Some people go on pilgrimages; Julie Powell attempted to master one cookbook. Thirty years old, bored with her job, hating her Queens apartment, Powell decided to transcend her life by concocting all 524 recipes in Julia Child's 1961 classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking -- in a single year. Replicating Child's kitchen artistry at such short notice tested Julie's skill and stamina, not to mention her husband's patience; but it did produce a high-spirited, sometimes hilarious memoir. (from Goodreads)
I got Julie & Julia because of the movie, even though I kinda hated it.1 Putting Amy Adams in that horrible wig was just the start of its trouble– anyway, I figured that the book couldn’t be any worse, and in fact it’d probably be better! And I was right, though not as much as I wanted to be.
It’s a fine enough memoir. It covers the important parts of the year Julie Powell spent cooking from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1, and it delves deep into introspection and feelings and etc.– not just facts and events, in other words. There’s humor, and a few excellent sentences that made me want to roll around like a puppy in the sunshine, and though it’s not the best memoir I’ve ever read, neither is it the worst.
Also, it made me REALLY hungry.
Unfortunately the problem with this book is Julie– or, at least, the way she portrays herself. It may be the worst light I’ve ever seen someone put themselves under, even moreso than in Running with Scissors (for instance), and instead of making me empathize with Julie-the-character, it made me hate her instead. She’s super cranky, throws hysterical fits every other page, cries like an actress denied an Oscar, etc. Maybe it seemed worse than it was because it was a whole year compressed into ~300 pages, but STILL.
Now I know why the movie had such a hard time with the Julie character. Amy Adams can NOT pull off tantrum!cooking lady, and it doesn’t translate onto the screen at all. Especially when it happens, like, every ten minutes– it’s more powerful as a narrative thingy if there’s a proper build up before the eruption, know what I mean? In the book, and in the movie, it’s more like tantrum-eat food-tantrum-Meryl Streep-tantrum. Only there’s no Meryl Streep in the book.2
Anyway, I actually didn’t have THAT much of a problem with Julie-the-character while reading Julie & Julia. It was only afterwards, when I thought more about the book as a whole, that I became disastisfied. Despite the emotional rollercoaster, it’s actually a fairly lighthearted book about food and cooking and living in a crappy apartment in New York. I read it all in one afternoon, which is pretty quick for me and non-fiction.
If you’ve seen the movie and want to know more about Julie Powell, I’d definitely recommend reading the book. If you just want more Meryl Streep/Julia Child, then you should probably just get My Life in France, Julia’s memoir about living in, er, France. I haven’t read it yet, but I kinda think it’ll be lighter on the tantrums. (Maybe?)
Read: Jan. 26, 2013
Have you ever read a memoir where you don’t like the person DOING the memoirs? How do you cope?
- The best parts were Meryl Streep’s scenes, for sure. She can make ANYTHING good. ↩
- The tantrums are for humor, you say! Okay, fine. Sometimes they’re funny, in a really black humor kind of way. In the movie? Not even close to funny. If they’re supposed to be funny, the movie missed that boat. The book took a more subtle route, I guess? ↩