Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Julie & Julia

by Julie Powell

I have to say, I'm a little disappointed with this book. Part of my disappointment stems from the fact that I loved the movie. I've seen it multiple times, and I think my expectations for the book were too high.

The Julie Powell in the book (presumably the more accurate picture of the real Julie Powell) is less likable than the Julie Powell in the movie. (Why would you compare how much you love your husband to how much a pig loves shit? Not exactly a flattering simile. I'm not sure I actually believe you.) She is so intensely negative and unhappy and unnecessarily foul-mouthed, I found her off-putting and hard to cheer her on.

I was especially disheartened to read that Julie Powell didn't even want to be a writer. No aspirations to be a writer at all (except for maybe one sentence about a hypothetical future). She wanted to be an actor. An actor. The basis of the appeal of her whole undertaking was that she was an aspiring writer and needed a creative outlet in her life! And now I find out that's not even what she wanted to do. She was an actor who didn't go out to auditions (which anyone could claim to be, frankly) and had seemingly no aspirations. Where is the Julie Powell who was the editor of the Amherst literary journal who wrote half a novel? That's the Julie I can get behind and root for! It's the struggling, frustrated, down-on-her-luck literary hopeful that the audience/reader wants to see succeed, that I want to see succeed. I like to think that there is some karmic justice in the universe and that the struggling writers do make it every once and a while. Instead, it's the unambitious out-of-work "actress" (who doesn't even seem to enjoy the whole cooking endeavor and half the time seems too lazy to actually complete the recipes as they're intended - whereas the Julie Powell of the movie treats cooking through Mastering the Art of French Cooking as a kind of holy, cleansing ritual) who succeeds in becoming famous out of sheer dumb luck.

It just goes to show that all it takes is one good idea. Doesn't even have to be well executed. One good idea.

However, I will say that this book had a few lovely, comfortable, cozy moments. Not many, but at least a few. When Julie has a real success and is surrounded by her supportive albeit eccentric friends, there are some genuinely nice moments.

I can't say I gained a whole lot from reading this book. I don't know if Julie grew or changed or truly made any kind of impact on her family or friends or anyone else. Granted, people loved reading her blog, but I wonder if it wasn't out of some kind of sick amusement, to read about all of her disasters (and there were many and they were explosive).

Personally, I have no desire to cook French food after reading this book. But I do hate Julie Powell because she makes a living writing in her pajamas. Also, I now have a serious craving for bacon and jalapeno pizza. (I think I somehow missed the point of this book...)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Not Quite a Cure-All, But Close Enough

The other day, I was in one of my classic moods. I had just been on the phone with a woman who is more than willing to give me a leg up in the editing world, except I have to move to Boston or Newark or San Francisco to make it happen. Right now, a move like that is not feasible for me. There are many other factors contributing to my hesitations about moving, but I won't get into them. Suffice it to say, I was not exactly cheery and bubbly with all the anxieties bouncing around in my head.

So I decided to go shopping. Retail therapy. Classic. Except it didn't have the desired affect. There were tons of people at the mall (of course), there was nothing in my size, I couldn't commit to any potential purchase; I just wanted to get out before I could give into my claustrophobia and scream in the middle of a crowded over-priced store. Eventually, I found sanctuary in Barns & Noble. I thought, "I don't have to fit into a book. Books don't come in sizes. Books don't make me look fat. There are few things more forgiving in this world than books (unless they're self-help or diet or exercise books I suppose)."

I ended up buying Julia & Julia by Julie Powell and City of Thieves by David Benioff (I was in the mood for something a little bleak). Buying books always seems to restore me to a more neutral mood. I like the way they feel, the weight of them, the smell of them. There is something magical about a newly purchased, unopened book. I ferreted my books home like secret treasure.