Elizabeth Gilbert – Life after Eat Pray Love


[Applause] -That’s a pretty nice
reception. – Nice place you have here. [Laughter] – Good afternoon everybody. My name is Caroline Baum and
I’m delighted to be here with you today for what I think is
going to be a very inspirational experience. Um, Elizabeth, you- if you’d
been here yesterday, I suppose we would have had
to call this talk “Heat, Pray Love.” Youů poor Elizabeth was
driving back from the, um, south coast yesterday and
spent most of yesterday in a car, um, so, she deserves a
medal, I think, for being here today. Um, most of you will have
been asked when you booked your tickets whether you
would like to ask a question today, and so I’ll be
incorporating some of those questions into our
conversation. And, I hope, that those of
you that don’t get your question asked will still get
some of the answers that you’re seeking from the
conversation that we’re about to have. And, at the end of this
session, Elizabeth will be, um, in the foyer and looks
forward to saying hello to you. And, there will be some
pre-signed books, um, her new book, which is her
great-grandmother’s cookbook, um, which will be available
for sale. So, you will get a chance to
say hello then. Um, you know you’ve made it
when your bestselling book is satirised by Barry Humphries, [laughter] not to mention The Simpsons
and also our own local comedienne Judith Lucy who
wrote a book called Drink, Smoke Pass Out in your
honour. [Laughter] – I saw it in a book store. I have to say I think that’s
one of the best ones I’ve seen yet. – Yeah, it’s not bad.
– Very nice. – Umů
– I approve. – I thought that, given that
the talk today is supposed to be about life after Eat,
Pray, Love that, maybe it would be useful for us to go
back to before Eat, Pray, Love in order that we can
kind of understand the trajectory that you’ve been
on a little better. Um, and I guess I wanted to
start by asking you what your definition of success was
before this tsunami kind of hit you. So, when you were growing up
on your father’s Christmas tree farm with two goats and
honey bees and a television that didn’t work very well,
what was your dream and what was your idea of how to go
about that? – Um, I always say that I’m
very lucky because I’ve only ever wanted to do one thing
with my life and I’ve only ever been good at one thing. And it’s, I think it’s rare
that you get both of those pieces, right? Um, I, I don’tů I’m not
interested in anything but writing and I’m not good at
anything but writing so it makes your path extremely
clear. You know? I have friends who are
multi-talented and they’re cursed by it. And I’m notů I do think of it
as a curse. Um, they’re pulled in, in
many different directions. That’s never been a problem
for me, um, and so it’s been pretty simple trajectory. There’s been so much other
stuff in my life that I’ve made messy and complicated
but, for some reason, the writing path has been
straight and narrow, um, from about the age of nine on, um,
maybe even earlier. And, the idea was to just,
um, write as much as I could. Start, I started sending
short stories out for publication when
I was about 18. Um, I collected rejection
notes for six years. Um, that was okay. My goal was to get published
before I was dead. And people [laughter], people in my
family live a really long time. So, I thought: “I got a long arc here.” And, it’s not like, you know,
it’s not like being a dancer where, if you haven’t done it
by the time you’re 22, you know? Um, I had, I knew that, that
you only mellow more into your work as a writer. So, I wouldů took
the long view. And, um, and, and, really
honestly, from the beginning, my only goal was that I,
someday, wanted to have something published somewhere. – I’m interested in this,
because I know that in your 20s you left Connecticut, and
you went off to Wyoming, and you became a cowgirl. And you, I think, cooked on a
ranch, and you did various kind of very physical, very
masculineů -Yeah.
-ůvery rusticated things. And, um, I wondered whether,
in fact, you were on a kind of personal quest there? That you could talk a little
bit about exploring that masculine world at, because
you were a tomboy weren’t you? – No.
That’s theů – I thought you were?
-No, look!! Um, no I wasn’t and I’m not. And, um, and, in fact, I was
on a quest to make a man out of myself. I think that’s really what I
was trying to do. Um, I come from very tough
people and I’m not a tough person. And I’ve always felt that it
was a liability. Um, I, my mother’s tough, my
dad’s tough, my sister’sů macho. I mean, there are, like,
people, my, my whole Gilbert side of the family. My uncle refers to them all
as oxen, you know? Um, the Olsen side of the
family are all Swedish immigrants, so they’re like
lazy and, no I’m just kidding, they’re not at all. They’re just, and I always
felt like weak, you know? I always felt like I was the
weakest link in, in every family gathering. I was a cry baby, and a
sensitive, and emotional and, um, and I wasn’t a pretty kid
but I wanted to be, and, um, and, and somehow I just
wanted to overcome that sense of, um, helplessness. And, I think that’s what drew
me to, to the west and to ranching, which I wasn’t very
good at. [Laughter] But I made friends, you know? – Well, and you, you
discovered people who were incredibly competent and who
lived by a very different set of values. And, and you wrote about
those people very memorably. And, that’s why I was sort of
leading you, hoping that you were going to talk about, um,
Eustace Conwayů -Mm.
– because he is such a, an extraordinary character and I
was just wondering, for people who haven’t read your
books from before Eat Pray Love, whether you could talk
a little bit about what you learnt from encountering
someone like Eustace Conway in terms of values. – Um, Eustace Conway, ah, for
those of you who haven’t read it, is, is a guy who I
profiled in a book called The Last American Man. Um, he was one of the most
fascinating people I’d ever met. I did a magazine article
about him for GQ. He was the brother of a
cowboy who I met on the ranch in Wyoming and, even among
that set, where people were pretty macho and pretty
tough, they were all like: “And then there’s Eustace.” You know, he was like, sort
of at the Navy Seal level of, um, outdoorsmen. And he had left his family’s
suburban home when he was 17, moved into the woods of North
Carolina, and has been living there ever since. He’s a utopian, he’s a visionary,
he’s, um, he’s a tyrant. Um, he’s a very complicated,
difficult person, who I spent probably four years of my
life with, um, writing this book about him. And, um, came away, ah, came
away with a very different idea of our heroes. I mean, I think I started the
book with a real sense of hero worship and came awayů
um, there’s a line that Ursula Le Guin says, that she
says, um: “The other side of heroism
is very sad; women and
servants know this.” Um, and when I was closer to
his life, and you saw the sort of, the sadness of, of
his, um, ferociousness, um, and the casualties of the
people who admired him, and followed him into the woods
and, and just the complications of being so
grandiose. Um, it, it tempered me for
hero worship in the future. – Because it’s interesting,
in the book you de-romanticized the idea of a
man who lives in the woods. Because you say that, when
people in cities talk about the woods, they get this sort
of nostalgic look and they go: “Oh, the woods, the woods.” And Eustace’s view of life in
the woods is harsh and brutal. -Yeah.
-But then, you tell this story about seeing him
talking about his life to a group of school children and
that crystallises something for you about authenticity. So, when you saw Eustace
Conway talking with these children, you saw
authenticity that you wanted didn’t you? – Well, he, he’s incredibly
compelling, um, and, and very real. Um, and his values are
earnest. Um, I don’t think you can be
a fundamentalist of any stripe if you don’t have
earnest values. Ah, he, he believes, quite
rightly, that we are driving this car off a cliff
environmentally, um, on the planet earth and that America
is leading that car chase over the edge of the
precipice. He wants to transform the way
we think about resources. He wants to transform the way
that we think about nature. Um, and he has this kind of
messianic ability, especially with young people. They’re awestruck by him. Um, and it’s beautiful to
watch. And, whenever you see him in
action like that, it’s incredibly moving, and it’s
incredibly stirring. And it’s incredibly
unrealistic. And it’s incredibly
un-pragmatic. And, it comes with, um, a
whole other sort of darkness as well, um, that, that I
needed to get away from after a while. – ’cause I was going to ask
you whether you think you’re very susceptible to
charismatic leader figures? Are youů – I’m susceptible to
everything [laughter] – But are youů
– But, yeah? -ůare you a follower?
