Tag Archives: nonfiction

Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

 Who would like this book?

-someone who’s interested in the role of marriage in history and our current culture

-someone who thinks ALL this can be done in a 300-page book

-a hard-core Elizabeth Gilbert fan

I finished Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert in two days. I didn’t find it a particularly profound book. I read it at a time when I needed to hear Gilbert’s message about living in the moment and being content. But all in all, I did enjoyed EPL, thought at moments it was hilarious, and recommended it to several people. The book was also my intro to”travel” memoirs.

Committed is the sequel to Eat Pray Love.

I heard Gilbert interviewed on CBC, and she said that it was difficult for her to write this book, as if her voice could not be found. As someone who “dabbles” a bit with writing, I picked this up in the book almost immediately. Gilbert desires more than anything, for this book to be a different book then Eat Pray Love, which was on the New York Times Best Seller Book list for 187 weeks.  It seems, from the feel of Committed, that she didn’t want to ride on the success of her book Eat Pray Love, and desired to release a different sounding book, but could not. I think that Gilbert does not want to be typecast. Or maybe she just got lucky with Eat Pray Love and couldn’t pull it off again in a sequel. On an incredibly creepy note,  Gilbert is listed as one of the decade’s most influential people by Time Magazine.

The book Committed: a skeptic makes peace with Marriage, is a boring title for a boring book.

In the conclusion of the book Eat Pray Love, Gilbert meets a man who she falls madly in love with. He is Australian/Brazilian and she is American. Gilbert wants to settle in the lovely U.S. of A, but her boyfriend Felipe is denied the ability to enter the US unless she sponsors him through marriage. Gilbert is absolutely, positively opposed to marriage.

So, she wrote Committed to come to terms with forced marriage, and the entire institution of Marriage.

She researches marriage somewhat through history,  and somewhat across cultures to come up with a mental justification, a pretense so she can marry in good conscience. Chapters and chapters of ramblings ensue that include something about motherhood and about pioneers. She concludes ( I assume) that marriage is what you make of it. That it changes with each individual and evolves over time. Commitment means something different in each relationship.

I’m only assuming because I didn’t finish the book.

I am a very STRONG advocate of not finishing books. Life is too short to read books that you think you should read because it was recommended to you, or because you think they are culturally relevant. So this book fell into that category for me. I wasn’t worth my time. I only enjoyed the few parts of the book where Gilbert introduces someone she has met or talked to about marriage. She is a gifted humourist and can paint people vividly.

She pissed me off too, because she said that Alan and I were extremely likely to separate. Well, she didn’t address us personally, but we had the Liz Gilbert divorce factors nailed down:  getting married young, having kids, being Christian, wife with no career (husband with no career yet, for that matter)….   What I can say to Elizabeth Gilbert, who is in her late 30s, is that life is not simply about factors that are met or not met. Marriage is much more complex than that. Maybe she said the same thing, but I didn’t get to that part in the book.

Cheers!

PS. If anyone LOVED this book, please argue with me!

 

Committed to Marriage
Ah...marital bliss.

 

One Week Job, by Sean Aikens

Who:

  • me
  • someone disillusioned with the job market/ their career/ their life
  • teenagers/university grads who have to start to think about career choices
  • Andrew Keogh

The Book:

Sean Aiken graduated from university with a great education. He’s smart, talented and comes from a loving and supporting home. Young, with his whole life ahead of him, to make of it what he wants. Such freedom. Well, what’s his problem? Why did he write a book about it?

He had absolutely NO idea what he wanted to do with his life. He only knew he didn’t want to waste his time for a pay cheque. He wanted a meaningful career to complement a meaningful life. Sean Aiken did not do what I did. He did not waste his time applying for random jobs that might interest him. Instead, he set up a website and an idea. He wanted to try out a new job every week for an entire year. His hope was that he would get a feel for each job and each field.

He tried some very random things:  being a Bungee cord technician (not sure if that’s the correct title), chucking things out of the Hercs at CFB Trenton (airbase), selling stocks, and making pizza. It was a memorable year.

What Sean discovers, is that there is MUCH more choice then he’d ever imagined.

The book was inspirational, it forced me to evaluate what I am passionate about, what is important to me?

This issue seems to be all my husband and I talk about these days. Both of us are still young (27) and soon our lovely children will require less “hands-on” time. We may start to have the energy to engage in jobs/careers that we feel are significant, rather than just focusing on getting on our feet and paying off that whopper OSAP loan. I think this book would resonate with anyone who is in the same space as us.

A lack-lustre job, if you don’t generally like what you do, is not worth your time. I am starting to FIRMLY believe this, despite what my father’s generation says.

I would encourage anyone to pick up this book, even if they find their work satisfying, because it is a fun read and Sean Aikens calls us to rethink career and lifestyle choices.

