Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fourth Review: Julie & Julia by Julie Powell

I. LOVED. This. Book. I tore through this baby. (Not that you can tell by the fact that it took me awhile to post this review). I passed up watching a video (and if you knew how infrequently I see movies, you'd understand what a big deal that is) to keep reading Julie & Julia. I loved this book so much, I didn't want it to end, so I even read the "A Conversation with Julie Powell" in the Reading Group Guide in the back of the book (but not the stupid discussion questions--those things make me crazy, if you're smart enough to join a book group, why do you need questions to help you discuss it?!), her reading suggestions, and the part of the first chapter of her new book, which is included in my copy of Julie & Julia. And that new book is about butchering and I'm a vegetarian! So yeah, I loved Julie & Julia. You should read it. No really, you should. Why are you still here? Why aren't you reading the book?!

Have you ever had the thought while reading something memoir-ish/autobiographical or an interview, "This person and I would be best friends, if we met! Or, you know, we'd hate each other for being too similar?" That's how I feel about Julie Powell. We're not twins separated at birth, by any means, (she's much cooler than I) but I really related to her: her moodiness, her love of Buffy, her love of butter, for some examples. Granted, I would never undertake anything as daunting as cooking all the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year (or ever, for that matter), but that doesn't mean I don't think we'd couldn't be besties.

I have a general policy that if a movie version of a book I want to read is coming out, to see the movie first and then read the book, because I am one of those annoying people who otherwise spends the whole movie saying, "that's not how it happened in the book!" (Yes, trust me, I'm not someone you want to go to the movies with.) And it's a good thing that things went according to that policy (however unplanned*) with this, because I would have spent a lot of time during the movie saying, "that's now how it happened in the book!" Don't get me wrong, I loved the movie and would see it again in a heartbeat. So, if you saw the movie, whether you liked it or not, I say read the book. It's a whole 'nother ball game, or aspic, to bring in a culinary reference from Julie & Julia. (By the way, aspics sound disgusting.)

Hmm, perhaps you'd actually like to learn a bit about the book? Okay, the deal is this. Julie Powell is on the eve of turning thirty. She's abandoned acting/theatre, which is the whole reason she came to New York in the first place. She's about to have her temp job as an administrative assistant become a permanent gig. So, in general, her life doesn't seem to have much of a purpose as she careens toward one of those important marker birthdays. When she sarcastically mentions that as a way to learn how to cook, (culinary school is out of the question) she could cook her way through MtAoFC, her husband suggests she do so and blog about it. (This was in the early days of blogs, before most of us knew what they were (oh, to be young and innocent again)). So she does.

Before I started the book, for some reason, I had assumed that it would just be a compilation of her blog posts, but it wasn't, it is the story of what led up to the start of the blog, the year of cooking and blogging, aka, the Julie/Julia Project, and some of what happened afterwards. I love that she doesn't shy away from portraying herself in a negative light when it's warranted (otherwise, she wouldn't be very relatable, if you ask me). Her writing style leaves no doubt as to how her blog caught on and why it gained her no small amount of fame. And it's her story and how she tells it that made reading the book such a blast.

I highly recommend this book. I found it a joy to read. And who knows, it might inspire you to do something wacky and blog about it too.

* Somewhere in my house is the article I cut out of Entertainment Weekly years ago when Julie & Julia first came out, so I wouldn't forget about it. I don't know why I never followed through on buying it or borrowing it from the library--oh wait, I have a good idea why, I was probably in grad school at the time, which equals very little reading for pleasure, and by the time I was finished (grad school, that is), the article had been filed away (out of sight, out of mind)-- so anyway, it took the movie version to remind me that I had wanted to read this.

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