17.7.10

Buy, Snap, Toss

Just a quick musing from me this morning. I was researching the film and book Eat, Pray, Love yesterday to review it for work, and came across a fabulous article on it at Bitch Magazine entitled Eat, Pray, Spend. The article highlights the rise in this new form of self-help literature that requires massive finances. They name it 'priv-lit'. In EPL the author, suffering a mild case of the mild-life-crises, packs in her life in affluent New York and heads off around the world. She goes to Italy, land of the stick-thin Prada lovers, to India, traditional retreat of loaded gap yah students off to do some philanthropy, and finally to Bali, where if the Bitch article is to be believed she actually tries to buy a woman a house out of the goodness of her heart. It's like the scene in SATC2 where Carrie leaves her butler money to see his wife.
The trip was financed by the author's publishers, upon the promise of a mega-selling new book about the adventure. The book was a worldwide phenomenon. It literally paid off.
The Bitch article focuses on how books like this, and preachy self-help gurus like Oprah and didactic high end brands (like L'Oreal) are filling us with the idea that we are totally justified in spending, sorry living to the max in order to truly realise our potential and get the most out of life. Women like Liz of EPL are completely justified in trotting off across the globe on the most enlighted luxury holiday possible because its for her spiritual wellbeing. A woman is totally justified in spending thousands of dollars on a new wardrobe to make her feel better about a bad breakup (am reading I Heart New York - the book that defines car-crash literature, so terrible yet I can't look away from its extravagant fantasy land). Because we're worth it.
And herein lies the problem promoted by these wonderful life-affirming books. We are, but we shouldn't be. On the hunt for enlightenment it would be far more practical to buy a self-help book and sit in your nearest park. Sure, it doesn't have the same significance as uprooting and disappearing, but it would make for a far more convincing self-help book for the masses, not just those who can follow in your well-heeled footsteps.
Yet the competition is fierce. What sets EPL apart is this feeling of escapism. And if you look closely, the trend for priv-lit is evident even in this sphere. Tavi in (borrowed) Miu Miu. Sea never wearing the same outfit twice. Rumi and her many many tiny designer t-shirts. Yet look at their following.
Do we have to spend big to win big?

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