– Oh, hell yeah. What, what do you have?
What are you selling? I’m buying it. What do you believe in? I believe it. You know?
What’s the fad? I’m drinking acai juice right
now, and pomegranate. Like whatever! I’m, I’m the permeable
membrane, you know? I’m a, I’m a Cancer. Um, I, I just believe.
I’m very gullible. Um, it’s why I think it’s
funny that I was a journalistů -Mm.
– Um, because I think it, it doesn’t really make for great
journalism [laughter]. Um, I believe anything people
tell me about themselves and then I report it, you know? Um,
[laughter] like people, you know, people
would be like: “I’m the best six string
guitar player the east coast of the United States has ever
produced” and I’ll be: “This guy is the best sixů” You know? I fact checked it because I
asked him and he told me [laughter]. Um, you know, and there’s a,
you know, that’s kind of just how I am, and I’m always
going to be that way. Um, there’s, there’s nothing
for it really, you know? Like I keep waiting to,
I mean, the world has beaten a bit of it out of me, but I
come back for more all the time. Um, and on the other hand,
there’s great benefits of being like that. -Mm.
-You know, there’s a great openness and, um, people
trust me and should. Um, and, you know, there’s
that sort of feeling that comesů – In a sense, you’ve kept your
sense of wonder? – Yeah, yeah, I would say so
I think, I think the scariest thing for me about going
through depression, um, when I went through my divorce
and, and the subsequent despair, was having that
dulled down. Um, you know, that, what
depression does to you and what despair does to you, is
it makes everything in the world into sawdust. – Mm.
– And you lose all the shimmer, and all the marvel,
and all the wonder and, and that made me feel more
unfamiliar to myself than, than anything I could imagine. – Hmmm.
We may come back to that. Um, just staying with the
journalism for a moment, one of the things that really
strikes me about that journalism period of your
life, again before Eat, Pray, Love is that you were often
the only woman in a very macho world. -Yeah.
– You liked to go into those very masculine worlds. – Yeah.
– So, for example, one of the pieces that you wrote that
got a lot of attention at GQ was about a bar The Coyote
Ugly bar, which subsequently, that story got turned into a
movie. Um, can you talk a little bit
about what you were looking for in terms of what, what
interested you about masculinity? – Um, I think I have, I think
I had to spend my 20s solving it. Um, I ů I like men. Um, and I think that that
interested me because I don’t think that’s necessarilyů
I don’t think everybody necessarily feels that. I don’t think every woman
necessarily feels that way about men. Um, I enjoy the
company of men. I grew up with a, a lot of
uncles and they were all, to my mind, incredibly funny
and, and very charming, and their attention was
worth the world. And they were, um, they were
great story tellers, um, I, I mean my, my, weirdly, my
happiest memories of my family were when everybody
was still a, um, an actual alcoholic and not a recovered
alcoholic [laughter]. And they used to have these
family gatherings and my uncles and my grandfather and
my great-grandfather, I mean, like I said, people live a
long time in my family, despite how much they drink. And they, um, they were just
brilliant and, and, and alluring to me. Um, and I felt like, in those
moments, when I was a little kid, and I got to sit in the
corner of the kitchen and they didn’t know I was there,
and I was listening to the dirty jokes and the raunchy
stories and the, and the outrageousness of men, um,
they just seemed more interesting to me. And, I’m sorry to say this,
and I do regret this, they seemed more interesting to me
than the women who were, now I see, taking care of
everything while these men were having a very good time
being extremely irresponsible. And the women were being very
responsible and responsibility isn’t alluringů – Mm.
-ů in the same way as irresponsibility. And, um, and so I wanted to
be with those people at that table. I didn’t want to be with the
people who were making the casseroles, and washing the
dishes, and paying the bills and raising the children. I wanted to be
with those guys. Um, and so I spent my 20s
mostly with those guys, um, and more identified
with them. And, and I think I did so
both at a gain and at a loss for myself. I think it, they were
interesting years. They were exciting years. Um, but I deniedů there was a
lot that I wasn’t noticing about the world and there was
a lot that I wasn’t respecting. And, um, there was a lot that
I wasn’t paying attention to in my, my own self. -So, I, I’m curious about,
given what you’ve just said about how, when you come to
Eat, Pray, Love, the voice and the tone, the very, um,
intimate, very conversational tone, as if you’re talking to
a girlfriend, umů – Mm.
– How you arrived at that feminine sensibility and that
feminine voice, given what you’ve just said. – I hadůI had it, um, forced
out of meůthrough tremendous pain, wierdly. Um, I came at it through a
pathway of pain. Um, I was so disconnected.
I’d made such mistakes. I had, um, chosen so poorly,
in really important ways in my life, um, in, in really
important interpersonal ways. AndůI had denied, you know,
in trying to be tough and trying to be cool, and trying
to be one of the guys, I, I had justů just buried some
very important feelings and emotions and, and, I feel
like by the time it came to the point to write Eat, Pray, Love
the only way I could write it was with that sort
of raw, earnestness, um, and, and, and honesty. And I did write it to a
girlfriend. One of the rules that, that I
have as a writer, um, that I got from my elder sister,
who’s, who’s a really brilliant writer, is: never sit down to write
anything, um, whether it’s a newspaper article, or a
novel, or anything, um, until you know precisely who the
one person is that you’re speaking to. And have it be
one person only. And each one of my books has
been written to a different person. And, it’s a really important
decision as I’m beginning a project, who it’s going to
be, because it effects the way you speak. We speak to different people
differently. And so, I wrote the entirety
of Eat, Pray, Love to my friend Darcy,
who lives in Brooklyn. She’s a, um, she’s a very
funky, hipster Christian. Um, she and I had, her
parents were Lutheran ministers and she became a
punk rocker and then kind of drifted back toward
Christianity, um, but in a very kind of sceptical and,
and, and complicated way. Um, she’s a single mum who
went through searing divorce, she’s been through terrible
depression, she’s a novelist whose work I really admire,
and she’s somebody who, in the year or two prior to my
going on the journey, I’d become very close with and
we’d spent a lot of time talking about the issues that
subsequently became discussed in Eat, Pray, Love. So when it came time to write
the book, it was a letter to Darcy. And so, when people say to me: “I feel like you were
speaking directly to me,” I’m like, well I kind of was
speaking directly to somebody and that’s what you’re
hearingů – Mm.
– Is that intimacy of, of, of an actual conversation and
not, um, just writing out into the empty world. – Given that intimacy that
you create in the book so memorably, I’m just wondering
Liz, what the price is for that degree of candour? Whether, when you wrote it,
given what you were saying before about how gullible you
areů – Yeah.
