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Monday, March 20, 2006

Julie and Julia and Juliet

Julie and Julia has received a lot more criticism than it deserves. The book documents the year in Julie Powell's life she decided to make every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and blog about the experience. It’s been criticized both in terms of its structure and content. When I was trying to decide whether I should buy it or get it out of the library, I asked a bookseller for his honest opinion. We had an interesting conversation about blogs that become books, and structural problems that the format can create. This makes more sense to me hypothetically than practically. I found I loved the format, and that the sometimes uneven narrative mirrored Powell’s feelings about the project and created more of an opportunity for her personality to come across than if it had just been a regular book of essays. The book has also been criticized for not being enough of a cookbook. Who cares? I think people are missing the point, that it’s as much about giving birth to an idea as it as about the food.

Ever since I embarked on my endeavor to become a dating consultant for geeks, I’ve been thinking about the life of an idea. I get ideas all the time that I never act on. I invented The Real World in my mind years before it debuted. I never got further than a rough plot outline of the young adult gay novel I was going to co-author with J. I invent restaurants all the time with my friend R., my favorite being “The Other Side of the Tracks”, where you are arbitrarily seated on one side of a restaurant or the other. The food, service and atmosphere are great on one side. On the other, your server chooses your food off a limited menu, table legs have different lengths, you are seated with strangers, and there is no toilet paper in the bathroom.

I think how seriously you take your own ideas comes down to how much you need them. I don’t think my geek consulting idea is that much different than a lot of other projects I’ve dreamed up, I just needed something new in my life. It’s not that big of a step to actually try out an idea instead of just talking about it, but getting there can be a long process.

I can completely understand Powell's singular focus on her project; we need these things to entertain ourselves, to add structure and meaning to our lives. She hated her job and she was bored with her life. She built community and became a minor celebrity. How can you not admire her project, honesty, foul mouth and drive?

It was great to learn about Julia Child along the way. I’ve got a couple of her cookbooks, but had mostly just thought of her as the crazy old lady on PBS. She lacked the glamour and artistry of M.F.K. Fisher. I had no idea she worked for what would become the CIA and that she didn’t learn how to cook until she was 37. She did so out of boredom, when she her husband had just married and moved to Paris and she didn’t have enough going on in her life to fill her time. I love that she used money from the G.I. Bill to pay for her tuition at the Cordon Bleu.

Hats off to you, both Julie and Julia! You inspire me.



Books_,Projects_

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3 Comments:

Blogger W&MGrad said...

Great blogpost. I also found great inspiration in "Julie and Julia", although I'm still shocked that people younger than my parents are drinking vodka gimlets. Someone told me that they read "Julie and Julia" as a trashy read and, indeed, it does have that guilty-pleasure ingredient, but in it I found someone I could relate to and who was going through many of the same obstacles in life I am currently up against. Bravo!

3:44 PM  
Blogger Daniel Talsky said...

Someone told me she won the booker prize in some way for her blog. Wierd!

11:48 PM  
Blogger LISA said...

I LOVED this book. It so happened that I read My Life in France by Julia herself just after finishing Julie and Julia. They were a great combination of books to read.
It's too bad when people get caught up in literary rhetoric...It was just a great book. I don't care about all that other stuff.

6:23 PM  

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