 9:20 pm

    Count me among the cynics. And probably one of the few who didn’t LOVE Eat Pray Love. One the other hand perhaps my main criticism (I have much more interesting stories to tell and could tell them better) is a mark of how accessible and engaging her writing is. OK, trying to be charitable here. And I have to say that Committed sounds like a worthy rather than a fun read. Maybe Gilbert is going for weighty rather than frothy this time.

  10. Roberta Smith 11 May 2010 / 8:38 am

    Here’s what I think she does in Committed:hunkers down and gets stuck into the research to expose some really fascinating insights into marriage. Then just when you are on the cusp of a teeny tiny little yawn she swings round, stares you full in the face and delivers a punchline of such stunning directness and exposure that you feel as if she is right in front of you.As a writer she does the rambling story telling and the stand-up comedy punchline all in one neat little package. Works for me, especially in Committed.

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