-ůwhether you had absolutely no idea that, in creating
this intimate voice, and in speaking to us all this way,
you were laying yourself, maybe too bare? – You think? [Laughter] Somebody said to me, they
read the book, a friend of mine read the book in galley,
you know, before it was published, and she gave it
back to me and we, she took me out to a cafÚ and she said: “Are you really comfortable
with putting all this out in the world?
It’s really intimate.” And I’m paging through it
going: “It is, is it?
Do you thinků?” You know, like I really was,
I just felt like: this is the story, this is
what happened. And, um, would I have written
it that way had I known that 10 million people were going
to read it? You know?
I wouldn’t have been able toů – No.
– Because I would have not been thinking about my friend
Darcy, I would have been thinking about that audience. And, um, and it wouldn’t
have occurred. Um, I don’t regret itů
in the least. And, and I feel like, is
there, there’s a little price to be paid for it but it’s
the one that I’m, I’m contented to pay. Um, the benefits of what has
come into my life from that journey are, are so
staggering, um, that, that whatever inconveniences may
have arisen from it, I would be ashamed to even mention,
um, because they’re so overshadowed by the
great blessing. And, it, really like, shame
on me, if I have all this tremendous good fortune and
then say like: “Oh, people think
they know me.” [Laughter] Um, you know what? People think they know me
’cause they freakin do [laughter]. You know?
[Laughter] Like, lots of people come at
you, and they’re like: “I feel like I know you.”
I’m like, you do! If you read this and you read
Committed you do know me. You know? Um, I can’t fault anybody for
feeling that way. – So, when you talk about the
blessings, let’s just acknowledge thenů – Yeah.
– ůthese blessings. What is the single best thing
that has happened to you as a result of this book? – The book, or the journey
that led to the book? – Okay, the journey.
– Um, the, the best thing that, that’s happened to me
from the journey, was the four months in India. Um, and the best thing that
came of that, was spending time, needing to negotiate a
peace resolution between me and myself. Um, and it was arduous. Um, it was like the YALTA
Conference, you know, I mean, it was really painful and
difficult but it needed, you know I, there was really a,
it was a moment of reckoning. And I feel like my whole life
hinges from before that time and after. -Mm.
-Um, and it, and it really was, you know, I reached this
place, um, that I slip from constantly, but still, at
least, I kind of know how to access it now, which is that,
like all of us, um, you know, I always say that, you know,
my, my head is a neighbourhood you wouldn’t
want to walk around alone in at night
[laughter]. Um, and most of us, I think,
have that head. Um, and, and, you know, I
have demonic voices, ah, that we all have and I abuse
myself, and I attack myself, and I demean myself, and I
accuse myself and I, you know, I have those, that sort
of court room drama going on constantly. And it wasn’tů.you know, all
that work of meditation, and all that work of
reconciliation and all that work of self-acceptance
finally kind of allowed me to discover this other voice
that I’ve got, um, who’s the ‘mom’ of all those insane
children who live in my head. Um, and I’ve really come to
think of it as that. What I thought were demonic
monsters are actually just, um, very anxious orphans. – Mm.
– Um, you know? And they’re, you know, it
wasn’t ’til I realised that they’re just scared. It’s just a bunch of fear and
somewhere above all of that, there’s a mom in a mini-van
saying like: “Shhhh.
Mommy’s driving.” [Laughter] Um, you know: “Tut, tut, tut, tut, tut,
everybody quiet down.” You know? And, and, that, you know,
finding that place to just be able to sort of calm myself
rather than need to distract myselfů -Mm.
– ůor impale myself on somebody with the hopes that
they would save me from myself. Or run away from somebody
with the fear that they had destroyed me or, you know? Like all of this madness that
defined my life up until that point. Um, and, and the price, you
know, the value of that is beyond rubies. Umů – There are many writers in
the audience today, I know. Um, and so, I just wondered
whether we could explore that voice, that judgemental
voice, because I know that many, many writer, all
writers I think, are afflicted with that voice. – Yeah.
– And, um, I read an interview with you in which
you said that, you know, the persistent voice, um, the
judgemental voice in your head was saying as you were
writing Eat, Pray, Love: “This sucks.” – Yeah.
– All the time. – Yeah.
– So, can you just talk about the process of
self-forgiveness and how you learntů – Yeah.
-ůto quieten that voice and, and bring the voice of that
nurturing mother forward. – Yeah, it’s another orphan,
who lives there right? Um, you think it’s this big
powerful judge in a, in a cloak and a wig, but it’s
actually just a really freaked out little kid who’s
just very afraid of being vulnerable. Because, when you present
something of yourself, um, in any form into the world,
it’s scary. And, the thing that wants to
protect you from that, is going to tell, like, stop you
from doing it, um, by any means necessary and one of
the best means is by telling you that you’re, you’re not
worthy of, of, of even attempting it, and that’ll
stop, that’ll shut you up, right? [Laughter] Um, and it,
and it often works. And I feel likeů there’sůsome
of it is motherliness, you have to be very kind to
yourself and very forgiving to yourself. Some of it is stubbornness. Um, I’m stubborn about
wanting to do this work. And you have to be more
stubborn than that voice. Um, I’m, I stubbornly love
and respect this work. Andůyou have to, sort of,
out-endure it, you know? Um, it, it’ll tire, that
voice will tire itself out, hopefully sooner than the
part of you that just insists on being heard and insists
on, on trying. And, I, I think, really one
of the big breakthroughs I had as a writer was when I
wrote Stern Men, my first novel, which was very
intimidating for me. I’d never written anything of
that length, I didn’t know whether I could sustain
fiction to that level. It was writing about a culture
I didn’t really know about. I’d set the bar very high. And, there were tears on
every page of that manuscript and, and I remember, you
know, being at that point of just not even wanting to open
up the computer because you can’t even look at it ’cause
it’s so awful. And, and then I had this
really stubborn moment one day, where I just said: “I am not going to be
somebody who dies with 75 pages of a novel
in my desk drawer. I simply will not be that.
And it doesn’t have to be good. It just has to be done.” – Mm.
– And, for that, I’m grateful to my mother because that was
a motto that we grew up with, that she always said, is: “Done is better than good.” And, um, and it was, you
just, I just thought, if you don’t, you know, and I was
always taking to the, you’re always talking to the critics
who are coming, you know, they’re coming. And I remember, sort of, as I
was writing that novel, just saying to the critics: “Write your own fucking book
if you don’t like it!” [Laughter] You know? Like this is mine, I’m sorry.
It’s the best I can do. It may not be good but it’s
all I’ve got. Here it is.
Leave me alone. Get a real job. You know? Umů[laughter]ůand, and, and
that’s the sort of, you have to push hard like that, um,
and, and, and be relentless about wanting to be out there. – And, at the same time, not
complain about how hard this is. Would you like to tell the
story about your friend and their letter to Werner Herzog. – Oh, this is one of my
favourite stories. Um, yeah, I get really tired
of people complaining about how difficult the arts are. Um, it’s fairyland that we
live in, you know? Um, and working in a steel
mill is a difficult job. – Mm.