My only beef about the book, is I’m not certain I like Sean Aiken. He made everything seem so easy, and maybe for him it was. But we can’t all just not work and, instead, travel North America and try out new jobs. There were a few moments when I felt that he was too spoiled. Like he was lucky. But I shouldn’t be so hard on him.

I think his message is great, but maybe life is not always about finding your passion. Maybe sometimes it is about being a hard stage and coming out of it.  As long as you can evaluate. The most important lesson from the book is that people will take time to evaluate.

Have a look at his website: www.oneweekjob.com

Farm City, The Education of an Urban Farmer

I just finished an insightful book called Farm City, the Education of an Urban Farmer. I would love for someone else to pick it up and read it too.

Who would like it?

  • anyone with a mild interest in gardening
  • people interested in eating local would gain some new ideas and insight
  • someone who enjoys honest and humorous non-fiction.

The Book:

In Farm City, The Education of an Urban Farmer, the author Novella Carpenter introduces the reader to her “homestead”. This is a non-fiction account of Carpenter’s farm in Downtown Oakland, California. It sounds like a familiar place, a downtown with regular violent crimes, highways beside decaying and abandoned buildings and old homes turned into apartments with absentee landlords.

In an abdicated city lot, Carpenter raises beds for vegetables and fruit and builds pens for her animals. Animals? In the city? This eccentric and somewhat crazy woman actually tends livestock in downtown Oakland. This leads to wild tales of turkeys killed by junkyard dogs, hens clucking down sidewalks, and neighbours complaining about the smell of her pigs. Oh yeah, she has pigs…. which she feeds entirely by dumpster diving at local restaurants.

Carpenter’s passion is personal food production. She wants to know her food and be enriched by it.  Home grown food resonates with me too. I have slowly developed a unease with the grocery food business. Grocery stores provide us with necessities; but food comes to us with no endearment and at great environmental cost.

Homemade food thrills Carpenter, and she loves the value it holds.  Each spinach leaf tangibly represents weeks of work, sunshine and water.  She is so close to her food that on cold nights, her young poultry stay in her living room. And she still thought it was worthwhile, even when she had to gulp down (pun intended) all reserve and kill and roast her own rabbits.

She considers food production part of our cultural history. We have innate desires to “make” our own food. She claims this is our heritage, and I understand this. I still enjoy gardening, even though summers of my childhood included weeding. My grandmother, at 76, still puts up enough veggies for the winter. Carpenter thinks such good and perfect things need not be sacrificed for city life.

Carpenter vs. Kingsolver

I kept thinking of Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. A detailed memoir in which the privileged Kingsolver gives up an urbanunnatural” life in Arizona to live in a backwoods farm, committed to growing most of her own food.

Carpenter is very clear that city life is interesting, less isolating, and just as natural.  We don’t have to be hermits to be farmers. It made me feel proud to be city-folk, (even though I grew up in very rural Ontario). Conscientious food consumers don’t have to pine for the country. I still occasionally yearn for the idyllic country, but having lots of space is not the only way to solve the grocery store conundrum. It made me rethink preconceptions about farming and food production.

Despite her lofty ideals, Carpenter struck me as rounded and mature, brimming with empathy. One hot July day,  she witnessed a junkie shoot up from her window. Sitting there, watching him, she was struck with the shame of her so-called “foodie righteousness.”

She had considered herself better than people who ate carelessly and only knew how to use a microwave to reheat frozen dinners. There are more important things in life then what food she eats and where it comes from. There are bigger issues in this world. I liked that the best about this book; Carpenter was convicted but compassionate. There is nothing worse than a self-righteous eater, when basically we are all just trying to survive.

It would be hard to believe this woman’s story, but she writes with such authenticity.

I am new at this “urban gardening/ food production thing,” but I was inspired.  The book extrapolated very clearly that urban food production is not a new or radical idea. Cities like Shanghai, produce 85% of their own food within city limits, and have done so since the beginning of memory.

So we are giving it a go: my family and I have a tiny spot in a friend’s plot at the local Hill Street community garden. And things are growing. It will be a good bean year, and every time I go to see the garden I am thrilled.  I liken the feeling to watching my children smile. It’s mesmerizing, and the spinach and greens are tender and not even a bit bitter.

The humour in this book, her wry sarcasm and honesty (my favourite part was when she confessed to actually having a sizable grow op when she lived in Seattle), even her occasional F word slip, made me feel like we were close friends.

I was also encouraged because this book is about love.  It is about love for a city and community, and for nature that can coexist.  And it is about the good feelings that come from building up your neighbourhood. Even if it’s something as simple as sharing homegrown food.

Some thoughts?

Continue reading Farm City, The Education of an Urban Farmer