Saturday, February 20, 2010

That Need to Know

Every now and then something catches my attention, and I am gripped by a need to know things that actually have nothing to do with my life. I referenced it a while back as being a desire to see both sides of a story before making up my own mind. That sounds terribly fair-minded of me, but I'm really not sure that's accurate. What it comes down to is this: my favorite dog breeds tend to run towards terriers, and there is no coincidence in that. I like tenacity in people, I tend to like it in animals too.

In other words, watch it when I get a hold of a bone, because I may not stop until such time as you wish to brain me with something heavy, only stopping when you are absolutely certain I've lost the ability to bring up the subject ever, again.

I know this about myself and sometimes, not often but sometimes, I will endeavor to stop myself when I find that I am teetering on that abyss. It's always something small that catches my attention. A doctored portrait, the mention of the role of early feminism in children's literature, or a line in a movie that contradicts something I already know.

Such was the case with Julie and Julia. See? There's no telling what the subject matter will be. Pop-culture, recorded history, people suffering the misery attendant to marrying someone they never loved; just something that catches me. In the aforementioned movie, I wondered why Nora Ephron and company weren't telling the level truth about Julia Child's reaction to Julie Powell's blog.

It bugged me that I somehow knew, through something I'd read, and forgotten the source on, that Child hadn't really been focused on the profanity in Powell's blog. Julia Child had not really gotten herself in a twist over flying F-bombs. No, somewhere in the recesses of my brain existed the knowledge that Julia Child had thought Powell did not love cooking. That she took no joy in food. That she was an opportunist who pulled a stunt, for attention, for fame, and that she had dragged Julia Child into the mix. Oh, and she wasn't thrilled that Julie Powell swore with wild abandon, either.

So it nettled me, and I wasn't sure why. I came home, I found the material that had led me to believe this in the first place, and I was right there, about to take the leap, about to do my regular swan dive into whatever inane thing had caught my attention when I clicked a link that brought me up short.

It was an interview with Julie Powell about her second book called Cleaving. The interview said it detailed her apprenticeship with a butcher, and her two year long extra-marital affair following the publication of her book. That little burning need to know was extinguished almost immediately, but for a weird reason, it wasn't revulsion, it was that it became screamingly clear at that moment that I had no clue what I was about to get myself into, and I was pretty sure that I simply didn't want to know more.

Which makes it sort of a pity that my son gave me a copy of the movie for Christmas. I watched it and was bugged again. Why hadn't the movie just dealt with it? It was a straightforward enough thing. Not addressing it just mystified me because I didn't believe Powell simply was an opportunist. I read a bit of her blog, after being told by a friend that I would love her sense of humor. I actually didn't, it's a little too close to my own brand of humor for me to find it particularly funny. I don't sit around endlessly cracking myself up, and the similarities in phrasing meant the Powell was unlikely to reduce me to a giggling pile.

So I listened to the commentary.

A word about that: Don't do it. I am the sort of movie and TV geek who listens to commentary. Lighting, camera angles, back stage difficulties, the writing process; I love it all. However, Nora Ephron should be legally banned from doing commentary because she has an almost fatal failing in doing it. She continually forgets that she's actually supposed to be speaking, and filling in details. There are long periods of time where, basically, you'd be sitting there watching a Nora Ephron film right along with Nora Ephron, and whereas you might start musing about the neat time-activity-parrallels, you aren't going to learn much. Unless you actually give a hang that the suitcase seen in the film belonged to the real Paul Child. Now that's the kind of stuff I groove on but I learned exactly two things of that nature in the course of the entire film. When Ephron uncorks it and actually remembers to speak? It's fun.

And then she got to the part about Julia Child's reaction to Powell's blog and, as luck would have it, said the only fascinating thing she said in the entirety of that commentary: She knew about Child's reaction, of what, and why her complaint was comprised and Nora Ephron quite simply decided that Julia Child would have changed her mind.