– You know? Um, writing can be a
frustrating job but it’sů. I mean, can we get serious
aboutůyou know, really? Um, I, I just feel like
sometimes, you know, us artistic souls can be a
little over-dramatic, and we, you know, act, make it worse
than it is. And, it’s just, it’s
challenging, um, but everything’s that challenging
is worth doing. But it’s not impossible. And, and there is a wonderful
story, I have a friend who’s an Italian independent
filmmaker, and he wrote a letter, um, in his 20s, that
he, he got a response from, from the great German
filmmaker Werner Herzog, um, who’s sort of aůfascinating
character in his own right. Um, but he wrote a letter to
Werner saying, um: “I’m incredibly frustrated. I’m really, it’s hard to live
in Italy, there’s no arts funding, um, I can’t get
anybody to make my movie, I can’t get anybody to read my
script, I can’t get any actors to come to auditionsů” just a, a litany of
complaints about how difficult it was to make films. And Werner wrote him back a
letter and, and the first line was, and he has it
framed, I’ve seen it, he said: “Stop complaining, nobody
wants to hear it.” Um, and, and he said: “It’s not your fault.
It’s not the worů” sorry, “It’s not the world’s faultů” – Mm.
– “ůthat you want to be a filmmaker. And it’s not the world’s
responsibility to like what you do. It’s not the world’s
responsibility to fund what you do. It is your passion.
It is your responsibility. You don’t have money to make
a film? Go steal a camera.” Umů
[laughter] like, he just laid it down. He said: “You’re doing this
voluntarily. You want to be an artist
voluntarily. Don’t keep waiting for
somebody to give you permission, or to give you
funding, or to do anything. And stop whiningů” – Mm.
– “And go make a movie. And don’t bother writing me
letters about how hard it is.” And, and that’s another kind
of resilience. And that’s why Werner Herzog
has made, what, 197,000 movies? [Laughter] Um, you know, each one
different and each one complicated in its own way. – Let’s talk a little bit
about some of the, um, sort of, public aspects of the
aftermath of Eat, Pray, Love um… – I like the word aftermath
[laughter] -Umů
-Tsunami [laughter] – We were talking backstage a
little bit about, um, Oprah’s interview yesterday with
Lance Armstrong and you have also been a guest on Oprah,
and I’m very grateful to the fact, that today, you’re not
giving answers that are just one word long
likeů[laughter]ůlike him. – I’ve never given a one word
long answer to anything. Sorry, I don’t know
how to do that. Ah, Oprah Winfreyů? – Yeah, what was she like?
– She’s amazing. Um, I won’t hear a bad word
spoken about her. I think she’s fabulous. And I think, um, as I was
saying to you backstage, I think she very much cares
about the lives of women. And she takes those
lives seriously. And, um, there are, aren’t,
you know, that’s not often done. -Mm.
-And she’s demeaned for that. Um, but, but she’s
got a mission. Um, and, and she’s brilliant,
and she’s, she’s funny, she’s witty, and it’s incredibly
scary to go on the show. Um, you don’t meet
her beforehand. She likes to keep it very
fresh, which means that, the second you sit down in this
chair, you have this huge speed bump that you have to
get over, that suddenly, there’s Oprah Winfrey
[laughter]. You know? And so, she’s asking you a
question and I’m like: “Oh my God her eyes are so
big and herů.” you know, like, you’re just,
you’re trying to take in like, you know: “Look at her.
Wow. I like that. I wonder how much
that ring cost?” [Laughter] You know, you’reů? And you have to really focus. Like, she’s asking
you something. And she’s so engaging and
warm and makes, you know, um, I said to her at one point: “You’re really good at this.”
[Laughter]. You should, you should think
about this as a career. And, um, but she’s also, you
know, she’s running the world. And so her boundaries are,
are very, um, established and they’re very appropriate. Um, she made me feel, in the
first 10 minutes of the interview, that we were the
best friends who had ever met. And she does that
with everybody. And of course we’re not, but
of course I thought we were. [Laughter] And, um, and so, when they do
the commercial break, she doesn’t talk to you. And it’s not because
she’s arrogant. It’s because she’s got,
she’s opening up a new school in Africa or something. Ah, she’s busy. And so, she’s got producers
all around her and she’s looking at cards and she’s
running her empire. And I’m sort of sitting there
in the chair like this, and I don’t, I’m not comfortable
sitting next to someone and not speakingů -Mm.
– So, she’s sort of looking at her index cards and the
clock is ticking down to the commercial and I go: “Do you like my shoes?”
[Laughter] Because, I was really
goingůmake conversation out of whatever’s there right? I was like “Do you likeů”
and she looks over and she says: “Oh yes, they’re very nice”
and, ah, goes back to her notes. And I said: “They’re not mine.”
[Laughter] They’re my friend’s. They’re my friend Cheryl’s,
she lent them to me.” She said: “Oh, that’s nice
sweetheart.” You know? She goes back to her thing. And I go: “They’re from Paris.”
[Laughter] Waitůgets worse.
[Laughter] She didn’t respond. And I said: “That’s in France.”
[Laughter] And then she took her reading
glasses off and she just looked at me and she said: “Is it?” And later in the show
somebody in the audience was saying that they were, um,
they had gotten inspired by Eat, Pray, Love to go do a
marathon in Paris and, it’s in the clip, you can see it,
Oprah just turns to me and she goes: “That’s in France.”
[Laughter] And it’s out of context, it
makes no sense. And I was likeů[laughter]
but, ahů – I think it’s so telling
that you would share this story with us,
[laughter] I would keep that to myself. -Oh it’s too good.
It’s too good to not. It’s too, ahůnever let a
little humiliation get in the way ofů sharing a good story. – Well, since we’re on a
little bit of a celebrity roll hereů – Mm.
– ůI suppose we should ask you about Julia Roberts and
about what the experience of meeting Julia isů -Yeah.
– ůbecause she’s another person who’s sort of like Oprahů -Yeah.
– She’s almost a one, one named brand. -Yeah.
Um, she isůluminescent. Um, she’s lovely.
She’s very private. She’s very professional. And I didn’t have much
interaction with her, to be honest. Um, and I was kind of happy
for that in a way. They, when it came to making
the film, I just felt like, another thing that it’sů
I’m going to list all the things that annoy me about, when,
when writers complain about what happened to their books
when they were made into films, I always think it’s
weird because, you sold it. Um, and it’s like selling
your house and then driving by your house every day and
being like: “They took down
the pergola!” [Laughter] You know?
You sold it! It’s not yours anymore. You know like, once you sell
it, you know, it’s out of your hands. And I feel like, once you
sell it, you should relinquish it, and, and, and,
in exchange for a, a handsome sum of money that makes your
life better, you should let them do their jobs and stay
out of their way. And so, that’s the attitude
that I took toward it and, and so I didn’t really want
to throw myself intoů – Mm.
– ůthe production. But they asked me, invited me
to come to Rome and to watch the filming. And I got to meet Javier
Bardem and we, and I got toů[laughter]
I ate dinner. I ate dinner across from him.
We shared a fork. I’m just saying.
[Laughter] That is not a euphemism.
I wish that it was. But it’s not.
Um, weůhe’s beautiful. Him andůanywayůJulia
[laughter] is also very, very beautiful. Um, but, but, but, the thing
about her, so, I met her, and she, she also didn’t want to
meet meů -Mm.
-ů because she had created her own idea. -Mm.
– And so, she didn’t want to meet me until the filming was
halfway finished and she’d already kind of established
and owned herself on the stage, which I completely
understood. Um, so we met very briefly
and she was gorgeous and there’s absolutely nothing on
this planet that can prepare you for what that face looks
like from this distance. She, I mean we’re all
familiar, we know Julia Roberts’ faces over the years
better than we know our own. And, there is no picture I
have ever seen of her, there is no moment I’ve ever seen
of her, that is nearly as beautiful as what she
actually looks like. It’s crazy. Um, youůI walked in and I
looked at her and I just said: “You’re so pretty.”
