City Paper is not for tourists
Elizabeth Gilbert’s name alone inspires a particular brand of hatred in some circles: Eat, Pray, Love was such privileged-white-lady bullshit, wasn’t it? Girl got an advance to frolic across India, Italy, and Indonesia to “discover” herself and/or cash in on the bursting mid-2000s memoir industry. But recent interviews Gilbert gave to Mother Jones and the New York Times Magazine have me thinking that her first novel in 13 years, The Signature of All Things, won’t be so hated. Set in the 19th century, it stars a “polite botantist”—a well-educated woman versed in botany but, given her sex, bound to her home—who finally takes off at age 51 to research evolution and see the mosses she’s studied extensively in the wild. Gilbert isn’t the first author to combine botany with a woman’s narrative, but The Signature of All Things promises to temper the palatable parts of the self-discovery narrative with feminism, history, and science. Elizabeth Gilbert speaks at 7 p.m. at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, 600 I St. NW. $35. (202) 408-3100. sixthandi.org.