Julie & Julie & Julia

CocktailParty Anon painting Wash PostI just finished reading Julie Powell’s Julie & Julia, which I confess I’d been unaware of until the movie came out. The book and the movie both left my main question unanswered: how on earth did Julie Powell lure all those visitors to her blog? I wish I knew her secret. Reading her book, though, I can detect some of the key ingredients. I’m tempted to use the obvious metaphor of analyzing the ingredients in a delicious recipe, but in my case, that’s a phony parallel, because my sense of taste isn’t all that great when it comes to food.

Julie Powell’s primary ingredient is good writing. Just a couple of pages into the book, she had me hooked. I hadn’t expected such a high-caliber, thoroughly entertaining prose style. I’ll admit to being a tad jealous and upset, just as I am when I discover a truly excellent mystery writer, the kind that makes me think, “Damn it, I’ll never be able to write that well.” Actually, my thoughts are nastier than that, but unlike the other Julie, I tend to limit my use of four-letter words, at least in prose. (Orally, it’s another matter – I was once practically kicked out of my Nia class at the Y for using the F word. Remind me to post my poem about the experience.)

Then there’s the freedom with which she spills her innermost thoughts and feelings on the page. Early on, we learn about her gynecological problems: “I found out I had polycystic ovarian syndrome, which sounds absolutely terrifying, but apparently just meant that I was going to get hairy and fat and I’d have to take all kinds of drugs to conceive.” She talks about her sex life, or more accurately, her lack of same due to her cooking obsession. In the book as in the movie, her husband Eric comes across as an absolute saint. I love her penchant for self-disclosure, and as you’ve probably realized if you’ve been following my blog, I write fairly openly about many aspects of my life, but unlike her, I believe there’s such a thing as too much information.

Julie Powell developed a loyal readership (her “bleaders,” she called them – short for blog readers), and whenever she missed more than a couple of days of posting, their comments reflected their alarm about her state of mind and their fear that she might give up and leave them in the lurch. Gradually she developed a sense of obligation to them, which no doubt helped sustain her momentum in cooking all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a single year.

Another primary ingredient, of course, is the subject of food itself. No doubt this is what attracted her initial followers, but it wouldn’t have grabbed me. Yes, I own a few cookbooks, but the last time we moved, in 2001, I packed away most of them in a carton I’ve yet to unearth from among the many boxes of books moldering in my basement. Mostly I improvise. So does my husband, who fortunately shares the cooking duties fairly evenly. Lately, for the sake of longevity and all that good stuff, he’s trying to turn us into vegans. I find I scarcely miss meat, but as a native of Wisconsin, I could never give up cheese.

It’s five o’clock, and this post is making me ravenous. Besides, I need to take off for Woodstock, where I’ll be on grandmothering duty tonight and tomorrow. Hope I can pull together something to feed the kids! I have lots more to say about Julie & Julia, and how it relates to blogging in general and my own blogging ambitions in particular, but it will have to wait for my Wednesday post. I hope you’ll stop back then!

9 thoughts on “Julie & Julie & Julia

  1. Julie, you’ve sold me on another book I now must read. And this just after I bought Julia Child’s My Life in France.

    It would be lovely if we could adapt Julie’s idea to a project that didn’t involve food. Must work on that…

  2. I haven’t read or seen the movie but now I really want to! “Damn it, I’ll never be able to write that well” is the sentiment that kept me a closet writer for so many years! I’m glad I overcame it (almost).

  3. Its amazing how some people can acquire such a loyal and zealous following. I visit some blogs with 100-200 or more comments for each blog. As a visitor, I have to wonder why bother leaving a comment as no one will ever see it.

    Its great if you’re the host. But as a visitor leaving a comment, I want to be noticed at least once in a while and have the host reciprocate.

    Stephen Tremp

  4. Hi Julie –
    The trailer definitely has me interested in seeing the movie and now you have my curiosity piqued for reading the book as well! I remember the days when I had TIME to put more into the food preparation – everything is so fast paced these days seems there isn’t even time for cooking. Great post…now, dang it, I’m hungry. Off to the kitchen!

    Nancy, from Realms of Thought…

  5. Hello Julie!
    I didn’t read neither the original blog nor the book, but I read the Julia Child book writen with her nephew on what the movie is also based on. That book is excellent. Very well documented and shows the thorough journey of Child’s food carreer.
    I saw the movie and didn’t care much for it. One, there is not enough “real” cooking to my taste and the Julie Powell’s story is not not that exciting to me, though you mention things from the book that were not in the movie.
    All the acting is very good and the mise en scène sans faute. Still I’d rather watch 2 hours of old Julia’s shows .
    And by the way I found interesting that Julia Child never took interest in Julie!
    From my personnal experience i found that:
    1- I have more reader when I post food stories than recipes
    2- The more I post the more I have readers
    Voilà for now!

  6. This post is so thoughtful, Julie. And so honest. I, too, have that feeling, dang I wish I could write like that. I’m still working on letting that go and understanding I write like me and that’s ok. Made me want to get the book, so you are a compelling writer.

  7. Thanks to all of you who commented that my “review” made you feel llike reading the book – maybe I should review books more often.

    Stephen – I’m also daunted by blogs with lots of comments. The more comments there are, the less I feel like leaving one myself. Like you, I wonder who reads them.

    Nicole, thanks for commenting – good to welcome you here. For others’ information, Nicole is a singer, poet and performance artist. I’ve seen her cook a huge pot of soup as part of her performance and then invite the audience to partake of the soup afterwards. Talk about performance anxiety – that would really terrify me!

  8. Julie:
    I have just seen the wonderful and delightful movie, “Julie & Julia”. What a treat! Nora Ephron did a wonderful job writing the screenplay from your book. However, I find your book offensive and foul mouthed. Using the F-word in your book served absolutely no purpose except to belittle your natural born intelligence.

    Half way through the book I couldn’t take it anymore and threw it in the incinerator where it belongs. I’ll never, ever read another on of your books and will not recommend them to anyone I know, but I have to say the basic premise of your story was brilliant and Meryl Streep portrayed Julia Child perfectly!

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