Well, that was me hosed. I had to know why, because learning that Powell had used her own affair to try and sell more books had not disabused me of the notion, that's for sure.

I read Powell's archived blog, and her book based upon that blog. I should have stopped there. I had my answer, after all. I agreed with Nora Ephron, it is likely that had Julia Child lived a few more years, and read Powell's first book, she would have changed her mind. Stunt or not, Powell had real affection for Julia Child, and whereas Julia might have been right about Powell having no true respect for food, she likely would have understood the quest to find something of her own. Something she was good at, something to ground her in her life, and provide purpose for her.

As I often do when considering a book, I go to Amazon and check the reviews of that book. I did so with a fair amount of trepidation because, no matter from which angle you view it, the subject matter of Cleaving is deeply uncomfortable. Not just the marital shenanigans, but the subject of butchery.

I really don't recommend perusing those reviews unless you want to be exposed to every negative descriptor that can be leveled at a person. Words like "despicable" as well as every known synonym for prostitute, or a woman of low moral standards were just flying free and loose in there.

I think that was the moment I decided I'd better read Cleaving before making up my own mind. It is one of the stranger books I've ever read. Beyond the skin-crawling subject matter of much of the book, it's not well-written. It lacks any cohesion, with long descriptions of the butchering trade, contrasted with the destruction Julie Powell brought down on her own life. Then, bizarrely, there are recipes simply inserted willy-nilly and in the final chapters of the book, Powell takes off traveling and tries to provide a humorous travel log. Nothing in the book works well, and for anyone that cooks, it's easy to spot that even the recipes are rather suspect.

I think it would be easy to say that Powell's self-depricating sense of humor turned on its ear, and that the book is about self-debasement. Possibly an act of contrition, or atonement. Powell doesn't defend her actions, if anything she sounds rather disgusted with herself. Yet, the other inescapable part is that she is seeking to profit from this often lurid tale. She's complicated, and frequently the architect of her own misery. She seems to understand this about herself, that she took the opportunities afforded to her, and proceeded to wreak havoc within her own life. Powell eventually finds her way back to her husband, and he to her but only after he has had his own longterm affair.

The situation is not remarkable, or unusual, but the choice in writing about it is on both fronts. Julie Powell's next book was going to sell, no matter what she chose to write about.

I said I like tenacity both in people and in animals, but this willful self-destruction is a form of tenacity that left me confused. Somewhere inside of us all exists the memory, the knowledge of the least admirable thing we've ever done. When we're being honest with ourselves, even the best people have something they regret, something for which they would like to atone.

I'm not sure that is what Powell was trying to do, but I do think there was an element of that in it.

Nora Ephron sounded sadly thoughtful when she said Julia Child would have changed her mind about Julie Powell. I think I understand why now.

This isn't really a book review. When I set out to find out more about something that caught my attention, whenever I do that, I am doing so to try and understand a situation.

I think I have that in common with Julie Powell. Cleaving seems to be about Powell's desperate quest to understand her own actions. That the book is a confusing mess of a thing is not surprising as the subject matter certainly indicates that's going to be the end result. So I have trying to understand in common with Powell, and thankfully, that's all I have in common with her.

On the day I finished reading Cleaving, I went to Powell's active blog and read the entry for that day. The entry was about her dog dying. Just an everyday event in a life. She talked about her reaction, and her husband's reaction to losing their treasured friend. Something to which most of us can relate. Something easy to understand. Loss, pain, love.

It was oddly fitting as an end cap to the strange experience of reading Powell's self-dissection. Most reviews of Powell's second book contain the words "more mature" which I found amusing. Julie Powell's flailing journey through butchery, infidelity and trying to understand herself seems anything but to me.

Sometimes it is better not to know.


Amy said...

Wow, Alane, I had no idea about Powell's book. Frankly, I've never been an Ephron fan but I really enjoyed Meryl Streep's performance in the movie. That being said, I admire your tenacity - you'd be a great detective! Not too long ago I posted a poem that was falsely attributed to one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver. I spent literally hours trying to verify the error and it was pretty enlightening. One thing I've learned on the Internet, is to check the sources. The closest you can get to the source, the better!

