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Not My Job: 'Eat, Pray, Love' Author Gets Quizzed On Dieting, Blasphemy, Hate

BILL KURTIS, HOST:

From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis, and here is your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in Chicago, Peter Sagal.

(APPLAUSE)

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

Thank you, guys. Thanks everybody. Thank you, Bill. It's all about mother this week. We are more dedicated to mom than Norman Bates ever was, and we have stuffed as many of them as we can into this hour.

(LAUGHTER)

KURTIS: Elizabeth Gilbert doesn’t have any children herself, but with her book, "Eat, Pray, Love," she is the spiritual mother to many millions - easy thing to be when you don't have to drive them all to soccer practice.

SAGAL: Elizabeth, who joined us in September 2014, started by telling us about her zillion-copy selling book.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

SAGAL: There might be one or two people out there listening who neither read "Eat, Pray, Love," nor saw the film with Julia Roberts. So could you describe it briefly for them?

ELIZABETH GILBERT: There might be one or two men out there.

SAGAL: Yes.

GILBERT: Yeah, to be very specific.

SAGAL: Who were afraid to admit it to their significant other.

TOM BODETT: No, my wife and I sat in the warm morning sun, feeding each other grapes and read it to each other.

(LAUGHTER)

BODETT: Now I'm sitting between two women. I can't speak freely.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, so this is - you, as I said, you were going through a life crisis. Your marriage ended, it was not going well. You said, I'm taking - I'm hitting the road. You went to Italy, and then Indonesia and India, so...

GILBERT: Yeah.

SAGAL: And then you wrote a book about these - about the lessons that you learned. Am I summarizing it correctly?

GILBERT: Yeah, you just did it beautifully.

SAGAL: Thank you.

GILBERT: Yeah, I ate my way through India, and actually ate my way through Italy. What am I saying? Prayed my way through India.

SAGAL: I was about to say, you haven't read the book, have you?

(LAUGHTER)

GILBERT: I haven't, actually. I did it all in upstate New York. I was just hoping I wouldn't get busted.

SAGAL: And this - didn't you sort of create a movement of women finding themselves?

GILBERT: I hope so. That wouldn't be such a terrible movement to be responsible for. I certainly didn't set out to do that. My first books, by point of comparison, sold upwards of dozens of copies each. So I was not in any way prepared for that kind of a response, but I'm so surprised by it, but delighted by it.

SAGAL: One of the things that's happened - and this was probably something you didn't expect when you were a working magazine writer - is that you've become kind of a self-help figure. You just did a tour with Oprah, right?

GILBERT: Yeah, that's been an amazing thing. That's sort of like getting a phone call from the president.

SAGAL: Oh, it's better than that.

(LAUGHTER)

KYRIE O'CONNOR: Yeah

SAGAL: President has to call people, Oprah chooses. What is it like being part of, like, an Oprah revival meeting?

GILBERT: I have to say it's amazing. Being around her is really remarkable. It's - she's a great person, but she's also a good person. And I don't think that's often always necessarily the case. I feel so earnestly respectful of her that I can't even make funny jokes about it. Isn't that terrible? I think...

SAGAL: It is. For my purposes, it's awful.

GILBERT: I know.

SAGAL: Thanks a lot.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Let's leave Oprah alone then and ask you...

GILBERT: Yes.

SAGAL: About yourself because you...

GILBERT: OK.

SAGAL: Obviously wrote this book and, of course, because it was a big bestseller or because it was wonderful, they made a movie out of it with Julia Roberts playing you, and if I'm not mistaken, Javier Bardem playing the man who ultimately is now your husband. Is that right?

GILBERT: Yeah. Yeah, we look like that, so it works out really well.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Is it? Is it - I mean, these are two very attractive people. Is it weird...

GILBERT: Yeah.

SAGAL: To just sit in a movie theater, presumably a nice one with nice clothes on because this is a premier, and you're sitting there with your husband and you're watching yourselves being played by Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem. And do you look at each other and start looking each other up and down going wait a minute.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I kind of got the short end of the stick here.

(LAUGHTER)

GILBERT: Can I have my avatar, please?

SAGAL: Exactly.

GILBERT: Yeah, it's interesting that you mention watching it in a movie theater with your clothes on. It's probably more fun to watch it at home with your clothes off and just pretend you actually are them.

SAGAL: Really?

GILBERT: But...

SAGAL: We were talking to Rick Steves, the travel guru, about whether or not places he recommended get overrun. And I'm wondering if the same thing applies to you. You write about specific places and things you did in Italy and Indonesia and India. And are those places now being overwhelmed by women in their early 30s who are trying to replicate your experience? Where is my Javier Bardem, they shout.

