The self-help book that's causing fights at book club.

I didn’t want to like this book.

Firstly, it’s a self-help book (eye-roll). Secondly, it’s about “magic” and the “mysteries” of the “universe” (eye-roll x 2). And thirdly, it’s written by an author who divides people like cheese or chocolate.

I digress. I had to read it for book club, so I pushed on, forced to read it by peer pressure and with the knowledge that come at the end of it, I would be able to rip it to shreds over a huge glass of piss a fine Pinot Noir. 

And it was awful. There was so much eye-rolling that my corneas began to ache. But by the time I finished the book, by the time I made it to book club, it wasn’t me ripping it to shreds. I was the one standing there, gallantly defending a self-help book that I normally wouldn’t have pissed on if it was on fire.

I’m calling it magic.

It’s Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic.  


You may remember Gilbert from her best-selling midlife-crisis-tome Eat Pray Love. Now her latest book is dividing book clubs. It’s split my friendship group squarely down the middle. There are two types of people in my life now: those that love Gilbert and her teachings and those who want her to STFU and magic herself into a Balinese Ashram with no WIFI or connection with the outside world. Ever.

Listen to the excellent book discussion, here. Or keep on reading, below:

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There is no middle ground.

The book is all about how to live a more creative life. Why? ‘cos life can get boring and creativity is great. Got it? Cool. Yep. With you there.

But the central premise of this book is where things get a bit… ummm… esoteric. The argument that Gilbert puts forward is that no one actually owns any original ideas. Instead, they float about in a kind of spiritual ether, like idea-ghosts, which raises questions that go unanswered: Do they grow in a jelly-like mucas-eggsac thing? Do elves make them? Do they live like farts in jars, just fermenting until a wizard releases them?

Farts. Or ideas. via flickr/forsaken fotos

Every so often, if the idea-ghosts decide YOU are a human they should inhabit, you better be ready. Better have a pen and paper on standby, because if they enter your body and you ignore them, they will piss off and tap someone else on the shoulder and you will NEVER catch the idea-ghost that came to you. And hence your best-selling book/story/screenplay/business idea will move on.


But here’s the thing. Once I coasted past the woo-woo, there was a lot of “wow. WOW.”

It’s surprisingly good. Her advice on how to stop giving a shit about what people think of you will leave you highlighting passages and sticking post it notes on pages. Her words about being courageous and taking risks and remembering your inner child will have you standing up and shouting “A-ha!”. When Gilbert says you don’t need to go to grad school to be an artist, and to stop taking it so seriously, you will ice your next birthday cake like you’re Michelangelo.

It’s clean, it’s short, it’s easy to read. Yes, it’s a little like being at An Evening With Oprah. But what’s wrong with that?

It’s good, guys.

But it’s made for some uncomfortable conversations, and book club got shouty. My artist friends baulked at the idea that higher education is a waste of time. We all furrowed our brow at the part when she dismisses sadness and pain as an artistic tool. And when she calls out art snobs for being just that — snobby wankers — that divided all. Don’t we need snobby wankers? If she doesn’t care what people think of her art, what does it matter that there are art snobs at all?

Awks. Cringy. Strange. Hocus pocus. And you’ll either love or hate it. Which makes it the perfect book club book.

What do you think?

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