Sunday, May 30, 2010

Meat the Author

I hope they don't make a movie out of Julie Powell's second book, Cleaving. I've just finished reading this latest memoir-ish offering from the author of Julie and Julia, upon recommendation from my sister. I haven't seen the Julie and Julia movie (nor actually read the book - yet) but I'm sure it's innocuous enough. I have read excerpts of Powell's Julie/Julia Project blog, which is comically entertaining while providing ample evidence of Powell's questionable sanity. And Powell's success at turning a passion for cooking into a way out of a shitty job is pretty enviable to those of us stuck in shitty jobs ourselves.


Cleaving would be an okay book if its author was content to merely chronicle her obsession with learning the butchering trade. I didn't grow squeamish at Powell's descriptions of turning animals into entrees; after all, I grew up in a family of fisherpeople, so I know that flounder don't come from the ocean ready for the pan in uniform rectangular blocks. Heck, I've even eaten meat that had a name, courtesy of my sister & brother-in-law's sheep herd. But when Powell's tale turns to the way she rips her husband's heart apart, even if figuratively, via an affair that fulfills some masochistic need she didn't realize she had, I found myself not wanting to read the gory details. Oh, sure, Powell suffers because she sees how she makes her husband suffer. As a reader, though, I didn't want to suffer along.

I acknowledge that many writers use their craft as a form of therapy. Powell surely earned enough from the success of Julie and Julia, though, to afford a real therapist to work out her problems with. Maybe I just don't read enough (any) mainstream writing to appreciate the appeal and marketability of the sort of writing Powell is paid to indulge in.

And maybe, if Powell is the masochist she claims to be, she'd be interested in trying my job for her next book.


  1. Ms. Powell says that some details are embellished or watered down to make the story better, kind of like how Disney rewrites every story it has ever told, so you might want a pinch of salt handy for Powell's books :-)

  2. ANy contact from Ms. Powell's agents about arranging a swap?

  3. I too dislike books that bring me down, or most anything else that does for that matter. But I did see Julie Julia hallalujah (sorry, got carried away. Must be Punch's influence) anyway, the movie was very entertaining. Streep was fabulous. Sometimes the movie is better than the book.

  4. Streep was excellent in that movie, but I didn't find Powell to be a sympathetic character. She shows fights with her husband there too - and he says she's a narcissist.

    Maybe she is.

    Since I get personal and occasionally shrinky on my own blog, I was interested in the husband's reaction in the movie, but I think I just don't really like contemporary Hollywood productions. Notably, my 31 year old friend drug me out to the movies when we say Julie Julia. The next time she drug me out we say The Wolfman with Anthony Hopkins which was, in a word, ridiculous.

  5. Doug - Just because she has a creative license doesn't mean she's fit to drive.

    Barnesm - Still waiting.

    Mr. C - Yes, the Julie & Julia movie probably was better for adding the Julia bio bits; the book was all about Julie. And I love Meryl Streep in just about anything - she really transforms herself into whatever character she's playing.

    PEN - I think the last movie I saw in a theater was "Sicko" - not a Hollywood film by any stretch. But then, Hollywood doesn't make films for our demographic, does it?

    (One of my favorite employee benefits is my University library card - it'll take me years to see all the movies I want to watch, and all FREE!!!)

  6. I admit I had to look up Julie Powell, even though it didn't register with my thick skull that she was the other Julie in the film that my WIFE watched recently. And which...through osmosis...since I was in another room...probably reading this blog...I kind of heard (OK, intell...I know, I know...I can't make up my mind whether to use commas, or them there little dot already knew this).

    Now through you and Google, I know who she is.

    My smart ass conclusion is...who cares (Alright, obviously somebody does). But she sounds like a self-important twit to me. And quite honestly, her public airing of her affairs, while still being married I assume, is off-putting to me.

    Don't misunderstand, I do care for and respect Meryl Streep and Julia Childs...and I give the twit her due for cleverness...but really, yet another publicity hound.

    Good idea regards you job though,...

  7. Jaded, it is my sincerest pleasure to have my readers leave here with newfound knowledge. Even if it's totally useless knowledge.

    You got my point, though - just because Powell can put a sentence together doesn't mean her marital misdeeds should be a marketable commodity. At least not on planet iWench...

  8. My wife will be astounded to learn that I have at last gotten someone's point.

  9. I'm sure she'll get over it.


  10. I wish I knew what you guys are talking about. Who's affair? And who cares anyway? I enjoyed the film. It was easy to watch and I could let my brain rest. Watched Avatar the other night and had a rousing good time with it. Just pretended I was twelve all over again, which for me is easily done.

  11. Oh dear, a while back I did blog post on Cleaving. You were far more succinct than I was (not exactly a shocker there, you're much better at making a concise point). I think I called the post "that need to know" or something of that nature.

    Anyway, Powell makes her life a mess, and tries for a very heavy-handed, too-on-the-nose metaphor about butchery and marriage, plus obsession.

    It isn't just that story is ultimately disheartening and uncomfortable, it was a mess in terms of structure.

    I'm saying this. Me. Queen of the ramble, "Structure? Yeah, heard of that, don't like it." mess. On top of everything else, she needed an editor with a handy cleaver, and a needle and thread. By the time it had incongruously turned into a travel narrative, I was about ready to commit that sucker to flames.

    The concise version of my comment:

    I heartily concur with your thoughts.

  12. Shimp - re: the travelogue segment of the book -- I wanted to read about her experience in Japan, but there is not a mention of it other than it was the last stop on her itinerary. Did they simply edit it out, or was Powell too distracted to commit that to paper? Weird.


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