[Laughter] And, I just,
she’s soooo pretty. And she’s like: “Thank you.” I’m like: “I know people have probably
told you that before but really!” [Laughter]
Umů -You didn’t tell her about
your shoes did you? – I didn’t tell her but I
didn’t have a chance to get into the shoes. Umůshe’s, she just is in sort
of a cone of light. And, um, and she looks like
a, a fairy. And she couldn’t have another
job besides being a movie star. – Did she put on the pounds
to do the Italianů? – She, she didn’t.
Um, I don’t think so. I mean, there is a scene
where’s she’s trying to button her pantsů -Yeah, but she doesn’t look likeů
-And I’m like: “You call that a muffin top?” – Mm.
– “Honey, let me show you what itů” no, I, I don’t think sheů -No.
-ů she wanted to do that to herself. -Are you contractually
obliged to say that you like the film? – No. But I am contractually
forbidden to say that I didn’t like it. [Laughter] – But I like it,
so it’s easy. I like it. I saw it, it makes me, I’ve
seen it a number of times. It makes me cry. Um, it’s, it’s so surreal to
me, that’s it’s almost beyond like or not like. -Mm mm. Of course, -Um, you know, I can’t have
an, I can’t have a neutral opinion on it. Um, it’s, it’s just like, the
first time she opens her mouth, like one of the first
things she says in the movie. She’s going to visit Katut
Liyer, she’s on her bicycle and then they flash back and
she, she goes to the medicine man in Indonesia,
and she says: “Hi, my name is Liz Gilbert”
and I’m like: “No it’s not!” It’s so weird. I’m like: “You’re Julia Roberts!”
[Laughter] That’s crazy!
[Laughter] Everybody knows you’re
Julia Roberts. No-one’s going to
believe that. [Laughter]
Wild. Umůbut I love, I, I love it,
I thought it was gorgeous. – Now, one of the other, um,
sort of, honours I suppose that gets bestowed on you
when you, um, achieve what you’ve achieved is you get
invited to give a talk at TED. -Mm.
– Um, and your TED talk about creativity and genius and
about, sort of, how to deal with expectations,
unrealistic expectations, and put those aside in order to
keep working, is one of the most popular TED talks
of all time. Um, and I know it’s a source
of great inspiration to a lot of writers. How did you come to the theory
that you posit in that talk. And could you just give us a
little sort of synopsis for those who haven’t seen it? – Sure. Um, the, the theory isůit’s
just to, I was talking about, umůcreativity and, and, and
madness and despair. And, and the western
obsession with the idea of theůumůthe artist who becomes
a victim to their own work, um, and the way that we have
Romanticised that, a capital R German Romanticisation of,
of the artist. And what a dangerous idea
that is. And how that’s not, um, I
think it’s an idea that’s literally claimed lives. Um, I think that there are a
lot of books that haven’t been written because of that
idea, and there’s a lot of poetry that hasn’t been
written, and there’s a lot of artists who have died younger
than they may have needed to because of that idea. Um, and we, we support that
idea because we kind of love it. It’s our favourite story
about the arts. Um, and I was looking for
other models for how to think about creativity that, that
maybe predated that or came from other societies, and
that led me on a search to the classical idea ofů -Mm.
-ůof the arts, and that led me a Roman idea which was
that, um, you know, there was the word ‘genius,’ um, to the
Romans did not mean that somebody was brilliant. It meant that somebody had a
genius, and a genius was kind of like an elf who lives in
the walls of your house, um, and who assists you
on your work. And it’s a collaboration
between you, the craftsman, and this thing called a
genius which is just this kind of mysterious other
being, um, who you are negotiating your work with. And it takes a lot of
pressure off the artist. Because everybody knew that,
um, it wasn’t totally up to you. That the work may have failed
because your genius was not on the job that day. Um, or the work may have, you
know, you also don’t get that sort of crazed narcissism,
that, um, the work wasn’t entirely your
creation either. Um, that there’s some sort of
a relationship that, that exists between you and what I
also call “the mystery.” Um, and that that just feels
like a healthier, and certainly more interesting
idea, than the, the notion of the single, healer, great
genius artist who, um, you know, who, who, is above us
all, and therefore is also to, you know, to be brought
down and destroyed by their angst and their suffering
and, um, and you know? I’ve just sort of had it with
that, um, and I think, it, it’s time to kind of think
about things differently. So, the speech was
speaking to that. And speaking to my own
encounters with that mystery, um, and I think anybody who
has ever made anything, um, which is probably most people
in this audience, know that you brush up against
that sometimes. – Mm.
– Um, you know, as rational as we may be, there are
moments when, when we do work that we can’t necessarily
account for. Um, you know, where we slip
from our own labour into suddenly moving, on that
moving sidewalk through the airport, there’s something
under you that’s sort of pulling you along. Um, and it’s not you, um, but
it’s related to you, it’s interacting with you, and
those are, you know, that’s the big magic. Um, and, and that’s the
beauty of that path. It’s the moments where you
get to have that. It doesn’t always last. – Mm.
– Um, it doesn’t, it doesn’t always show up. And the stubbornness is
showing up yourself, um, whether your genius is in the
room or not. – Because the idea is, isn’t
it, that, that there’s a sort of contract between you and
your, is it your unconscious or your subconscious, I can
never remember? – I can’t, I think
unconscious is when you’re hit on the head with a
hammer? [Laughter] – Oh, okayůso you’reů
thank you. – Subconscious is when you
can’t remember why you keep hitting yourself on the head
with a hammer? [Laughter] – Right. So, the idea is that you show
up and, if you keep showing up, then your subconscious
will keep its part of the bargain and it
will show up too. Whereas, if you don’t show
up, then you don’t know whether your subconscious is
there or not? – That’s the one way to
guarantee it won’t worků – Mm.
– ůis to just not show up. – Mm.
– Um, and the best you can hope for is, and I think the
angels reward people who are at their desk at six in the
morning every day. Um, and, after a while, they
take pity on you, [laughter] and, they, they throw you a
bone, you know? Um, and, and that’s a feeling
I’ve had too where I’ve been like: “God..?
Three months I’ve been sitting here?!” You know? Um, and eventually, you know,
something happens, something gets loosened up and, and,
and comes through. – Now, the process of giving
a TED talk is, from what I understand, because there is
a TED alumnus in the audience here today I know, a fairly,
um, stressful experienceů -Yeah.
-ůand over a fairly protracted period of time. – It’s terrifying. And, and, those of you who
don’t know what TED is, it’s a, um, it’s a speaking series
that’s now in its 26th or 27th year that started in
Long Beach California where they just get together 50
people a year, and each person is given 18 minutes to
give the speech of their lifetime on the subject that
they know the most about, or care the most about. Um, the audience is, or
consists of Nobel Laureates, and innovators and venture
capitalistsů – A bit like here todayů
– Yeah, like the normal audience who shows up to hear
me speak; a lot of Nobel Laureates. [Laughter] And um, and it’s incredibly
intimidating. And, um, the one thing that
I’ve found spoken, um, speaking to anybody who has
ever given a TED talk is that everyone there agrees that,
um, they all felt they were the only person who shouldn’t
have been invited. [Laughter] Um, because it’s a really
intimidate, it’s a really intimidating group of people. I mean, you’re looking out
and Bill Gates is watching you speak and waiting for you
to impress him, you know? And it’s scary. Um, and I was in tears two
hours before I gave that talk, um, in,
in my hotel room. Really, really, regretting, I
mean, beyond regret. Just saying; “You have done an incredibly
foolish thing to have accepted this invitation
and this is going to be very humiliating.” Especially because, the day
before I spoke, everyone was speaking on subjects of
science and technology and robotics and genetics. And I was speaking about,
basically, fairies. Um, and you can feel, when
you watch the talk, you can feel they’re not into it,
at first. You’re like, they’re the
first, like, they see where I’m going with the fairies,
and they’re like “errr.” And then, you know like,
they, you know, I broke ’em down. – Oh, you got a standing ovation!