Good to "read" you again! Great post as always!!!

Land of shimp said...

Hey Amy, oh poor you! You read before I'd had a chance to edit and cut the post by nearly half!

Something about the way I visually process things makes it much easier for me to edit the published version, rather than the draft.

So you got a lot of words with your morning! Sorry :-)

Thanks, I am a dogged sort of pursuer, and sometimes it is more fun than others. I also thank you for the Ephron/Emphram thing because I was able to correct that.

Yeah, complex personalities can be fun, that's for sure. But the level of complexity Powell displays in Cleaving isn't about maturity...being more complex is not the mark of maturity, and in Powell's case? She's just confused.

It was a rather miserable read, really...and what made it worse was Powell trying to render the subject material funny at points where it really, really isn't.

I've got a dark sense of humor but this just isn't funny stuff. It is sad though.

Good to see you!

The Bug said...

I haven't read either book or seen the movie - but I totally understand the concept of digging for information until you're pretty sure you should have stopped before you started. Contrary to what I think, I really DON'T need to know everything about everybody!

On the subject of drafts - another blogger I read said that she had created a private "test" blog where she publishes her stuff, edits it until she's happy with it, & then copies the HTML to the HTML page on her blog. I've done that & it helps me a lot!

Cricket said...

An interesting analysis. I live under a rock, in many ways. I have no idea who Nora Ephron is, though I may recognize her picture, which I am going to look for next. I did, however, read Julie/Julia. I forget how I came across that. And I was aware that a movie had been made of it, so at least I had a basic frame of reference.

I know what you mean about "knowing." I found once a link to recordings of Thomas Merton, a favorite of mine. I went to it several times before I finally had the courage to click. I was terrified his voice would somehow clash with the way I had imagined it, that it might be high and squeaky or something, and that that would affect my reading enjoyment. In the end, it was a nice sonorous baritone. I suppose it shouldn't matter but it does, somehow.

Funny, too, that I recently recommended Julie/Julia to Sul. Maybe it's just something in the air?

Frances Tyrrell said...

I've enjoyed following your detective work on this one. I saw (and loved) the movie, but had heard the same rumour about Julia Child's take on Julie. A quick visit to Julie's blog didn't help. Your review of "Cleaving" is much in line with that of a Toronto reviewer.
Another very enjoyable post!

Now then - I am trying to carry the torch forward: how does one move that Kreative Blog icon?


ds said...

Whew! I've seen the movie, but never read either of the books it was based on, so I was surprised at the end of the film to learn that Child wasn't fond of Powell's book. It seemed so... uncharacteristically puritanical of her.

Thanks for illuminating the facts behind the movie. Don't think I have much desire to read Powell after this. But I'll sure be reading you! Great post!

Gary's third pottery blog said...

I liked the Julia part of the movie, but was frustrated by the Julie part--she is a twit. The actress who played her is unbelieveably pretty and the director seemed to take great advantage of that actresses' long legs, which is a common Hollywood device: whitewash the truth, put in a sexy and plucky actress to keep things moving. And Stanley Tucci playing the husband? Fantastic. But I wanted to toss a grenade into Julie's apt.

Nancy said...

What a great commentary, Alane. You spoke very well of the dilemma of trying to write something to sell, and the cost of dissecting yourself for profit. I like the movie very much, although I am not an Ephron fan. Not after buying the hard-bound "I Hate My Neck" only to find barely a paragraph per page. But I digress. I think the fact that you have a probing desire to understand is admirable. I go off on tangents as well. I do understand wanting to find all the tidily little facts that paint a picture not necessarily what is being portrayed. You did a great job of that here. Thanks. I do, however, think I will pass on Cleaved.

Nicole said...

