28 April 2013

the age of memoir

Elizabeth Gilbert may not be as famous as Julia Roberts, but they do have something in common. It is a book which makes average to good aeroplane reading, Eat Pray Love. I have to say that I didn't really enjoy the book. It seemed rather shallow, and left me wondering whether the journey was a superficial one or whether much that was felt was left unsaid.

However, when it comes to public speaking, Elizabeth Gilbert is well worth listening to. Her talks, like this one at the 2011 ICAN Women's Leadership Conference, are a mix of good sense, humour, compassion and wisdom. I don't believe that she sets out to inspire or motivate, but stays in the role of a story teller. The anecdotes allow other women to feel that they are not alone in their rites of passage (I really don't like the way the word "journey" is used these days, but find myself using it too!) To me, without the distance and objectivity of the page, she comes across as a far more genuine person than the writer did.

I think I like the fact that she is unpretentious, can turn a joke against herself without being self-deprecating, and doesn't try to offer advice. That in itself is a pretty big achievement, when one considers the success of her book.

I first heard one of her addresses via the wonderful TED talks that keep me sane when I think my brain might atrophy around irregular Italian verbs. Click here to listen to that 2009 talk about creativity.

Phrases that resonated in the 2011 talk were these (typed hastily as I listened).

"the age of memoir"

"other people's goals"

"deeply true inner voice"

"there have never been people like us before"

If you have time, do listen to the talks. They make very pleasant Sunday morning listening, offering plenty to think about without feeling that you need to change your life and take over the world.

Today I am grateful for Youtube.

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