Elizabeth Gilbert •
Big Magic •
Reading Big Magic is like eating chocolate truffles: Each piece is so delicious you can’t wait for the next one. Liz Gilbert holds strong views on why creative living matters, and she packs these pages with one rich story after another about people engaging in that joyous, mystical, soul-satisfying dance.
There’s the one about the guy who shows up at a fancy dress ball in a lobster costume (and dances with the queen of Belgium, no less). There’s Tom Waits telling his songwriting muse that it has come at an inconvenient moment: “Go bother someone else,” he says. “Go bother Leonard Cohen.” There’s the one about how State of Wonder jumped to a new author because the writer it visited first—Gilbert, in fact—wasn’t moving fast enough to give it birth. There are the rituals various artists have performed to court inspiration, from dressing up (not in lobster costumes) to painting stars on kids’ bicycles. There is this brilliant definition of how the universe works: “Something unknown is doing we don’t know what.”
You see the problem. To begin with, Gilbert is a consummate storyteller; I can’t begin to convey these ideas as well as she does. On top of that, she uses all of them to illustrate her points so deftly that you wind up exclaiming, “That’s what creativity is! That’s how we’re intended to move through the world! Why didn’t I ever see it before?”
So I’ll just tell you one. When Gilbert was at work on her fourth book, a travel memoir, she asked her significant other if he would mind appearing as a character in the narrative. What’s at stake, he sensibly asked. Nothing, she assured him: “Nobody reads my books.”
That memoir was Eat Pray Love. It sold 10 million copies.