Elizabeth Gilbert was a successful magazine writer in New York when she went through a life crisis and decided to travel the world. When she got back, her book Eat Pray Love become one of the biggest best-sellers of the past decade, along with its sequel Committed. Her latest novel is called The Signature of All Things.
We've invited Gilbert to play a game called "I refuse to eat, pray, or love." Three questions about dieting, blasphemy and hate.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where we take people who have accomplished big things and ask them to do a very little thing, i.e. play our game, Not My Job. Elizabeth Gilbert was a successful magazine writer in New York when she went through a life crisis and decided to travel. When she got back, her book "Eat, Pray, Love" became one of the biggest bestsellers of the last decade along with its sequel, Committed." She has a new novel out called "The Signature Of All Things." She joins us now. Liz Gilbert, welcome to WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME.
ELIZABETH GILBERT: Thank you.
SAGAL: So there might be one or two people out there listening who neither read "Eat, Pray, Love," nor saw the film with Julia Roberts. So could you describe it briefly for them?
GILBERT: There might be one or two men out there.
GILBERT: Yeah, to be very specific.
SAGAL: Who were afraid to admit it to their significant other.
TOM BODETT: No, my wife and I sat in the warm morning sun feeding each other grapes and read it to each other.
BODETT: Now I'm sitting between two women, I can't speak freely.
SAGAL: Well, so this is - you, as I said, you were going through a life crisis. Your marriage ended, it was not going well. You said, I'm hitting the road. You went to Italy, and then Indonesia and India. And then you wrote a book about these - about the lessons that you learned. Am I summarizing it correctly?
GILBERT: Yeah, you just did it beautifully.
SAGAL: Thank you.
GILBERT: Yeah, I ate my way through India, and actually - ate my way through Italy. What am I saying?
SAGAL: I was about to say, you haven't read the book, have you?
GILBERT: I haven't, actually. I did it all in upstate New York. I was just hoping I wouldn't get busted.
SAGAL: And this - didn't you sort of create a movement of women finding themselves?
GILBERT: I hope so. That wouldn't be such a terrible movement to be responsible for. I certainly didn't set out to do that. My first books, by point of comparison, sold upwards of dozens of copies each. So I was not in any way prepared for that kind of a response, but I'm so surprised by it but delighted by it.
SAGAL: Are there women or anybody who had negative experiences like yeah, I tried to follow in your footsteps. I went to Italy, I got food poisoning, drugged, woke up with one kidney. Thanks a lot.
GILBERT: (Laughter) Yeah, but the kidney they woke up with was on their plate. It was actually their meal.
SAGAL: Oh yes, that's even better. So one of the things that's happened - and this was probably something you didn't expect when you were a working magazine writer, is that you'd become kind of a self-help figure. You just did a tour with Oprah, right?
GILBERT: Yeah. I'm actually on tour with her right now. Well, not right this very minute.
SHELBY FERO: Is she there?
SAGAL: Is she there? Is she there?
O'CONNOR: Could you put her on?
GILBERT: Hang on a second. Ladies and gentlemen - no. Yes, that's been an amazing thing. That's sort of like getting a phone call from the president.
SAGAL: Oh, it's better than that.
SAGAL: President has to call people, Oprah chooses. What is it like being part of like an Oprah revival meeting?
GILBERT: I have to say it's amazing. Being around her is really remarkable. She's a great person, but she's also a good person. And I don't think that's often always necessarily the case. I'm going to be delicate and not name names.
SAGAL: If I told you that I am almost certain, because we've asked, that she does not listen to this show, would you revise any of your opinions about Oprah for us at this point?
GILBERT: I wouldn't. (Laughter) I feel so earnestly respectful of her that I can't even make funny jokes about it. Isn't that terrible?
SAGAL: It i. For my purposes, it's awful. Thanks a lot.
