Monday, March 20, 2017

Gilbert and Framing

           One of the things that I do every single weekend, is that I watch Chelsea play soccer on TV, sometimes I will even wake up at 7am on a Saturday just to watch the games, which as any college student knows, is quite a sacrifice. Some of my best memories, and the funniest, come from watching the games with my father, who supports Everton, another team in the English Premier League. When these teams play each other my Dad and I both sit down in our family room, both in our jerseys, intently watching the game, and as any good soccer fans do, exchanging banter. Now most of it simply cannot be shared here, as it often involves some more colorful language, and is also quite long, I have been known to launch into twenty minute tirades against Chelsea players if one of them makes a costly mistake. Usually these comments are not intentionally funny, however, there are times when one of us will say something that causes the both of us to stop watching entirely and start laughing. A few years back Chelsea and Everton were playing and my Dad and I were on separate couches in the living room, fearing that sitting to close to the other would somehow cause bad luck for our respective teams. One of the Chelsea players was sporting a particularly awful and messy peroxide blonde hair cut, but eventually went on to score against Everton which prompted my father to exclaim “how the hell did we let him score!! He’s impossible to miss with that god-awful haircut, did he blind the defenders or something?? We really just let someone who looks that absurdly stupid score against us” and naturally that had to be shortened from its original length, and censored a little bit, but sitting there listening to my father throw insult after insult after this man who, in reality, is just doing his job, was one of the funniest things I had ever seen. Outside of the two of us no one else thought it was that funny, my brother was mad because we woke him up too early with our screaming, and my mom was still only on her first cup of coffee which meant that she still had at least an hour before she wanted to hear any loud noise coming from anyone in the house. Yet there my father and I were, both laughing over my father yelling at a man that was thousands of miles away for doing his job. Looking back on this, this moment does have some limiting factors which may keep others from finding it just as funny as I do. First it was a moment between me and my father which does tend to make it more personal, but it also must be seen through the lens of a soccer fan, throwing insults at the players is just part of the game, and whether that is good or bad simply has not been determined yet, and probably will not be because all the fans are too busy yelling. At the same time, I was also not expecting my father to launch into that kind of deluge of insults, given that most of the time he was rather measured with his celebrations or his exclamations. This sudden outburst was entirely incongruous given my father’s previous behavior and caught me entirely off guard, and likely made it that much funnier to me simply because I was not expecting it at all. Some outside observer, given that they had the skills, would likely be able to frame this moment in a much more humorous way than I could her, and end up with something like the old Italian Mans tirade on page 69 in Eat, Pray, Love.
Eat, Pray, Love has, in the 11 years since its first publication, become a book which is known by everyone regardless of whether they have read it. The name has somehow worked its way into the minds of people across the country, partially thanks to the movie starring Julia Roberts, which came out only 4 years after the initial publication in 2006. The book itself is the memoirs of the author Elizabeth Gilbert, as she travels the world trying, in a sense, to find herself after the collapse of her marriage. Through her year long journey Gilbert experiences the various cultures in Italy, India, and Indonesia in a way that most people would only dream of. Gilbert’s memoir style allows readers to experience the vibrancy of Rome or the tranquility of an Indian Ashram vicariously through her writing and her experiences. Where this work excels is in Gilbert’s attention to detail, and her ability to describe a location, or a person, in a way that makes the reader feel as though they had been there themselves. One of the best examples of this comes from her description of Richard from Texas, who is arguably the only humorous part of the entire book. Her description of Richard is incredibly detailed saying that he “moves with the authority of a border town sheriff” and that he had “wide shoulders and giant hands that look like they could do some damage, but a totally relaxed face” (Gilbert, 138). Given the name that Gilbert assigned to him a few lines later, this description makes perfect sense, she is describing a big, laid back Texan, and what the reader gets is exactly that.

            This memoir does, however, have some rather disappointing parts to it. While the author is rather witty, though whether that was added in after to make her look better is probably a good question to ask, she is never actually particularly funny, most of the humor comes from outside sources, and is then framed in a way that it makes the reader laugh. Rather than being the source of the humor in this book, Gilbert seems to just be around while other humorous things are happening. Some of the things that she witnesses, however, are very humorous. The scene she described from the Lazio-Roma game was perhaps the best moment in the entire book, especially for a soccer fan. For most people the idea of an old man cheering for someone one second, and then the next second raining obscenities down upon him is simply unthinkable, but for anyone who has sat through a soccer game, especially one in another country, knows that it is completely normal for someone to be saying “OK, my boy, perfect, brilliant, brilliant” (Gilbert, 69) only to turn around after a missed attempt on goal, or a bad pass, and say some rather horrible things, despite the player wearing the kit of the club that the person supports, and I have to admit, it is something I have been guilty of quite a few times in my life. It is this aspect of humor that Gilbert excels at, somewhat similarly to David Sedaris. Both authors have the ability to take an everyday situation, and frame it in a way that makes it seem humorous, and most importantly, relatable. Throughout this book, most people can find at least one aspect of the book that they can relate to, I myself have a large Texan cousin, who would never be caught dead doing yoga, much less in an Ashram, but can nevertheless espouse folksy wisdom in a manner similar to Richard. I also have plenty of memories of my grandfather watching soccer and launching into a Ukrainian tirade against one of the players on the team that he supports. While one would never expect a 20 year old male to be able to relate to any part of the memoir, the individual stories that Gilbert tells, and the manner in which she frames them, allows the humor to be noticeable by all types of reader. 

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