City of Girls – In the Mood

Or not.

I mean, sometimes I’m in the mood and sometimes not.

For all sorts of things…

But right now, it’s self-help books.

I’m not.

In the mood, that is.

For self-help books.

I have at least ten unread and a couple of read-but-not-written-about books on the shelf. I have these shelves, you see, which is how I keep track of books I write about.

And haven’t… written about, that is.

I’m reading… obviously… because I can’t NOT read… just as I can’t NOT write.

What am I reading? Fiction. And, a spectacular fiction it is! But there’s a story about that, too.

Because I wasn’t in the mood. And it sat on my unread fiction shelf for a year. At least.

Are you like me? Do you have to be “in the mood” to read a certain book?

Anyhow, the book I’m reading is set in 1940’s New York, in a small, eccentric theatre (called The Lily) with all sorts of interesting people and goings-on. It’s fun, sudsy, and sexy as hell (in a way I can tolerate – I can’t *stand* romance novels).

It’s also… gritty… and I’m not even sure why I say that except… there’s something about it.

And, a grand adventure!

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.

It’s called City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Before I go further… and to be very clear… Gilbert is one of my fave authors… and I don’t know why I couldn’t (at first) get into this book. Same thing happened with my favorite book of hers (and arguably my favorite book OF ALL TIME) The Signature of All Things.

Both fiction. Both fantastic!

Of course, her most famous book was non-fiction, called Eat, Pray, Love, and I wrote about it (along with her other self-help book Big Magic) on this blog.

What can I say? I’m a fan!

Still, I picked up City of Girls at least five times and just… could… NOT… get… into… it.

Until last week, when I picked it up and couldn’t put it down.

Funny how things happen that way sometimes.

Gilbert’s writing has always been good but I would consider this her best work, writing-wise. She’s at the point, for me, that she could describe a cereal box and I’d be enthralled. She’s *that* good.

This story is hard to encapsulate. Where Signature of All Things was a sprawling epic of historical proportions — it followed one thread, one person — City of Girls delves into the lives of a menagerie of people and personalities.

We are seeing things through one person’s eyes (or pen, as it were) in a letter-writing format.

“Let me tell you about my life,” she begins. Well, that’s not an exact quote but you know what I mean.

In the end, it is about allowing everyone, including yourself, to be *who you are* without judgment.

Yeah, there’s debauchery, showgirl sparkles, and feathery. At times, it’s a hoot… made me laugh out loud in places… and also heartbreaking.

There are many great quotes I could take from the book but this one says it most succinctly:

Anyway, at some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time. After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is.
― Elizabeth Gilbert, City of Girls

All that said, I’d like to go back to the self-help topic.

Of course, you know that I have whole posts on “Fiction as Self-Help” and this book would fit right in – given the quote above and so many other gems throughout.

But it is NOT a self-help book… and I’m feeling NOT AT ALL like combing through ANY self-help right now.

Sometimes I get angry at it. I find myself saying things like, “It’s all the same, really!” Different packages, same insides, you know?

But then I remember that EVERYTHING I see, touch, hear, and feel has a lesson for me. I really BELIEVE that! Even smell… lol… I’d left that one out.

I’ll get back to self-help books soon… but in the meantime… am finding self-help in other places.

How about you? Read any good self-help or fiction lately? Let us know in the comments!

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