SAGAL: Let's leave Oprah alone then and ask about yourself because you obviously wrote this book and, of course, because it was a big bestseller or because it was wonderful, they made a movie out of it with Julia Roberts playing you. And if I'm not mistaken, Javier Bardem playing the man who ultimately is now your husband. Is that right?
GILBERT: Yeah. We look like that, so it works out really well.
SAGAL: Is it? Is it? I mean, these are two very attractive people. Is it weird to just sit in a movie theater, presumably a nice one with nice clothes on because this is the premier, and you're sitting there with your husband and you're watching yourselves being played by Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem. And do you look at each other and start looking at each other up and down going wait a minute. I kind of got the short end of the stick here.
GILBERT: Can I have my avatar please?
GILBERT: Yeah, it's interesting that you mention watching it in a movie theater with your clothes on. It's probably more fun to watch it at home with your clothes off and just pretend you actually are them.
SAGAL: Really? Did we just find out more about your marriage than I ever wanted to know? I mean...
GILBERT: I have a memoir, Peter. It's all going to come out eventually.
SAGAL: I know. Does your husband say tell me about being in "Pretty
Woman"? Tell me.
GILBERT: I'm like, leave the cattle gun at home.
FERO: Do you then have to foreplay through the eat and the pray?
GILBERT: No, we just put it on 16 times fast-forward.
SAGAL: Now, one problem you have is not only did you write this book about "Eat, Pray, Love" about eventually meeting your husband, you then wrote a second book about marriage - about being married to him. And don't you have an obligation to stay married and happy despite whatever other urge might come upon you in the course of a fight over how to load the dishwasher?
GILBERT: Yeah. We have a contract.
SAGAL: Do you? What is that contract?
GILBERT: No, it came with the book deal. I'm totally kidding, but I loved the terrible silence that followed that.
SAGAL: We were talking to Rick Steves last week, the travel guru, about whether or not - places he recommended that get overrun. And I'm wondering if the same thing applies to you? You write about specific places and things you did in Italy and Indonesia and India. And are those places now being overwhelmed by women in their early 30s who are trying to replicate your experience? Where is my Javier Bardem, they shout.
GILBERT: Well, that's funny 'cause my - you know, my husband lived in Bali for a long time and he still lived there for a while when we were together after the book was written. And every once and a while, he would run into some woman there and she'd say she was there because of "Eat, Pray, Love," and that she was looking for a Brazilian man. And he would just say, why don't you just go to Brazil?
GILBERT: That's where most of them are.
SAGAL: I've heard - well, Elizabeth Gilbert, so much fun to talk to you...
GILBERT: Thank you Peter.
SAGAL: ...But we have asked you here to play a game we're calling...
BILL KURTIS, BYLINE: I refuse to eat, pray or love.
SAGAL: So you wrote "Eat, Pray, Love." Naturally, we're going to ask you three questions about dieting, blasphemy and hate.
GILBERT: Oh my God. That's the name of my next memoir.
SAGAL: You see? Answer two of these three questions correctly and you'll win our prize for one of our listeners. Carl Kasell, his voice on their voicemail. Are you ready to play?
GILBERT: Yeah, let's go.
SAGAL: OK. Bill, who is Liz Gilbert playing for?
KURTIS: Bud Kluek of La Mesa, California.
SAGAL: All right. Bud is waiting on you. Here we go. We're going to start with dieting or starve, if you will.
When it comes to dieting, Atkins and Paleo get all the press. But in 2010, a Kansas State Nutrition professor lost 27 pounds by eating nothing but what? A, Twinkies; B, diet books - and by that, I mean the actual books; Or C, airline peanuts.
GILBERT: Wow. Do I get to know how many days he was on this diet?
SAGAL: He was on this diet for 10 weeks and lost 27 pounds.
GILBERT: For 10 weeks. OK. I don't think you can live on diet books for 10 weeks. I think you could do well with airline peanuts, but when I listen to this show, I always want people to guess the most fun answer, so I'm going to say Twinkies.