Thanks for the info! I am another person that likes to hunt down more info on a subject, especially if I know that what is being presented isn't the full truth. I thoroughly enjoyed this post!
When I watched the movie I was so unimpressed with Julie. Heck, she didn't have to impress me but I couldn't even muster up a lking for her. I wished the movie had been just about Julia.

Tabor said...

During the time I was reading your review of the second book...I actually knew most of the facts on the first because, like you, I did some research, I couldn't help but think she was striving for an 'Eat,Pray,Love' success...not atonement. But then, I haven't read the book.

Land of shimp said...

The Bug, hey there! I do it all the time, too :-) I'm glad to know I'm keeping good company with the trait at least. There was the year and a half where almost all I read was about The Wars of the Roses because (I'll shorten the explanation here), I was trying to figure out if I thought Richard III had murdered his nephews.

That's a good idea about the test blog. I wonder if there's a way not to list a blog in a profile?

Cricket, precisely, there is a risk in learning too much about those we have previously admired. Not with Powell, as I wasn't very fond of her to start, but in general. I read the collected letters of Jane Austen and oh how I wish I could unknow! Unsee, unread!

I was so certain I would find Jane Austen rather fun, someone I might have liked a great deal, and whose sense of humor I would enjoy. Instead her sense of humor was a bit too mean-spirited for me, she often sounded quite bitter and unpleasant, and then she occasionally seemed to glory in the misfortunes of others.

I finally decided that I greatly enjoyed her books, and that was what mattered. But it was still a bit of a shock to discover, not that she had feet of clay, because we all do, but that I'm almost certain I wouldn't have liked her. I don't like mean-spirited humor, at all.

Oh thank you, Frances :-) I appreciate that, on all fronts!

Oh boy, I can tell you how i did it, and I hope it will help...but I actually struggled also, and had to switch to my PC laptop rather than my Mac to get it done. Here we go (and if you're on a Mac...well, let me know, I have a book here I could consult!) :

Right click on the image -->save image ---> name file ----> select destination

And treat it as you would any other image when adding it. I have a feeling that's not quite how it's supposed to work, but I'm not gifted with images (however, I'm on call for "crudely fashioned stick figures" if you are in need).

ds, you've hit on exactly why that bothered me so much. There are certain facts about Julia and Paul Child that are known because they were contained in correspondence to friends and relatives. One is that they had a very strong sexual connection. Now I get that in her later years, Child might have become less progressive, and comfortable ...but the woman who was writing rather revealing letters to friends, as well as the moment in the kitchen depicted in the film (which Julia did really say "Hot as a stiff cock!") ...

and I found it hard to believe that a woman so far ahead of her time about sexuality, etc. etc. suddenly developed the vapors because of a few swear words. I knew it wasn't the case, but that's the reason it bugged me so much in the film. Even stuff within the movie made that very unlikely.

Thank you, I appreciate the kind words.

Land of shimp said...

Gary, I'm with you. Julie in the movie is very whiny (as is the real Julie Powell, but she has some spunk to go with it) and really is just turned into a Nora Ephron character. Ephron thinks that highly neurotic, complaining women are cute, and relatable.

Amy Adams is a really winning actress, but I was iffy on her from the opening scenes when she was whining hardcore about the new apartment, and her husband had to talk her down from the ledge. Then, as with the real Powell, I don't find anything likable in grown women who throw tantrums as a way of coping. That sounds very severe on my own gender, but here's the thing -- I've never personally known a real woman who threw stuff around at the age of thirty, or lay down on the floor like a giant toddler to sob when a dish didn't turn out.

Heh, kind of obvious that I'm with you on the Julie dislike in the movie. I now wonder if Adams, having met the real Powell, wasn't perhaps just a bit better informed than I was about the person she was playing.

Land of shimp said...

Hi Nancy, thank you :-) A big problem with the book is that Powell is writing about these events long before she has gained any true perspective on what they have wrought within her life, or even why she did them. There was, sort of, a rush to get these events committed to the page but...Powell didn't really learn anything about herself, or why she had her strange affair (which, by the way, had an S/M thing going on...which thankfully isn't detailed much).