Come on! – But it was like, but, for a
while, it was, I was talking to a very cold room. You know, like it didn’t
start warmly. And, the other thing about,
you know, it’s not a self-selecting audience. I mean, you guys are here
because, presumably, you know, either someone dragged
you here or you came because you like what I do. And that’s an audience of
people who had, half of them had never heard of me, so you
have to introduce yourselfů – Mm.
– And kind of, it’s really, it’s, it’s difficult. -What wasů?
– UmůI never want to do it again. – Was there any follow up or
anything that span off it that was a particularly
interesting or unexpected thing? – The thing is, when people,
I, it gave me a different audience because most people
only know me from Eat, Pray, Love. Most people who didn’t, well
even some people who did read Eat, Pray, Love, but a lot of
people who will diminish or dismiss that book as Chick
Lit, whatever that means, or just, you know? They have an idea about me
based on that book. And so, often now, I’ll find
that I’m, I’m at an event and somebody will come up to me
and, I know what they’re going to say when they begin
with, umm, you know: “I’m not really the typical
person who would like you, but, ah, I saw your TED talk” you know? [Laughter] And like they really need to
let you know that they’re a lot smarter than people who
like you, [laughter] um, and, and I don’t think
they understand how terribly insulting that is to me and
to people who like me. [Laughter] Um, but, but they, you know,
there’s people who want to just distinguish themselves
from, from that crowd. And that, and that TED, TED
talk brought me those fans. – Mm.
– Yay. [Laughter] – You were, you were also, in
terms of pressure, and kind of a burden of
responsibility, you were named by Time magazine as one
of a 100 most influential people, um, in the world. What does that feel like?
And what do you do with that? – I have done nothing with it. And, um,
[laughter] and they need to pick a 100
people every year, and now that I know how hard it is
for them, ’cause after you’ve done that for years and years
and years, you can’t have Oprah Winfrey every single time
[laughter] and so they’re like pretty
desperate, I mean, pretty desperate really. Like, you get, I start
getting emails now from the editors of Time six months in
advance saying: “We really needů” and they’re always like
“We really need women” you know? “We really needů” ah, people who aren’t, you
know, techno people. “We really needů” So, um, ah,
still, it’s a great honour [laughter]. Sorry, I don’t mean to be
diminishing it. But that year, was the year
that I kind of hid. Um, soůah, that was kind of
the culmin, I think that was sort of at the peak
of everything. I went to the event with my
dad which was very fun. I got to introduce him to
Martha Stewart and people like that, which was
exciting for him. And, um, andůIůI went home
and never, really never thought about it again. – Because, I mean, judging
from your TED talk performance, which is very
polished and you look very casual, and very relaxed and
very at ease. And, and the way you are here
today, I’m just thinking one could be forgiven for
mistaking you for an extrovert. – Oh.
-Yeah? – I am. No I..wellů – But presumablyů
– I’m and introvert trapped in an extrovert’s body. – Right.
– Umů – ‘Cause, ’cause to be a
writer, you do need to be able toů -Yeah.
-ůto face the solitude andů – Yeah.
-ů not always be out there getting the loveů. – Yeah.
-ůfrom an audience. So, do you find that
difficult to sort of, withdraw? – Um, I find it difficult
toůit’s not like from ‘my public’ that I find it
difficult to withdraw. It’s from, I have a big, I
have a large, a lot of friends. You know, personally, I have,
um, people in my life I care about a lot, and, and spend a
lot of time with, and invest a lot of energy in. Um, I have a, a group of
friends who mean the world to me, um, and, and they take
more of my time than, you know, I mean, this is fun and
this is easy and this is an afternoon, and it’s
a delight. Um, you know, your friends
who are going through serious problems in their lives, you
know, obviously, you need to be there for them in a more
serious way, or, your friends who you just love and
want to enjoy. And the hard thing for me is
setting that boundary. -Mm.
– It’s easy to say: “I’m not accepting any
speaking engagements for the year 2011.” That’s done and done,
you know? Um, it’s harder to say: “I’m not, you’re not going
to hear from me for about six months” um, and “Please don’t be offended,
but I will never write a book if I am going out to dinnerů” – Mm.
– And, and, and that’s, that’s hard. – Mm.
– And it’s painful for me. Um, because I love them, and,
and I want to be there but it doesn’t work any other way. – You need some of those
boundaries of Oprah’s? You need that kind ofů? – I need the index cards and
the looking down, yeah. – Um, let’s just, since we’re
talking about friends, um, let’s just backtrack to Eat,
Pray, Love and maybe you can just give us a kind of a
little kind of an update on Wayan. How’s she doing? – Oh she’s doing splendidly. I was in Bali last year
and I saw her. Um, she’s doing great.
She’s got a fancy car. Um, she’s got her
business thriving. She hasn’t moved.
She’s still in the same place. You can find her right next
to the post office is Ubud. Um, she’s looking gorgeous. She, the coolest thing about
her, aside from the fact that she’s really financially
stable now, um, in, in ways that she wasn’t before, and
that she continues to kind of, reap the boon of Eat,
Pray, Love in a way that’s really been helpful to her
and her daughter, especially as a single woman in
Indonesia. Um, but she’s become an
advocate for dispossessed people. Um, she, you know what, those
of you who are familiar with Bali, and I know, ah, many of
you probably are, know that each one of the villages in
Bali is run by something called a ‘banjar,’ um, which
is sort of a village council. – Mm.
– Um, tends to be men. Well, it’s always men. And, she has a certain amount
of authority now, as a landowner and a business
owner, and, um, a woman who has some celebrity. Um, she takes on cases where
she feels that people in the village aren’t being
treated right. Um she goes and makes, you
know, comes to their defence. Um, she looks after elderly
people, who, um, you know, she feels have been neglected
by the community. She demands that they be paid
attention to. Um, she’s really become this
really passionate social activist. And, the story that I love,
is that an American woman moved to her home village,
not Ubud but a much smaller and more provincial village
where she comes from, and, um, and happened to be a, a
lesbian, and was living with her Indonesian lover, and
this wasn’t going over well, um, in the village. There was a lot of
discrimination and also they didn’t like that it was a
white woman and an Indonesian woman, and they didn’t like
that it was two women, and, and, um, they were running
into a lot of trouble. And Wayan went and just laid
it down in this banjar meeting and said, um, oh she
had the best line, she was telling me about it later and
she said: “And I told them,
not your business. If she’s a girl and her
girlfriend is also a girl.” [Laughter]. – Mm.
