devra's Reviews > Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen: How One Girl Risked Her Marriage, Her Job, and Her Sanity to Master the Art of Living

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell
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Jun 21, 07

bookshelves: foodlit
Read in February, 2007

it seemed so simple, and so brilliant and so the perfect type of book for me, i remember thinking as i perused--i forget what, probably the new york times--and saw a reference to julie powell's julie and julia project.

a woman who dedicated her year to learning how to cook.
like me. i hoped for inspiration--for my writing, for my cooking, for ideas that i could incorporate into both.

i immediately ordered a copy. or maybe i went straight to borders after work. i started reading the night i got it. that's how eager i was.

and then i put it down in disgust. it wasn't her language--i'm from new jersey, i can swear like a sailor and appreciate the release it offers in one's vocabulary. it was her attitude. whiny. despairing. woe-is-me.

that was my first turn-off.

several months later, i picked it up again, convinced that i had just given it short shrift. it's pretty rare, after all, that i don't bother to finish a book that i've started. i got much farther into the book this time--nearly halfway--and again, i got distracted and annoyed by her writing style. this, i rationalized, may have been because i had started the book all over again from the beginning instead of merely picking up where i left off, giving all of the original prejudices a chance to rear their heads again. i donated the book to a used book store.

and then, in spite of myself, i picked up another copy off of a discount table at barnes and noble. surely, surely the third time would be the charm. surely the information and hope that i had envisioned were somewhere within the pages of this conceptually brilliant book.

so this time, just last week, i decided to throw it into my weekend travel bag for a 3-hour train ride and give it one last try. i started from where i'd left off, approximately. i read it non-stop for 3 hours. and it did, at last, begin to grow on me. i shared her affinity for buffy, her inability to make pastry cream even after a dozen practices. i loved her chapter about her murderous rampage of the lobsters in new york city. and here is where i really found the weakness of this book--not in the tone, or the despair, or the language or the attitude. it was actually in the structure of the book itself.

julie seemed incapable of adhering to a timeline. everything was an anecdote that tied back to something else. and since she wasn't really writing chronologically, on a recipe-by-recipe basis, each anecdote had to be explained before it could be joined with the cooking example at hand. she interrupted her best chapter, about the lobsters, with a story about being home for christmas and finding out that her best friend wants to have an affair with a punk rocker from bath.

every successive example of seriously good writing was similarly misspent. her chapter about preparing to cook for a food reporter--interrupted. her chapter about the final month of the Project--scattered to the winds.

and above all, she doesn't write enough about the food, which is what i really wanted to hear. yes, i sympathize about her government-secretary-syndrome, but i don't want to hear abotu how your day sucked, i want to hear about cooking that day's recipe and how it affected your day. were you mad while you were shopping? did the recipe turn out? what, for heaven's sake, were you even making? how far into the Project are you?

(these tidbits were scattered across the chapter heads, but there was nothing more specific than that)

her writing lacked the consideration, the sensuality, even the day-to-day rhythm of, say, nigel slater's kitchen diaries. he made everything sound sexy. even the recipes that failed were still fantastic to read about. it made me think about how incorporate food and cooking into my daily life and how shopping for lunch can be a hassle, but it can also be the highlight of your day.

nigel made the food sound sexy.
julie talks about how cooking ruined her sex life.
enough said, right?
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Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

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Kimba my main complaint would also be with the timeline. One minute I'm at a party in New York, the next I'm at a BBQ in Texas two years previously -- Julie needed to settle down a bit there. Otherwise I really enjoyed it and laughed out loud a few times.


Laura Yes! I think we feel the same way -- compelling idea, interesting writing, really bad timeline. I also wanted her to talk more about eating the food. Which recipes were best? Which will she make again?


message 3: by Cathy (new)

Cathy I agree the book was a huge disappointment. Her blog, though, is delightful! I blame whichever editor convinced her that her rambling, amusing, modest account of the project needed to be turned into a Story and larded with Plot. It totally destroyed the whole thing for me.

Her Web site is still up, and has all the "here's how the recipe turned out" informtaion that is missing in the book. and, of course, the entries are chronological.


message 4: by Aubrie (last edited Aug 21, 2009 01:32PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Aubrie Mabe I'm glad I'm not the only one that found this book incredibly frustrating to read. Whatever plot did exist for a moment was flip-flopped to another time and place without warning. I enjoyed when she went on rants about seemingly pointles things. Her writing style is funny to be sure, but I think the overall concept didn't appeal to me because I don't cook. I would read this same author again if she can keep the story flowing chronologically and keep her whitty banter.


Ixan "i got distracted and annoyed by her writing style." I could understand that. I couldn't get through your writing style with its lack of capitalization. Do you do it to make yourself stand out or what?


Nancy Ixan wrote: ""i got distracted and annoyed by her writing style." I could understand that. I couldn't get through your writing style with its lack of capitalization. Do you do it to make yourself stand out or w..."

no, ixan. lots of people write this way.


Ixan Nancy wrote: "no, ixan. lots of people write this way."

"Lots of people", really? I can't think of a single book written that way (I can think of poetry written without punctuation though), nor can I think of a single school or educational board that would graduate anyone who wrote in that fashion. It seems to me to be a total affectation, in the same way that some little girls like to draw circles instead of dots over their 'i's. Still, each to their own style.



Nancy Ixan wrote: "Nancy wrote: "no, ixan. lots of people write this way."

"Lots of people", really? I can't think of a single book written that way (I can think of poetry written without punctuation though), nor c..."


sheesh! take a pill!


Ixan Presumably this is the sort of response you gave to your teachers when they said your grammar was unacceptable? No? Lol, no, of course not, you wrote properly then.

Ok, well I've had enough of your affectation and rudeness, so I'll just sign off here. I could say its been interesting but...




message 10: by Nancy (new) - rated it 1 star

Nancy Ixan wrote: "Presumably this is the sort of response you gave to your teachers when they said your grammar was unacceptable? No? Lol, no, of course not, you wrote properly then.

Ok, well I've had enough of yo..."


i didn't want to have to do this, but it's become clear to me that you're one of *those* people.

first of all, this isn't the new york times book review. it's a social network for people who like to read. and a place where people can then offer their opinions of those books. presumably without fear of said opinion being scrutinized and blasted because of punctuation or formatting (or the lack thereof).

therefore, given the informality of the venue, i would suggest that writing (or commenting) in such an informal style is not completely peculiar. my suggestion to "take a pill" was merely a fruitless attempt to highlight this casual atmosphere.

as for being rude, i don't remember ever questioning or disparaging your level of education. so you've got me beat on that one. for the record, i have a master's degree. oh, and i work as an editor at a legal publishing company. so i'm not really concerned about what people other than those who sign my paycheck think of my writing style.

and seriously? try not to be so serious. it gives you wrinkles.


Christina "Lots of people", really? I can't think of a single book written that way..

If I remember correctly (and I have tried very hard to forget this book), Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" is written this way. And it got a (completely undeserved) Pulitzer.




Rachel Hawes Christina wrote: ""Lots of people", really? I can't think of a single book written that way..

If I remember correctly (and I have tried very hard to forget this book), Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" is written thi..."


Finally, someone who thinks The Road didn't deserve its Pulitzer. Hurrah!


Jenna I think she needed a better editor, to streamline and structure her prose.


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