August 22, 2019

The Evolution of Elizabeth Gilbert

“There is a lot of bad behavior in Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, “City of Girls,” a lively period novel about a tribe of women — theater folk! — set primarily during World War II. They have sex with multiple strangers and each other; they drink to excess for weeks on end; and they make bone-headed decisions for which they suffer not too terribly. (Crabs, hangovers and snubs are among the sternest punishments.)

They follow their appetites, and, refreshingly, nobody dies or gets exiled for too long or has to wear a scarlet letter.

It is a story line that has long been dear to Ms. Gilbert, an avatar of among other things female pleasure, since the success of her 2006 blockbuster memoir, “Eat Pray Love,” and the wan movie adaptation, starring Julia Roberts, that followed it in 2010.

Recounting her adventures in Italy, Indonesia and Bali, the book turned Ms. Gilbert, a well-regarded magazine writer and author who had made her bones as one of the boys, sometimes literally (she once spent a week living as a man for GQ, sporting a tiny goatee and packing a condom filled with birdseed), into a goddess of chick lit: a self-help guru anointed by Oprah and TED. The movie made her a wealthy woman.”

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