Much of my growing-up years, Julia Child's show "The French Chef," was on our [black and white] television. The program premiered in 1963 and ran through 1973. Child earned a BA from Smith in English. And as I was always told while majoring in English, if you have an English degree, you can do anything you want to do. And she did. I always felt that my paternal grandma and Julia Child's favored one another. Not that my grandma was 6'2", she wasn't. But, she did wear comfortably flat shoes, always had on stockings and house dresses, with a ridiculously high waistband, and often wore matching earrings and beads (often times, while slaving over a hot stove, preparing a huge meal). Both my grandma and Child were classy ladies. As Amy Adams (portraying Powell in the movie points out) never losing her temper, never throwing a fit or having a melt-down. I think the only time I ever saw my grandma angry it was over an escaped cow. I noted that in the movie, Meryl Streep wears ridiculously high heels. Streep plays Child in a delightful manner. Nailed her. As did Dan Aykroyd, when he mocked her in his hilarious imitation of Child on Saturday Night Live in 1978. (Another program/episode that I remember from the original.)
Our local book club read Julie & Julia this past year. I wasn't too taken with it. But since seeing the movie, I think maybe I should give Powell's book a second chance. Powell's adventure started with her blog. Her goal: 524/ recipes in 365 days. I wouldn't even take on 365 recipes in 365 days. In her review of the movie, Laura Shapiro of gourmet magazine, ripped Powell. She called Powell narcissistic, hollow and unforgivably lazy. I would retort to Shapiro, "aren't all writers narcissistic?" Isn't anyone who ever writes a blog, a book, a column believe in their own heart that we have something to say to the masses and that the masses want to read it?
In Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner states of writers:
"He turns the conversation to that banal subject, fascinating to non-writers , of why writers write. Ego-enhancement, sure. What else? Psychological imbalance? Neurosis? Trauma? And if trauma, how far can trauma go before it stops being stimulating and becomes destructive?...Are writers reporters, prophets, crazies, entertainers, preachers, judges, what? Who appoints them as mouthpieces? If they appoint themselves, as they clearly do, how valid is the commission?"
Powell found a niche that worked. She took an idea and worked it. She labored, anguished (and anguished) over it. (I think one of the elements of the book that I found unappealing was the amount of complaining about every minor detail of the project.) But was she successful? Absolutely. Her blog evolved into a book which evolved into a movie. Financially, she is rewarded. The success of her project/blog/book/movie has been an impetus to revive the sales of Child's book "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." Bookstores are seeing the book "fly off of the shelves" in record numbers, perhaps rivaling the original release.
I enjoyed the movie immensely. Streep is delightful in her portrayal of Child and Stanley Tucci is adorable in his portrayal of Child's husband, Paul. If you haven't seen it yet (it is now a five buck club movie,) go see it. You won't be disappointed.
In the meantime, I will be reading more of Julie Powell. Her current blog is now favored in my lineup of those I live to read. And I may be reading Julie and Julia again. Even if Shapiro won't give you another chance, Julie, I will.
P.S. My favorite movie moment is always obscure. In this movie, there were two favortie obscure moments. First, when Julie and her friend are in the bar and her friend tells her that she is a b*tch. It takes a good friend to be able to tell you that. The second obscure moment that I loved was when Julia and Avis met after being pen pals for eight years. I instantly thought of meeting Mindy, Kate, Nina, or Alicia- all women whose blogs I read. They inspire me, cheer me, warm my heart and on occaision, I am fortunate enough to "talk" to them via the internet. The scene when Avis puts her arms out for a hug and says to Julia "look at you!" just made me have goose bumps.