So it's sort of a litany of "bad things this person did, that were wounding to people she actually loved" ...and that's all it really is. Yes, she ties it together with the clumsy "relationships and butchery, obsession and butchery" metaphor but it's far too blunt, and direct to really add anything deeper to the situation.

It's a bit of a cautionary tale, but mostly, it's about an otherwise bright woman, desperate to feel attractive, with an obsessive streak, and know...there's not a lot of merit in cruelty to those we actually do love. It renders it all rather sad that Powell does actually love both of these men.

It's really challenging to read a book like that, and not mount up and ride the morality horse...but often times there's something to be learned from the things people do, even when they know better. It's just not the case here. She's cruel, she knows she's being cruel, she has a vague sense of unease about this cruelty...but it doesn't stop her, and she does things because she determines that she needs to.

In other words the entire thing has the emotional depth of a puddle. Even if you can contrive to not judge Powell, there's nothing to be learned from what Powell has done. Unless you really want to know how to cut up animal carcasses.

Very strange book.
Nicole, I had a similar reaction. Julie lost me, pretty much irretrievably when someone on the phone is talking about 9/11 and she responds, "Don't yell at me, I'm the good guy. I'm your friend!" Now, that's actually a HUGE failing within the movie, because it turns out that what Powell was doing was fielding calls about suggestions for the proposed memorial!

I never would have gotten that from the to me it looked like Julie had taken a call from someone mourning a loss, and proceeded to make the call about her.

Also, see the above about Ephron turning her into an Ephron character. Nora Ephron's vision of a likable woman doesn't really fit today. She likes to write highly neurotic characters (and cast Meg Ryan to play them whenever possible), who are fussy, and nitpicky. The world has grown beyond Ephron's vision of women -- who all must hate their friends, by the way, that's another Eprhonism: women secretly do not like their friends at all.

But that was an Ephron addition, and one of the most likable things about the real Powell? She likes her friends, and tends to be a good, tolerant friend.

Combine the actual things that aren't great about the real Powell (she does throw tantrums) with Nora Ephron's go-to writing mechanism for what is often called, "The Manic Pixie Dream Girl" (she left out the manic in this, and instead went to sad-sack, defeatism)...and the Julie in the movie is a spoiled, unpleasant, child. (annnnnd....I didn't like Julie in the movie, can you tell?)

Land of shimp said...

Tabor, that's an interesting thought, and may have some merit. I think the lack of contrition, or guilt within the book is unsettling. It was actually rather brave of Powell to let it all hang out like that, without apology, without true explanation.

But then again, she is looking to sell some books.

You know, I think that's really what is unnerving ...Powell seems to understand that she will be rendering herself truly unappealing to many...and there's a sense that she's reveling in that.

I don't know really know what to make of her, and decided to just be very grateful that I have it within me to be very content with my life, as it is.

That's really the part where she did gain my compassion. I think part of what happened to her was she had this success. This sort of "Well, that's a dream come true for most writers!" and all of the things she'd blamed for her discontent (limiting job, etc. limited finances)...those reasons were gone. Rather than stretch, yawn, smile and say, "My life ROCKS!" Powell came up against the fact that the things she had blamed, were not the things that had made her unhappy. That her discontent was something due to interior factors.

That's the part where it is possible to just have compassion for the woman. She's miserable, really. She knows she's rather miserable. She knows furthermore that it is coming from within.

When you have everything that should make you happy, and it doesn't? Tough row to hoe. What's worse it that...she doesn't hoe it in a way where she learns much, or we learn much.

It's very much a "Do you want to rubber neck the car crash of my life? Here's your material."

Jo said...

Alane, my goodness, you are indeed tenacious. It's funny, whenever I am asked in a job interview to describe myself -- in one word -- I always say tenacious. I used to have a Scotty dog that would grab onto something and would not let go. I am like that, and obviously you are too. I like that in a person.

