Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Julie & Julia by Julie Powell (review)

I managed to spend the first three weeks of January without reading an entire book, yet somehow I read all of Julie & Julia in the past two days. I've had the book for awhile now but since the movie recently came out on DVD, I decided to read it. I can keep the movie rental as long as I want so the reason I read the book so fast is actually because it was so good,

I normally hate books on cooking. Memoirs, cookbooks, diet books filled with recipes...all because I really suck at cooking. This memoir gave me hope that with a lot of practice I just might be able to overcome my lack of skills in the kitchen.

But this book was about so much more than just Julie's project of cooking through Julia Child's 1961 classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking and blog about it. (Her blog is called The Julie/Julia Project.) The book is also about her biological clock and her desire to have a child, her job working for the government that was in charge of creating the 9/11 memorial, her life in New York, and her marriage.

What I found most fascinating was not Julie's cooking project, but her life in New York City. She talks about her experience of September 11 and dealing with the aftermath. You learn about all the different kinds of supermarkets and neighborhoods where Julie must go to get her ingredients. She lives the cliche New York City life that people like me in Indiana only fantasize about. I adored Julie. She is a foul-mouthed, sexual being who finds cooking erotic and explains it graphically at times. She loves the excitement of stormy weather and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She has no idea what she wants to do with her life. (We have these things in common along with sharing the same name.)

Some of the book was hard to swallow, pun intended. I'm a carnivore. I love eating meat but even some of the recipes that Julie makes had me squirming. She cuts into a live lobster, cooks cow brains, calf spleen, and debones a duck. I'm no poster child for PETA, but I felt very sad for these animals. I was curious to see if PETA ws outraged by the book and sure enough they are pretty ticked off. I found this quote, "Upon closer inspection I found a woman who had taken the Julie and Julia challenge, vegan style. (You know that movie about Julia Child’s cookbook that all the vegans I know, including myself, refuse to see because of the scenes with cruelty to animals.)."

I must say that there was something very primal about doing all that stuff to the animals. In fact, Julie apparently enjoyed it so much that she went on to do butchery. No joke. She even has a second memoir out titled Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obcession.

The ending wasn't entirely satisfying. I had expected Julie to have some kind of revelation after finishing The Julie/Julia Project but instead her life just continued as before. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir. My rating Photobucket

I am doing the 30 Books To Movies Challenge so I will also review the movie and compare it to the book.

The movie was so different, but in a good way. Basically, the book was Julie's story and the movie was Julia's story. As far as cruelty to animals, the only scene where anything was done to a live animal was when Julie puts three live lobsters in a pot. All the other scenes involved animals that were already dead.

Julia's story starts out with her being unsatisfied with her life and looking for something to do with herself. She wants to cook but can't find any French cookbooks written in English. She finds herself in a beginning cooking class and is quite bored with it. The only more advance class consists of all men. Julia is "fearless" and despite being looked down on by the other men and the woman who runs the school, she becomes the best chef in her class. Who knew Julia Child was such a feminist?

Because of a chance meeting, Julia forges a business partnership with the writers of a French cookbook in English. The rest of Julia's story is about getting the cookbook published and Julia starting her television show. It was really quite boring.

Julie's character is boring as well. She's not the sassy, potty mouthed blogger like in the book, Instead, she comes off as a self-absorbed, whiny, childish woman. The scenes where she is at work dealing with 9/11 were depressing. Only the lobster scene is funny and that's if you aren't horrified by the idea of boiling lobsters alive. Well there is also the scene where Julia Child reaches into a pot of boiling water to take out some pasta and says "It's as hot a a stiff cock" which would have been hilarious but the botched editing totally ruins it.

The ending of the movie, like the book, is a complete letdown. Julie wasn't really any different than the beginning of the story. Julia Child, however, was completely a new woman who turned herself into a household name.

The book was definitely better.

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