Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Julie & Julia

I needed something to balance The Moonstone, something to read just before turning out the lights at night, something easy, frothy, fun, but still interesting. Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously has turned out to be just the ticket.

I've read loads of reviews of the book, both before and after seeing the movie, and have been anticipating all the less than great stuff others have written about. So far, so good. Julie Powell swears a lot, talks about sex a lot, rants and raves and has histrionics all over the floor, but she is funny, fallible, interesting, and has a few gems that redeem her and make the book more than simply notes on a weird project.

This is the first book I've read that refers to 9-11. I guess that's to be expected since I read so much pre-1900 literature. Most of the time when Julie writes about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, it's on a purely personal level. Working in a government agency that is dealing with the aftermath of the tragedy, she recounts struggling to balance her frustration with her job and the raw emotion of the families she encounters. However, this little passage pulled away from her usual ego-centric response and was poetic and poignant and good writing:

When I was offered a permanent position back in the spring, those yellow trucks with the giant toothed scoops were still raking delicately through neat furrows of debris, searching for bits of people. Every once in a while, when you were downtown or even when you weren't, you'd still find a torn bit of paper skittering along the gutter. Pages from legal memos, work orders, inventory sheets--all of them mashed in this odd way, like the icing on a cake that's been wrapped in cellophane, and smudged with a strange pale powder, as if they'd been dusted for prints. You always knew just where they'd come from.

My other favorite bit, and I'm only just over half of the way through the book, is the last thing I read last night and is really what the book is all about. This is the closing to the chapter in which Julie deals with lobsters:

...sometimes you get a glimpse into a life that you never thought of before. There are hidden trap doors all over the place, and suddenly you see one, and the next thing you know you're flogging grateful businessmen or chopping lobsters in half, and the world's just so much bigger than you thought it was.

So that night I made my New Year's resolution, better late than never: To Get Over My Damned Self. If I was going to follow Julia down this rabbit hole, I was going to enjoy it, by God--exhaustion, crustacean murder, and all. Because not everybody gets a rabbit hole.

She's right--not everyone gets a rabbit hole, but worse than that is not enjoying the ride when you do.


  1. I didn't get through much of this book -- the swears and sex just wasn't for me -- but those are great thoughts! I'm glad you are enjoying it -- and I'm really looking forward to the movie!

  2. I enjoyed both the book and the movie, and have been quite suprised so many people really disliked Julie. I thought the swearing and the sex were just part of the fun!

  3. I really enjoyed this book, more than the movie. I really identified with Julie Powell. I know all about not knowing what you're going to do to change your life. The Julie in the movie was too sweet for me.

  4. You're right, Eric deserves a medal. Her next book is coming out. She spent a year learning to be a butcher. Her marriage is on the rocks.

  5. It's interesting how this book elicits such different responses from people--there's no doubt about it, Julie Powell definitely has a strong and distinctive voice. I wonder if she will be able to leverage her mega-success with this book (not to mention the movie deal) into a career. I'll be interested to see what she does next.

  6. Cara - a butcher, eh? It sounds like Eric might have wanted his life back...thanks for the info.

  7. I'm glad to hear you liked this one so much. I've been thinking of having a Julia Childs read-a-thon some weekend but kind of put it off after reading so many so-so reviews on this one.

  8. Lisa - it's definitely an easy read and is set up so that you can start and stop easily without losing track of plot, etc. I'm hoping for My Life in Paris for Xmas, and I did get Mastering the Art of French Cooking for my birthday. If you don't mind a bit of profanity, J&J is a pretty fun read.