I have wondered about that comment in Julie and Julia, because it did not seem to fit with Julia Child's character. She definitely was not a prude.

I think Julie Powell became rather self-aggrandizing through her blog and her first book. I see that happening all the time, especially in the blogging world. People start to feel rather self-important. I think the truth is, Julia Child had had many admirerers and imitators before Julia Powell, and she was just one of many. She was probably just rather slightly amused, and that was it.

I think I will pass on "Cleaving"

Katy said...

Interesting. I did read both of Julie Powels books, the first was given as a gift. I didn't think it was all that great actually and Julie's personality really grained on me after a while. I went ahead and read the second because, like you, I had read the horrid reviews of the second book on Amazon and just wanted to make up my own mind about it.

I have to agree with you about Cleve, that it seemed like Julie was trying to figure herself out through the process of writing. I just think she should have held off publishing the book for about 10 years. I think she needs the persective of time to really understand where she was during the whole thing. Without that kind of persective the book was just a mess with no direction.

Its interesting to hear what Norah Ephron said about that comment. It poped out at me to, but then, in her book Julie Powel had mused that the language might have been the thing that threw Child off so I just assumed the comment came from the book.

Mia said...

Nora Ephron was tasked to make a movie. She did her job. In the history of movies that aren't 100% accurate I think this would be near the bottom of a very long list. And any movie based on a blog is bound to have issues.

Land of shimp said...

Jo, I agree on many fronts. I think that Julie Powell did receive a lot of attention for her real life she was interviewed multiple times throughout the project, and filmed for some TV spots also.

I think what it comes down to is that Julia Child would have changed her mind for reasons that went beyond Julie Powell. Julia Child is an icon, but she's generally referenced as one of the "great ones' by the celebrity chef of the moment. Go to almost any bookstore now, and they have a display of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, front and center.

Now, Julia Child was never going to be forgotten, nor would she fade into obscurity...and for whatever it is worth, I think Child was correct: Powell pulled a stunt, and it wasn't really about loving food. She took all the recipes perfected over the course of close to ten years, and treated them like a marathon.

But I think Child would have changed her mind because even if Powell had no real love for the art of cooking? She ended up helping other people to discover Julia's recipes, approach to food, etc. Instead of being simply revered, Julia Child was once again a go-to for people looking to cook as an artform.

So that's why I agree with Ephron. I think Julia Child would have changed her mind.

As for Powell, she's a really odd duck, Jo. She clearly has a bit of a manic thing going on at the best of times.

Hope you're all healed from your fall, by the way.

Land of shimp said...

Hi Katy :-) I'm glad I'm not the only one who has read it! Yes, those Amazon reader reviews were something else...and I didn't come away from the experience with anything like those sort of strong reactions.

Parts of it are well-written, certainly the descriptions of butchering are...but they are repetitive, and the metaphor is rather 2x4 shaped from the outset.

Part of what interested me in the commentary was that Ephron fully explained that she knew about the reaction, and then simply stated that she believed Child would have changed her mind...and she said it three times. That's part of what made me say, "Eh?" and start to pursue it.

Hi, Mia. Actually, I'm not arguing that Ephron needed to be historically accurate. Much of the movie is invented from whole cloth, about fifty percent, actually. Just as a for instance? Julie's mom in the movie is almost the polar opposite from her actual mother. Powell's blog was quite popular, and she knew that from early on.

But that isn't my quarrel, at all. It's to be expected. I actually don't like Ephron's work much, and can easily spot some of her trademarks -- and the movie is rife with them.

I just found that an odd detail to tweak, because the reality a) isn't that bad b) was in conflict with what many people knew about Child (she had a bit of an earthy streak, and I mean that with respect) c) material in the movie would also suggest that.

So I wondered why she would do it. I found it intriguing, and was not leveling any accusations.

ethelmaepotter! said...