– “Not your business. You have to be kind to
people anyway.” And, um, so she, it’s just
wonderful to see, this person who was really struggling,
um, not only achieve a certain amount of security
and stability in her own life, but then take that
power and use it to, to better the lives of other
women as well. – Mm. What about the impact of the
film and the book on Bali? – Mm.
– Because, I was there just after the filming had
finished and everywhere, there were T-Shirtsů – Yeah.
– Eat, Pray, Love T-Shirts and there are toursů – Yeah.
– Obviously Eat, Pray, Love tours. So, how do you feel about all
of that? – Ambivalent. Um, did you see the
“Eat, Pay, Leave” T-shirts? [Laughter]
I like those better. They’re very funny. Umůit’s you know, it’s
ůBali’s a paradise that has been under assault
for a long time. Um, and, and I, and I know
that, ah, the expat community in Bali is certainly unhappy
about the fact that, that their private paradise has
become a public paradise. Um, the Balinese that I’ve
met are really gratefulů – Mm mm?
– Um, because it’s provided an enormous amount of, um,
economic uplift for them, and they, especially after
the bombingů – Mm.
– ůthey had really, there were people in very
desperate straits. And now, all the drivers have
jobs, and the rest, I mean I can’t credit myself with all
of this, but they’re not complaining. It’s westerners who are, who
are complaining about it. And it’s westerners who live
there and who have that thing that we all have, um, where
we move to a neighbourhood and then we don’t want anyone
else to discover it after we’ve, you know?
[Laughter] And so, they all have that
kind of sense of people who are like: “Oh, I remember Provence when
it was a sleepy fishing village.” Um, you know? And, and they don’t want it
to be anything else. – Mm.
– And I understand that. That’s their home and, and
they’ve made their home at it. I can’t, I didn’t expect for
that to happen. You know, all I can ever say,
I don’t generally try to go around defending myself
’cause I think it just sounds weird, but, um,
I didn’t mean to. I didn’t mean to bring
everybody to Bali. Um, and, ah, you know, I, I
hope some good comes of it too, to deserving people. – Mm.
I’m sure it is. Um, just on that subject of,
you know, people’s reactions to things, and complaining,
and, and, and all of that, you, you may know that, um,
ah, the Australian writer, critic and poet Clive James
once wrote a poem called The Book of My Enemy Has Been
Remaindered and I was wondering, ah, and the next
line is “And I was glad” or
“I am glad.” – Yeah.
– Um, and I was just wondering whether you’ve come
across a lot of envy of your success, in the writing community
and in the general community. Whether people have come up
to you and said: “I could have
written about that. I could have written about
going to Italy and eating pasta and going to an ashram
and going to look for love in Bali. I could have done that but I
just didn’t bother.” I mean, do you? – I do.
I do hear that a lot. Or, a kind of funny reaction
is a kind of angry, um, “That’s my story.” You know, um, which is,
like I, it’s, you get two ways of peopleů – Mm.
-ůpresenting that. One is, “I felt like you were
telling my story. Wow.” Or,
“That’s my story. I, I had a horrible
divorce too.” You know? Um, and I’m always like: “I’m not blocking your door.
Write your book.” You know? Um, feel free, it’s,
the, you know? There, there’s many more
stories to be told. Um, I think, when something
gets that much attention it’s going to attract all
kinds of stuff. Um, andůbut it’s also, I feel
like, you know, with what I have benefitted from, you knowů – Mm.
– financially, creatively, emotionally, you know, in
every wayůit’s fair game. You know? That’s kind of how I feel
about it. It’s like: “Take your shot at it.
It’s okay. It’s a big book. It can handle people
attacking it.” You know? Um, I mean, once something
gets up there, it’s, it’s up there, and thenů – Mm mm.
– ůpeople, it’s, it becomes this big projection screen
and everybody projects either their love, or their hate, or
their disgust or their distaste and that’s kind of
their business. Um, and I don’t really know
if I should make it my business. – Does it change any of the
other more intimate and more personal dynamics with
writers who are in your orbit, or even for example,
in your family. Your sister is a writerů -Yeah.
– She’s written many books for young, adult writers. – Yeah.
– And what she says about you on her website is, um, “My sister Liz is now a VERY
famous writer who travels all over the world collecting
stories and diseases, while I stay home, scowling over
paint chips and trying to keep my kids off our garage. -Yeah.
– So, she’s obviously jokingů – Yeah.
– ůthere, about the fact that you are the
“VERY” famous writerů – Yeah.
– But I’m just wondering whether in your, in your
closer, in your more intimate circle you’ve had to deal
with envy that you suspect, and that isn’t completely
overtly expressed? – I think, um, yes.
– Okay. – But, umů
– The reason I’m asking that is because there are some
writers in the audience who’ve asked me about that. – Yeah, but it’s not, um,
it’s notůit’s not as much as, as you might think. I think the fact that my
circle of friends have known me for so many years and they
knew me long before this ů -Mm.
– umůandůtheyůalso know my admiration for them. Um, you know, as does my
sister who taught me how to write. You know? When I was a child and who
I’ve credited my entire life with being the Sheheraůthe
Scheherazade in our familyů – Mm.
– ůwho just spun stories and, and, and formed
me as an author. Um, no one knows more than
her how much I admire her. Um, and she’ll always be my
big sister who’s better at everything. Um, so she can tease
me like that. – Yeah.
– You know? Um, because we know, we know
who’sů the real one [laughter]. You know, like we know who’s
always been the, and, and soůum, I think the fact that
this, this thing, this success and this stuff
happened to me when I was closer to 40 than to 20 means
that, for one thing, I’ve hoped that I’ve processed it
as well as possible and that I don’t rub it in people’s
faces in any way. And two, that the people who
I’ve chosen to surround myself with by this point in
my life, are people of such decency, um, that, that we
don’t base our relationships on competition
and resentment. – Mm.
– Um, if I’ve had friends like that in my life, I don’t
have them anymore. Um, by this age, you get a
sense of knowing if somebody has that in them and you
cross the street. – Mm.
– You know? Umůsoůso I feel really
protected more by my friends than I feel envied. – As a result, again, of this
kind of success and, and celebrity, you get invited
to, um, speak at a lot of conferences and events. And, when I was looking at
your website to see what you’re doing after you leave
here, I see that you’re speaking at a women’s
leadership conference. I think, in the US? – Yeah.
– And I was interested in the fact that this new phrase has
come into being in the US “Lean In” which is the phrase of Sheryl
Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. And she says that the problem
that women have had in the workplace in getting as far
as they need to get is that they lean back whereas they
need to lean forward. – Uh huh.
– So, this new phrase is gathering a kind of momentum,
I suppose a little bit like “destroying the joint”
does here. And I was just wondering
whether you had a theory about this, this idea, this
notion of leaning in and of empowering women, and of
women fulfilling their destiny. – Um, that’s an
easy question. No, I’m just kidding. Um, I, I feel, I feel
sometimes, umůthat I only ever have one
message for women. You know, um, and that it’s
the same one all the time. And, and I don’t know
whether, I don’t know how useful it is. I don’t really understand,
it’s funny when I get invited to these women leadership
things because I’ve never worked in the
corporate world. – Mm.
– Um, I don’t have, I’m not struggling with the burden of
a career and raising a family. Um, I’ve chosen a different
path than that. I’m a childless artist. I really almost have no
business speaking to people who are leaning forward into
those male dominated business worlds. They invite me.