GILBERT: Well, that's really funny 'cause my - you know, my husband lived in Bali for a long time, and he still lived there for a while when we were together after the book was written. And every once and a while, he would run into some woman there and she'd say she was there because of "Eat, Pray, Love," and that she was looking for a Brazilian man. And he would just say, why don't you just go to Brazil?

(LAUGHTER)

GILBERT: That's where most of them are.

SAGAL: I've heard - well, Elizabeth Gilbert, so much fun to talk to you, but...

GILBERT: Thanks, Peter.

SAGAL: We have asked you here to play a game we're calling...

KURTIS: I Refuse To Eat, Pray Or Love.

SAGAL: So you wrote...

GILBERT: Awesome.

SAGAL: "Eat, Pray, Love." Naturally, we're going to ask you three questions about dieting, blasphemy and hate.

(LAUGHTER)

GILBERT: Oh my God. That's the name of my next memoir.

SAGAL: You see? Answer two of these three questions correctly and you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - Carl Kasell, his voice on their voicemail. Are you ready to play?

GILBERT: Yeah, let's go.

SAGAL: OK. Bill, who is Liz Gilbert playing for?

KURTIS: Bud Kluek of La Mesa, Calif.

SAGAL: All right. Bud is waiting on you. Here we go. We're going to start with...

GILBERT: All right, guys, let's roll.

SAGAL: Dieting or starve, if you will. When it comes to dieting, Atkins and Paleo get all the press. But in 2010, a Kansas State Nutrition professor lost 27 pounds by eating nothing but what? A, Twinkies; B, diet books - and by that, I mean the actual books - or C, airline peanuts.

GILBERT: I think you could do well with airline peanuts. But when I listen to this show, I always want people to guess the most fun answer, so I'm going to say Twinkies.

SAGAL: In fact, it was Twinkies. Yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

GILBERT: Awesome.

SAGAL: He was trying to prove a point - doesn't matter what you eat, as long as you eat less calories. He ate one Twinkie every three hours, and also some Little Debbie snack cakes for variety. Despite the success of the diet, he says I'm not geared to say this is a good thing to do. All right, that's good. That was - that was starve.

Next up, blasphemy; one way you can avoid blaspheming is with what linguists call a minced oath - you know, like gosh darn...

GILBERT: OK.

SAGAL: Instead of its blasphemous alternative. Here is another thing that you can say rather than, you know, invoke the Almighty in an unpleasant way...

GILBERT: OK.

SAGAL: A, well, dad, sizzle it; B, great Wertheimer's majesty or C, Jesus's favorite sweater vest.

(LAUGHTER)

GILBERT: I'm going to go with B.

SAGAL: You're going to go with B, which was great Wertheimer's majesty?

GILBERT: Yes.

SAGAL: Bless you...

GILBERT: No, I'm not. I'm not.

SAGAL: No.

GILBERT: I know that tone from you, Peter. I'm going to go with A.

SAGAL: You're going to go with A, dad-sizzle?

GILBERT: Dad-sizzle it, yes.

SAGAL: You're right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: My tone gave me away.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Although I - people used to be able to say dad-sizzle it. I, however, am going to say great Wertheimer's majesty whenever I hit my thumb with a hammer.

All right, lastly, we've done starve, we've done blaspheme, now hate. We found an example of a true hate story for the ages. Is it A, a brother and sister who haven't spoken in 73 years because she ate his donut; B, the...

GILBERT: Wow.

SAGAL: Last two Jews left in Kabul, Afghanistan, who each had a synagogue just so they could keep the other guy out of it or C, a guy who goes to every single game played by the San Diego Padres for the last eight years - home and away - just so he can boo one player?

(LAUGHTER)

GILBERT: Wow. I'm going with C 'cause I think - I think sports hatred is a deeper kind of hatred than any other human hatred there is.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: It is a deep hatred, but not as much as the hatred felt by the last two Jews of Afghanistan.

GILBERT: No.

SAGAL: It's true. They absolutely hated each other, and they stayed in two different synagogues and they refused to go into the other's. And they ended up living in the same building, but they still wouldn't talk to each other until one of them died.

GILBERT: That's beautiful.

SAGAL: Isn't it great?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Bill, how did Liz Gilbert do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Two out of 3...

SAGAL: Well done, Liz.

KURTIS: That's a winner.

SAGAL: Yes, very good.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Elizabeth Gilbert is a New York Times best-selling author. Thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME. What fun to talk to you.

GILBERT: Thank you. Thanks everybody.

SAGAL: Bye-bye.

GILBERT: Bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.