Well, I feel odd here in that I can identify, but I have neither read the book, nor seen the movie. And I cannot say that I was ever a Julia Child fan!

What I can identify with, however, is that little "something's not quite right" factor; when you know you've caught an error, yet you can't quite make an outright accusation, because you have no absolute proof, and in most cases (with me, anyway) it really doesn't matter in the least, after all. But it's always there, lurking in the back of your mind. I've driven myself just this side of insanity many times over such teensy inconsequential matters, "that need to know."

DUTA said...

I'm not familiar neither with the book nor with the movie, but I've read some reviews and I understand that people show interest in two elements mainly: Food and Meryl Streep's acting.
So , I find it refreshing and interesting that you're trying to throw some light on other aspects .

The Bug said...

Alane - I don't think my test blog shows up on my profile (let me know if it does!). I'm not sure what I did to accomplish that other than checking all the "private" stuff.

JoMo said...

I'm a terrier gal myself, a lot of personality in a wee scrap of pup.

I didn't see the Julia movie or read the book but I read an excerpt from Cleaving in a magazine and that was more than enough for me.

The tone actually reminded me a bit of Eat, Pray, Love by Gilbert. I don't know if you've read it but after all the hoopla about how it was "life changing" for so many women I was curious - I found it more frustrating than anything. It was sort of a self-absorbed travelogue, and seemed to be more meaningful to the writer than at least to me as the reader. I felt the writer never went beyond her own needs which made the book shallow.

I would have liked her to have spent time searching for her life purpose in relation to finding who she was and how her purpose served the world - a discussion of that would have been fascinating, but she never moved away from me,me,me. And that was too bad because she can write good prose.

Your post also put me in mind of a writer friend of mine who raised an interesting point about another plain-truth type Canadian writer Evelyn Lau - he was talking about the fine line between honest self disclosure & personal writing/non-fiction and purposeful exhibitionist writing and the thrill the writer has at exposing their dirty secrets and watching/reading/seeing the reactions of the public. Fascinating idea from a psychological point of view.

Great post!

Suldog said...

I've ONLY seen the movie - which I enjoyed - and not read the book, which I've been told by others (most notably Cricket) is one I would enjoy. Shame, that, because having seen the movie first, I'm afraid my reading of the book would be colored by that.

Anyway, I could go further to make this point more powerful, but here's my actual worthwhile bit of commentary: I enjoy reading you, no matter what in hell you're writing about. Have never read any of Powell's words, and know only the briefest bit about Ephron, but I was reading your words about both of them as though you were telling me long-desired news concerning two old and dear friends.

In other words, I'm telling you that you (in case you truly don't know it)(hell, even if you do) are an excellent read and one of my favorite stops in the blogosphere.

Shrinky said...

Wow, I am inpressed! I have not seen the film, nor read either book, so I am afraid parts of this went over my head, but even so,it's fascinating to follow your thought process and conclusions as to the subject matter.

Land of shimp said...

Morning Ethel! It is a strange feeling, and particularly in a case like that where it was clearly a purposeful choice. I didn't for a second believe that Nora Ephron somehow didn't know what Child's reaction had been, the entire reason I knew it was it had been discussed in interviews, and pieces prior to the movie. I just didn't understand the choice.

Then I found out the reason (Ephron believe Child would have changed her mind)...and then next thing I know I'm reading about butchery. Fun roads these things can take :-)

DUTA, hello! Yes, those are the two things I've seen discussed a great deal...and the movie was wildly popular. Everyone, myself included, enjoyed the Julia Child story more, and many expressed the wish that the story could have been focused there.

Julie Powell really did play a big part in making that attractive to filmmakers.

Oh, and the one thing Ephron didn't discuss that was almost criminal in the omission of it? She talked about how special effects people told her it would be impossible to make Meryl Streep look 6'2'....and then didn't mention word one about how they did it. Which was why I was listening to the commentary in the first place (have I mentioned I'm a geek?)

