Introductions: Elizabeth Gilbert

On October 5 at Benaroya Hall, SAL Executive Director Ruth Dickey introduced and interviewed Elizabeth Gilbert, the first author in SAL’s 2015/16 Literary Arts Series.

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s first novel, Stern Men, she writes of lobstermen off the coast of Maine, and about how what we pursue affects us. She writes, “Dairy farming makes men steady and reliable and temperate; deer hunting makes men quiet and fast and sensitive; lobster fishing makes men suspicious and wily and ruthless.” And then she says something that I found incredibly profound and telling. She says, “As humans, after all, we become that which we seek.” Elizabeth Gilbert has spent her career seeking well-crafted words, inspiring stories, and a creative, vibrant, fulfilling life.

She began her career as a celebrated journalist for publications including Harpers Bazaar, Spin, GQ, and the New York Times Magazine. In addition her award-winning novels Stern Men and The Signature of all Things, she has published a short story collection, Pilgrims, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award, the nonfiction work, The Last American Man, which was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and two memoirs, Eat Pray Love and Committed, the first of which spent four years on the New York Times Bestseller list and sold over 10 million copies.

Annie Proulx has called her a writer of “incandescent talent” and Jennifer Egan described her prose as “fueled by a mix of intelligence, wit and colloquial exuberance that is close to irresistible.” In her just-published exploration of creativity, Big Magic, Gilbert shares her insights about the nature of creativity from her life and work, and brings her humor, tenacity and gracious charm to invite all of us to find and follow the creativity within us. In the chapter “Permission,” she writes, “Merely by pursuing what you love, you may inadvertently end up helping us plenty…. Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”

All of us who have attempted to find and follow the things which make us feel most fully alive – which is to say ALL of us – can be grateful that Elizabeth Gilbert has so joyfully followed her own creative pursuits, and that she shares that journey now with such candor and warmth. Both meticulous researcher and searingly honest chronicler of her own path, Gilbert’s pursuit of what she loves – creativity, delight, and stubborn gladness even in the face of darkness – has given us all a great gift. Indeed by pursuing what she loves, I believe she will end up helping us all plenty.

–Ruth Dickey

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