Sunday, January 3, 2010
Book Review: Julie and Julia
Julie and Julia, Julie Powell (2005) [***+] This book has been following me around for awhile. A year and a half ago, when I was looking for decorating inspiration for our newly renovated basement, I found a tiny piece of a robin's egg shell and thought, "This is it!" I set it on a shelf, and when I returned to match paint swatches, I realized the egg shell was exactly the same color as the book it was sitting by -- Julie and Julia. The cover art then inspired the entire decorating scheme of my basement ... but still I didn't read the book, even though Julie (my Julie) had liked it and thought I would too. Then this summer, we saw the movie with our friends Suzanne and Dan, and Suzanne and I were both charmed and inspired. In September we made Beouf Bourguignon for my birthday, and it really is one of the best things I've ever eaten. Suzanne and I have been cooking together monthly ever since. Still, I was not inspired to read the book. A couple of weeks ago, we watched the movie again with Trixie, who loves to cook, and for Christmas Julie (my Julie) got me both volumes of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. For Christmas dinner Trixie and I made cream puffs and a pear tart. Yum. When we packed for Ohio, Julie tucked Julie and Julia into the book bag, thinking Trixie might like to read it, but Trix was obsessed with her new Kindle. I thought about picking it up, but started reading the new Barbara Kingsolver book instead. Then a few days ago, while on a date at a bookstore with Julie (my Julie), I started reading Julie Powell's new book, Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat and Obsession, and just the first chapter was like watching a train wreck. It was awful, just like a train wreck, and I had to read it, just like a train wreck. But I was restrained, and did not buy the second book in hardcover, and decided instead to read Julie and Julia. Which I did in just a couple of days, and even though I found Julie Powell insufferably self-absorbed and irritating, I have to admit that I laughed out loud often and thoroughly enjoyed myself. You probably know by now that Julie and Julia is the story of Julie Powell's Julie/Julia Project, in which she cooked her way through the 524 recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 365 days in a tiny apartment kitchen in Long Island City, and also wrote a blog about it. Many of my friends have found her self-deprecating humor and turning-thirty angst charming and spot-on; I did not particularly. Maybe I've become hopelessly middle-aged and humorlessly maternal, but I just wanted to tell her to quit drinking so much and to clean her house. Also, my Julie clearly was remembering the movie rather than the book when she suggested that Trixie might want to read the book: Amy Adams as Julie Powell is pert and sweet and lovable; Julie Powell as Julie Powell is foul-mouthed and obsessed with her friends' sex lives -- apparently because her own is not much to write home about. Which perhaps explains the train-wreck in the new book. And yes, I probably will read it -- but in paper back, and on the beach. Now I'm off to finish Barbara Kingsolver.