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Bookstore showdown: 'Eat, Pray, Love' author Elizabeth Gilbert vs. her ex

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10765580Viking today announced plans for a 1 million first printing of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage, the eagerly awaited follow-up to her 2006 hit memoir Eat, Pray, Love (a gigantic phenom in paperback that prompted a now-in-production movie starring Julia Roberts). The new book explores Gilbert’s complicated feelings about marrying the Brazilian-born Australian guy she met in the Indonesia section of Eat, Pray, Love (he’ll be played by Javier Bardem on screen). Committed will hit stores in January, which a New York Times story today notes is about a year after the publisher wanted. Gilbert apparently hated a draft of the book that she’d finished in May 2008, and then begged for another year to completely retool it.

Despite the delay, Gilbert still is managing to upstage her ex-husband, Michael Cooper, the one who prompted her globe-trekking in the first place. Last month, Cooper signed a deal with Hyperion to publish Displaced, his own account of the aftermath of his divorce and his own “search for purpose” in the Middle East and several developing countries. (What was it about the Gilbert-Cooper relationship that drove both parties not only from each other, but far, far away from their homes?) Displaced is due in stores in fall 2010.

In recent years, dueling memoirs have seemed more like stunts than real literary endeavors. Consider former San Francisco socialite Pat Montandon’s Oh the Hell of It All, a score-settling response to her son Sean Wilsey’s well-reviewed dissection of his upbringing, Oh the Glory of It All. Or this year’s tabloid fodder, Tori Spelling’s Mommywood vs. Candy Spelling’s Stories From Candyland. But the Gilbert and Cooper books seem different, more serious and worthy of attention. Which of their new books are you more likely to pick up next year?