Standing ovation for Elizabeth Gilbert in Dublin

‘Eat, Pray, Love’ author says writers ‘forget how privileged they are’ at public talk

Author Elizabeth Gilbert at a film premiere in London. Photograph:  Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Author Elizabeth Gilbert at a film premiere in London. Photograph: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Thu, Oct 24, 2013, 12:06

“Successful writers who complain about their lot are a little detached from the concept of what a horrible job really is.” So said Elizabeth Gilbert - herself a hugely successful writer - to a packed Liberty Hall in Dublin on Wednesday night.

Gilbert is very aware of her own luck and success, and was in town to discuss her new novel. “It makes me so mad when writers complain about their job, forgetting how privileged they are,” she added.

The American writer is best known for her memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, which sold more than 10 million copies. The book became a bible for women questioning their lot in life, and Gilbert admitted that writing - and writing that book in particular - helped her “to work things out”. It was also made into a film, and an audience member asked Gilbert how she felt about the Hollywood version. “Well,” laughed the author, “it’s not arduous to watch yourself being played by Julia Roberts making out with Javier Bardem”.

Although it was portrayed as an Oprah-esque handbook, Gilbert had previously written acclaimed literary fiction and was an award-winning magazine journalist. She revealed that she didn’t feel like “a real journalist” because she didn’t have the scepticism for it. The audience – which was 95 per cent female – were clearly huge fans, and a little awestruck by Gilbert’s presence. Two women in their 20s had travelled from Sweden to attend the event.

It’s rare at public interviews for a writer to get a standing ovation, but Gilbert did, and earned it after a warm, intelligent discussion. She also spoke about her new novel, The Signature of All Things, the story of a woman in the 19th-century who attempts to make a name for herself in the field of botany. It is an epic story, well-told, and Gilbert admitted that novelists such as Dickens and George Eliot are among her favourite writers.

After the event, a huge queue snaked around the lobby of Liberty Hall clutching books to be signed. The two Swedish attendees had to sit down, as they felt so overcome at the prospect of meeting Gilbert. The writer was similarly blown away at their logistical efforts, and gave one of the girls a heart-shaped rock. “I even asked if I could take their picture,” she said.