Monday, December 12, 2005

Review: Julie and Julia

Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Apartment Kitchen

My rating: *** out of 5 ( reviewers agree, incidentally)

I really, really wanted to enjoy this book more. Julie Powell was the first famous food blogger. In 2002, while working a 9-to-5 job in lower Manhattan, she started a blog called The Julie/Julia Project. In it, she detailed her life as she cooked every recipe from Julia Child's iconic Mastering the Art of French Cooking over the course of a year. This was made particularly interesting by the fact that (a) she is extravagantly vulgar, (b) she writes pretty well, and (c) it's really hard to find a lot of those ingredients, even in New York City. (I never read the blog, having started reading blogs just about the week after she finished.) By the time she finished the year, she'd been interviewed by dozens of media outlets, been on television, and offered a book deal. This is that book.

Unfortunately, it's extraordinarily uneven. She decided to rewrite a lot of stuff rather than just taking excerpts from the blog (and its comments). The parts that are still entertaining are the original blog entries, as she details various traumatic events in her life while discussing how to cook kidneys or open a marrow bone. But she added some completely uninteresting fictional stuff about Julia Child and her early life as she met her husband, and a lot of other stuff that just felt like uninspired filler. I think what I wanted, and what would have felt the most authentic, would have been for her to simply extract the best 50% of the blog, and the most poignant and interesting comments. I wanted more about the cooking itself, I wanted dates in front of every entry. I think I even wanted the hyperlinks to random stuff she was reading at the time. I wanted to feel like I was one of her growing ranks of readers as her skills (and fame) grew. But that's not what I got. I got a few laughs, along with the lingering feeling that I was still missing the important part of the story.

I think what I really want is blog reruns. I want to be able to subscribe to the Julie/Julia Project, and have it show up in my blog aggregator, day after day for a year. The book was too fast, and that, I think, was perhaps its biggest drawback.


At 9:35 AM, Blogger mzn said...

Well you can't use your aggregator but nothing's to stop you from reading J/J an entry a day. I wouldn't care to do that, though. When I discover a new blog that's been going for a while I almost never read through the old posts in order. That's because one of the pleasures of blogs is that they're *now*. A memoir/book offers a different kind of experience and demands more narrative and thematic coherence.

(Incidentally, C&Z has had a couple of interesting posts about the process of a blogger becoming a book author.)


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