Thursday, August 13, 2009

Summertime, and the Blogging is Breezy.

I'm happy. We're having a great week. For once I didn't overplan, and we had a nice quiet Monday and Tuesday, ran a couple errands and got school supplies and lazed around and the kids acted like they liked each other. Yesterday we went to the beach with friends and it was hot but cloudy enough to shield us from the blazing sun, and the kids frolicked in the water and played in the sand and my friend and I went in and out of the water and talked and then we went over to her house and the kids disappeared upstairs, and when I had to take Angus home for baseball practice Eve refused to leave, so I left her there until bedtime. Today we went over to another friend's house and the kids were great and I made lunch for everyone (to make up for the fact that I had basically invited myself and my kids over to her house). I'm happy.
It's hard to blog when you're happy. Well, it's hard to blog and not feel like you're being really cheesy and boring. So I will not blog any further about myself. I went to see the movie Julie and Julia last week (well yes, I saw the movie, but... well, just listen). I enjoyed the whole movie, but the parts with Meryl Streep as Julia Child were so amazing, so magical, that I sort of felt like they couldn't help but overshadow the parts with Amy Adams playing Julie Powell, even though I love Amy Adams.
I read the book a few years ago, not long after it came out. It's Julie Powell's autobiographical account of how she decided, in a period of job-hating and self-loathing depression, she decided to cook her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and blog about it. Her blog caught on and resulted in her getting a book deal. She currently has another book coming out about butchery and her extra-marital affair.
Last week there was a column in the Ottawa Citizen which ridiculed Julie Powell's original project and characterized her as frivolous and self-involved. It would have been good if I had kept the column so I could quote from it and capture its acid tone. But I didn't. Suffice it to say that it was mean enough that it struck me, and made me think -- really, what's your issue? Julie Powell wanted to be a writer, was stuck in a job she didn't love and couldn't figure out a way to be a writer. She figured out a way to be a writer, which succeeded in a very public, fairy-tale kind of way. For some reason, her writing struck a chord in enough people to make her successful. Okay, it was a rather obvious gimmick, but how exactly do you break into publishing these days without a rather obvious gimmick, if you don't have powerful connections or a stupid amount of dumb luck?
I'm not saying this columnist was just jealous. I'm saying that I'm curious about how she thought she could write a column like this and come off as anything but jealous. Maybe the whole "if you have nothing nice to say, it's better not to say anything at all" should be revised to include "because it just makes you look jealous". Unless it's really really funny. Somehow it's okay to be bitchy when you're really really funny. So maybe it just wasn't funny enough.
It's true that Julie Powell sort of climbed to fame on the sturdy back of Julia Child. So what? There are very few works of art, literature or music that can't be called in some way derivative. Everybody's on everybody else's back (ooh, did that sound dirty? See? Julie Powell would have made that sound dirty).
If I was in a midwinter funk I'm sure I could work this up into a more rigorous thesis of something or other. I don't really know where I'm going with this at all. In fact, I hate it when other writers only ever say positive, glowing, fake-sounding things, so I'm not sure why I felt so prickly about this. I guess there are some things I think it's fair to attack someone else's writing on, and some things that there are not. I mean, if someone wasn't self-involved to a fairly high degree, how would they be a writer at all? Julie Powell isn't always likable -- maybe she's a little too honest. Julia Child probably wasn't always likable either (oh, but she was so full of life and joy, she was so boisterous and spirited, she was so...tall!), but she didn't keep a blog.
Go Julie. Get over yourself, columnist whose name I can't remember. Go blog friends. Maybe someday someone will call us frivolous and self-involved. I'm certainly in there trying.

2 comments:

wheelsonthebus said...

sure, it was frivolous. it was also well-written and entertaining. books like *eat, pray, love* try to be all deep and are really navel-gazing, but *julie and julia* was a good, honest read.

Amber said...

I haven't read the book or seen the movie. Mostly what I see these days has been animated by the good folks at Disney.

All the same, I am cultivating a high level of self-involvement. And frivolity. I'm sorry to hear that some nameless columnist doesn't like that approach, but you can't please everyone. ;)