Readers worldwide devoured the journey of self-discovery that Elizabeth Gilbert recounted in her 2006 memoir, "Eat Pray Love." Fans kept the book riding high on bestseller lists for nearly four years and relished with equal intensity the 2010 film version starring Julia Roberts. Since then, Gilbert, who in interviews exudes girl-next-door charm, has proven herself versatile. She has written seven other books, including the highly praised "The Signature of All Things," her 2013 fictional tale about Alma Whittaker, a gifted 19th-century botanist.
In her new nonfiction title, "Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear," the successful and appreciative Gilbert bottles her enthusiasm for all the good that has come her way. It's for no other reason, she writes, than to help others embrace their slumbering creative process: "We are all walking repositories of buried treasure." It's this hidden trove of artistic expression, she fervently explains, that separates "a mundane existence from a more enchanted one. The often surprising results of that hunt — that's what I call Big Magic."
Gilbert divides her book into the six sections: Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust and Divinity. Her message, no matter the topic, is that "a creative life is the most marvelous life there is" and "your soul has been waiting for you to wake up to your own existence for years." Her beliefs are all the more appealing because she doesn't promise that the results of your creativity will be publicly praised or lucrative. She does, however, write with sincerity and humility about the joy that creativity has given her.
Some may wince at her Pollyanna-like encouragement that we "cooperate fully, humbly, and joyfully with inspiration" and dose it with a "fierce sense of personal entitlement." But who can argue with her observation that without a sense of your own entitlement "you will never push yourself out of the suffocating insulation of personal safety and into the frontiers of the beautiful and unexpected."
Gilbert never says it's easy, but reading "Big Magic" certainly is. If you enjoyed "Eat Pray Love," if you are drawn to self-help or inspirational books, or if you just like to bask in another person's positive glow, you'll love "Big Magic." You can't knock the message or the colorful way in which Gilbert explains it: "Seduce the Big Magic and it will always come back to you — the same way a raven is captivated by a shiny, spinning thing."
Carol Memmott also reviews books for the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post.