Hello, Bug. Actually, if I click on your avatar in my follower's section (which is how I get to many blogs)....yes, I can see. It's called Bug's Test I knew what it was (I think she's testing there!)

JoMo, I think you hit upon something that is important, and part of the reason I even ended up writing about this here, at all.

For all that I know about Powell now, some of it that wasn't really illuminating, and some of it uncomfortable, I don't know what her point in telling this story was. She doesn't understand it herself -- and she's not even mystified by it -- she concluded that she did things because she needed to....which that's why "more mature" really was cracking up. Powell does some blatantly cruel stuff, and she doesn't want to just let go of her husband, and her reasoning is childish. "I do this because I need to!"

All righty then. But what I was referring to is that I think Powell is experiencing that thrill, the one that comes with telling too much. I think she also thinks that it is the mark of a strong woman to be able to a) share this tale b) be thoroughly unapologetic c)decided to go into the butchers trade (seriously, she's got some strange gender role stuff tied up in that one).

It's said that discretion is the better part of valor, it's just not said by Powell, I'll bet. Ultimately the entire question of "what were you trying to do?" reflects back to that "is it profit, or a thrill, because it's not contrition" .

I really don't think it's that highly unusual for something like Powell's affair to happen, or her husband's. They'd been together since high school, neither had ever had a significant relationship with another person (although Powell had a tryst with this same man)...I'm just saying, there's nothing surprising there. I'm not interested in riding the judgment pony, it seems understandable to me that this happened...and possible that they could repair their relationship.

Land of shimp said...

But by writing this Powell isn't just choosing to tell everyone her dirty secrets so that they can learn something about themselves, or even her...and oh my gosh, her poor husband.

I'd say the same thing if it were a husband writing about his affair, it's not gender specific. I just really felt that, "Jeez, haven't you actually hurt this guy enough without asking everyone to read about the hell you put him through, and he let you?"

It's that double whammy of, "Great, so all of his friends, all of his family, coworkers...they all get to read about ...oh, jeez."

I wish I could spot her reason for doing that, but I'm assuming she agreed to give him all the profits, in his name only, or something of that nature.

Sol, this may be a silly thing to admit, but your compliment pleased me so much, and meant so much to me that it was the first thing I thought of this morning, as I was pouring my coffee. That was sincerely one of the nicest compliments I ever had. Thank you.

It also just saved the life of my cat, who came over and took a drink out of my water glass as I was typing this. It put me in such a good mood, I just said, "Hey! Don't do that!" and got another glass of water, still in a good mood :-) I thank you, and my cat thanks you.

intelliwench said...

I need to come back and read all this again when I have more time. But I thought I'd throw in the comment that my sister read both books and said that Powell's sense of humor reminded her of mine, too, then went on to relate what a nutjob Powell seems to be.

Now I'm worried.

The Bug said...

Alane - try again to see if you can see my test blog. I did something different. If that didn't work then I give up!

Land of shimp said...

Hey Bug...well I can still see it, but not from here, not from clicking on your name in the comment sections, only on the avatar in the followers area.

I show up as stillshimpy in the followers area for other people, so you're definitely not alone in the "HOW DO I CHANGE THAT?" wondering.

But I really wouldn't sweat it, Dana. It's clearly labeled as a test blog :-) I understood it's purpose, and never tried to visit it. It occurred to me that might be your concern,so I opened a window and tried's open only to invited readers.

Really, it's not confusing at all. There are people who list long inactive blogs ...and that can be difficult, because you have to chase down the active one. It's obviously just your test zone, no biggie!

intelliwench, well like you I didn't quite find that Powell had a similar sense of humor...the friend who told me to read Powell thought, "She's so much like you!" "Really? Ooookay, I'll check it out."

But the similarity in phrasing comes down to choosing a specific form of phrasing. I have next to nothing in common with Powell, but we frequently turn a phrase in the same sort of way. I can also see that about you, intelliwench.

That's where the comparison ends though, and I do mean that as a compliment :-)