I come. You know? And I bring what I’ve got. And, and, and I feel likeůthe
only thing I’ve ever got to say is that we, as women in
the 21st Century, need to constantly maintain a very
realistic perspective on how far we have come and how
quickly, and how tricky our position is right now. Um, there’s justůwomen are
very hard on themselves and I feel like my message is, is
constantly about trying to relax that grip a bit. Um, and one of the things I
think that, that women in the States are hard on themselves
about, and I am assuming that it’s the same here, is this,
um, perfectionism, of, you know, why can’t I
make it work? Why can’t I be fantastic at
my career, and a total success at my marriage, and a
fantastic mother, and a terrific neighbour and all
these things that are somehow expected of me? And why, you know, why does
it appear that this is the model and I’m failing at,
at that? Um, and, and why am I
exhausted, and why am I confused and why do I have
huge crises of conscience whenever I look at something
that another woman is doing that’s totally different from
my life and suddenly I have to re-evaluate whether I’ve
taken all the wrong steps the entire time because her life
looks a lot better than mine does. And this is the dialogue
that’s kind of going on with all of us all the time. And, and, and all I can say
is that, it’s so new, what we are. You know? Um, women of, of, of I say ‘this generation,’
by which I mean any woman probably born in the last
70 years in the industrialised west,
almost are a new species of human being. We don’t have centuries and
centuries and centuries of role models and mythologies
to look back to, at how you do it, because no one ever
was given what we are given. We don’t have literate,
articulate, financially autonomous, biologically
autonomous, um, women to look back at through history
because they didn’t exist. Um, it’s, we’re just
starting, you know? And, and so, of course we don’t
totally know how to do it yet. And it doesn’t help that in
my country, um, we are asked to be all these things. To be successful career women,
to be mothers, to be wives. And the society at
large also says: “Oh, by the way, we’re not going
to help you with any of that.” – Mm.
– Um, we’re not going to give you any childcare, we’re not
going to give you any healthcare, we’re not going
to do anything to help you with that. You just have to do it, um,
and make it look easy, and stop crying. Um, why, why are you so sad,
and why are you taking anti-depressants?
[Laughter] What’s the matter with you? Um, you know, and, and, and
there’s, there’s justůI just feel like we have to take the
long view. Um, you know, we’re standing
on the shoulders, I’m standing on the shoulders of
women of the previous generation who took
incredible risks for me to have the freedoms that I’ve
got, but they’re new freedoms. – Mm.
– Um, and, and it’s going to take us a while to figure out
exactly how to do it. Is that ‘leaning forward’ I
don’t know. Umů.butů – It’s standing straight,
it’s a start. – Standing straightůor
maybeůputting down the knife that you’re holding to your
own throatů -Mm.
-ůum, which, which I would certainly hope to encourage
people to do. – We’ve got about, um,
according to this, we’ve got 5 minutes and 22 seconds
leftůokayů.soů – 19ů18ů
– Given, that that’s the case, I would love it if you
would tell us a little bit about the book that’s in the
foyer, your great-grandmother’s cookbook
and also, ah, perhaps a little bit about your novel
which is coming out in October. – Cool. Okay, my great-grandmother’s
cookbook is a book I rediscovered when I was
cleaning out my attic. I have an extraordinary
great-grandmother it turns out, who wrote a brilliant
and hilarious cookbook that was published in 1947
in Philadelphia. She was a food columnist for
the local newspapers and I found this book, started
reading it, and realised that she was so much of our time
than of her time, speaking of, of, um, the freedoms that
we’ve now got. Um, she would have been a
fabulous writer of this generation but she didn’t
have a voice then. So, I’ve brought the book
back into print, and all the proceeds go to a wonderful
educational charity called ScholarMatch that helps send
very promising kids from, um, under-served communities
to university. So, because of this new book
being published, there are, um, I think the number now is
25 or 26 kids in the States who are able to start college
this year who wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. So, that’s fantastic. – Mm.
– So, and the recipes are terrific and, she has a voice
like Dorothy Parker. Um, she’s just a delight. – She’s hilarious.
– She’s fantastic. Um, and then the novel is
coming out in October. It’s called The Signature of
All Things and it is a period novel. It takes place, um, in the
19th Century and covers the, ah, the fortunes of a family
who is involved in botanical exploration and the early,
basically pharmaceutical business. Um, it takes place all
over the world. It’s a, it’s a, big romping
travel adventure, history, fun, sadůyou’ll laugh, you’ll
cryůahů. – It has an Australian
dimension to it. – Yes.
– Um, I’ve only been able to read the first chapter but
Joseph Banks is a character in the first chapterů – Yeah.
– So, maybe you’d like to say how you decided that you
wanted to write about him? – Ah, well, I found another
attic find, I think, from now on, I’m only going to write
books based on things I find in my attic, but,
umů.[laughter] ah, a book that had been,
belonged to my great-grandfather that had
come down through the generations in my family. Um, an incredibly rare,
beautiful, um, 1780 volume of Cook’s Voyages um, with the
original ethnographic illustrations, the original
botanical illustrations, the prints, the
incredibleůscientific work that these guys were doing
when they were travelling around the world on the
Endeavour. Um, andůahůand soů.I became
fascinated with that book, and, and, and as I started to
study Cook, I realised that the, the much more
interesting character, was Banks. – Mm.
– Um, in the same way that when you start to study
Darwin, you find that the much more interesting
character is, um, Wallace. You know, like there’s these
sort of shadow, more charismatic people hidden in
history, and, and so, um, Banks becomes a very powerful
figure in the beginning of the book, setting the destiny
of the young man who’s the patriarch of the family about
which I write. – ‘Cause it’s interesting
that the book has botany as, as a theme. And, I’m thinking of you
growing up on your Christmas tree farm, and the fact that
I know that you like gardening as a kind of
relaxation, and it seems that you’ve integrated all sorts
of things and come back to the beginning which is: growing up in the country andů -Yeah.
– ůand having your hands dirty, and the sort of peace
that comes from gardening, which is a very good, um,
ahůthing to do when, when you’re not writing, and, in
fact, frees up your mindů – Yeah.
– ůoften, so that the creativity comes to you while
you’ve got your hands in the soil. Do you find that? – Definitely. It’s a, it’s a fantastic,
um, alternative. It’s something that you can
generate, um, that isn’t intellectual, it’s more
physical, um, but it’s still creative and, and, and, my
mum always told us when we were growing up, that any day
that you don’t put your hands in the earth is a day you’re
not living. Um, and despite the fact that
I made every effort as a child to learn nothing from
her, um, I accidentally learned a lot of really
wonderful things. And found, when it came, when
I settled down and bought a house in the country, and
looked out the window of my kitchen and saw a patch of
lawn and realised, well that won’t do, um, that, that is
now just this huge cottage garden, um, that, that, I
accidentally had learned how to be a gardener, despite
really resentfully pushing back against those chores,
um, and that I knew more than I knew I knew. Um, and, and so, when I got
into that, and then found Cook’s book, and then
realised, you know, just got very interested in the
history of botany, um, it, it, it did seem to
come full circle. – We’ve come to the end of
our time together. I hope you found it as
inspiring as I have. Please join me in thanking
Elizabeth Gilbert. [Applause]
– Thank you. [Applause]
Thank you. Do we get up? [Applause]
Thank you. -Enjoy it while you can. [Applause]
-Thank you so much.

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