Sunday, August 21, 2011

Julie/Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously

I love the movies.  I love movies almost as much as I love books.  One of the greatest things about seeing a new movie is that it often gives me a new book to read - so many movies are based off books, and 9 times out of 10, the book is much, much better.  Rebecca, Gone With the Wind, Where the Heart Is, The Firm, and The Great Gatsby all fall into this category.  Books can go much farther and deeper than the movies...most of the time.

There is, however, that occasional book that comes along that is actually translated better on the silver screen.  Such was the case for me with Julie/Julia: My Year of Cooking DangerouslyI read this book because I saw the movie, which is a light, fun, slightly romantic comedy of Julie Powell, a woman living in a crappy New York apartment with her husband, working in a dead-end government job, who decides to cook her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  The movie is split between this woman's story and Julia Child's journey from bored housewife into America's most famous chef.

Linguistically, the book is annoying.  Powell often switches between tenses within the same paragraph or section, and as I tried to sift my way through the awkward phrasing, I could hear my 12th grade AP English teacher gasping in horror in my head.  (Mrs. Turk, wherever she may be, will always live on in my head as I read or write anything.)  She tends to start a story and then slip off in another direction, not coming back to finish her original point for pages and pages.  She tells stories within stories, and it's hard to follow along.  She misuses her dashes in a distracting way - she will use them to make a side comment, but never go back to the original one - and she jumps all around her narrative.

Then there is the swearing.  Now, I cannot claim to never let a bad word fly from my mouth.  It's my confession that it happens from time to time.  However, Powell's common verbiage is a constant stream of profanity, especially when she is upset, which she appears to be most of the time.  Not only is this offensive and distracting, but it shows a dramatic lack of creativity and vocabulary.  Good heavens, woman - you are a writer.  You can choose more than to use "the F word" as a verb, noun, adverb, adjective, pronoun, and every other part of speech!  But more offensive than profanity, to me, is the use of Christ's name.  I realize most people will roll their eyes at this, but it's my blog and I'll say what I want: I do not like it when anyone uses Christ's name as an expression.  It is far more offensive to me than letting four-letter words fly.  Imagine how you would feel if someone constantly used your husband's name as a curse word.  That's how I feel about it.

Ideologically, Powell and I are miles apart.  That's really ok with me - I know not everyone is going to agree with me.  That's fine.  But her constant barrage of sarcasm when it came to matters of politics, faith, and morality wore me out.  I am fully aware that not everyone is going to be in the same frame of mind as I am politically.  I am fine with liberals and Democrats in the world.  Apparently, though, Powell cannot stand me.  For all her talk of tolerance, she is not terrible tolerant of my conservative values, and that got old.  There were far too many "Republicans are evil" jokes.  I am a Republican, and I am no more evil than the next guy.  I'm not against helping people.  I just think I ought to be doing it, not the government.  One or two jokes - ok, I can take it, ha ha, stereotypes are fun.  However, the flood of jokes and snide comments was too much.  In addition, she seems to be fairly opinionated about matters of faith and religion.  That's fine too.  But when she calls a certain person in her office "the freak who wears the 'What Would Jesus Do?' bracelet," I'm a little put off.  I have never worn such a bracelet - mostly because I don't wear bracelets - but if she met me, she would probably refer to me as "the freak who wears the Icthus/cross necklace."  So that was disconcerting.  Finally, we are miles apart morally.  I knew she had finally lost me when she started encouraging a friend to have an affair with a married man,  That combined with her comment that she really didn't consider marriage vows to be all that important - "I figure every man for himself, you know?" - just plain offended me and made me sad for her and her husband.

The content of the book was also frustrating.  It was never quite clear to me why Powell was on this mission, especially since once she got into it, she appeared to hate it most of the time.  Instead of a lighthearted, amusing tale of cooking for fun, or even cooking for purpose, it was a stream of stories of friends making bad decisions, getting drunk, temper tantrums, rants about her job and Republicans and her crappy apartment and how life, in general, sucks.  Who needs to read that?  She didn't even seem to enjoy the Project. Every story seemed to be about how it led to a fight with her husband, or frustrated her, or brought on a temper tantrum.  What exactly was Powell looking for?  And did she find it?  I don't think she did.  The Project came to and end...and then what?  The movie made it look like she was truly fulfilled in the experience...but this is not the case.  Powell's next book, which I am NOT going to read, is about the fallout from the affairs both her and her husband had in the wake of her success.  She apparently didn't find what she was looking for. 

And that brings me to my final reaction to Powell's story.  I was frustrated, annoyed, offended, hurt, put off, and angered.  In the end, though, I was sad.  I was sad for Julie Powell.  This is a woman who is achingly searching for something.  The thing is, I know what she searching for.  I know what she needs - or, rather, Who she needs. However, I think if I sat down to explain it to her, she'd blow me off and make a stream of sarcastic, obnoxious comments to all her friends.  That doesn't anger me.  That makes me really sad.  My heart breaks for this woman who has looked to food, sex, men, her job, her friends, alcohol, even butchery for fulfillment.  I don't know who God has sent to her life to tell her Who she needs, but I am praying and believing that Julie Powell will one day come to that place of realizing she needs God in her life, that God is the ultimate fulfillment of what she is searching for.

And so, after everything else, I leave this review on that note: one of hope.  The hope that comes from knowing the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Friend. And I have that hope that Julie Powell will come to find what she is truly looking for.

Quote of the day:

"Flinging around four-letter words when cooking isn't attractive, to me or Julia. She didn't want to endorse it. What came through on the blog was somebody who was doing it almost for the sake of a stunt. She would never really describe the end results, how delicious it was, and what she learned. Julia didn’t like what she called 'the flimsies.' She didn't suffer fools, if you know what I mean." - Judith Jones, Julia Child's editor, on why Child was not a fan of Powell's blog.  And after reading the book...I have to agree.

Scale of 1-5: 2
What's up next: Princess on the Brink by Meg Cabot
Top Five TBR:
1. Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff
2. The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter
3. Hearing God by Dallas Willard
4. Israel: A History by Martin Gilbert
5. Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

1 comment:

  1. Great review, Sara. I never got through the whole book. I'm a liberal democrat, and I got sick of her closed mindedness toward the other side. And I consider swearing to be my favorite vice, but I found it very distracting and not all that amusing in this case.