SAGAL: In fact, it was Twinkies. Yes.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: He was trying to prove a point - doesn't matter what you eat, as long as you eat less calories. He ate one Twinkie every three hours, and also some Little Debbie snack cakes for variety. Despite the success of the diet, he says I'm not geared to say this is a good thing to do. All right, that's good. That was starve.
Next up, blasphemy. One way you can avoid blaspheming is with what linguists call a minced oath, you know, like gosh darn instead of its blasphemous alternative. Here is another thing that you can say rather than, you know, invoke the Almighty in an unpleasant way. And this used to - you used to say this but it's fallen out of practice. A, well, dad-sizzle it; B, great Wertheimer's majesty; or C, Jesus's favorite sweatervest.
GILBERT: I'm going to go with B.
SAGAL: You're going to go with B, which was great Wertheimer's majesty?
GILBERT: Yes. No I'm not.
SAGAL: Bless you.
GILBERT: I'm not. I know that tone from you, Peter. I'm going to go with A.
SAGAL: You're going to go with A, dad-sizzle?
GILBERT: Dad-sizzle it.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: You're right. My tone gave me away.
SAGAL: Although I - people used to be able to say dad-sizzle it. I, however, am going to say great Wertheimer's majesty whenever I hit my thumb with a hammer.
All right, lastly, we've done starve, we've done blaspheme, now hate. We found an example of a true hate story for the ages. Is it A, a brother and sister who haven't spoken in 73 years because she ate his donut; B, the last two Jews - last two Jews left in Kabul, Afghanistan, who each had a synagogue just so they could keep the other guy out of it; or C, a guy who goes to every single game played by the San Diego Padres for the last eight years - home and away - just so he can boo one player?
GILBERT: Wow. I'm going with C 'cause I think sports hatred is a deeper kind of hatred than any other human hatred there is.
SAGAL: Is a deep hatred, but not as much as the hatred felt by the last two Jews of Afghanistan.
SAGAL: It's true. They absolutely hated each other and they stayed in two different synagogues and they refused to go into the other's. And they ended up living in the same building, but they still wouldn't talk to each other until one of them died.
GILBERT: That's beautiful.
SAGAL: Isn't it great?
GILBERT: My husband's mother didn't talk to her brother for the rest of her life at the age of 30 because he insulted her cucumber salad. So I almost went with the first one but...
SAGAL: Wait a minute.
SAGAL: You're saying your husband's mother didn't talk to her brother because he insulted...
GILBERT: Ever again.
SAGAL: ...Ever again 'cause he insulted...
GILBERT: ...And not only that, their descendents won't speak to each other (Laughing).
SAGAL: What did he say about the cucumber salad?
GILBERT: Do you want to know? I can tell you.
GILBERT: He picked up a piece of cucumber and he said, my doctor says there's no nutrition in this, that you might as well just throw it out a window.
BODETT: And that's it?
SAGAL: That's it?
BODETT: That seems more directed at the cucumber.
SAGAL: Bill, how did Liz Gilbert do on our quiz?
KURTIS: Well, she ate Twinkies, and prayed for dad-sizzle it and got two out of three. That's a winner.
SAGAL: Well done, Liz. Yes, very good.
SAGAL: Elizabeth Gilbert is a New York Times best-selling author. Her latest novel, "The Signature Of All Things" is out in paperback now and it is fantastic. Elizabeth Gilbert, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME. It was fun to talk to you.
GILBERT: Thank you, thanks everybody.
SAGAL: In just a minute, Bill straps on the feed bag and powers a whole city block. It's the Listener Limerick Challenge. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT, to join us on the air.
Support from NPR comes from NPR stations and Subaru, featuring the all new Subaru Outback. Love, it's what makes a Subaru a Subaru. Learn more at Subaru.com. Arizona State University, with more than 70 campus degrees now available 100 percent online at online.asu.edu. And Lumber Liquidators, supporting the Ronald McDonald House charities, the National Braille Press, and NPR. Information is at lumberliquidators.com. We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME from NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.