More often that not, you have to know exactly what you are writing, either on your blog or for your book. More often than not, you have to determine precisely what you want to tell, your inspiring experience, or your personal life? It is undeniable, with the coming of the digital era, that we are now entering a period of time where we tend to tell freely our stories through any medium available. I’m not talking about an author who decides to tell a story based on their true experiences or a fictionalized version of their true story. I’m talking about travel writers who talk about their journeys, photographers who talk about photography, chefs who talk about cooking, and so on and so forth. And Julie Powell, in my opinion, doesn’t seem to know exactly what she was writing. She once did cooking blogging, though I never once read her blog, but this book, Julie & Julia, doesn’t seem to have any direction, and thus does not fall into any genre. It’s not a cooking book by any means as you might expect it to be, and it’s not a fiction book either since the story inside is truly real.
The book begins with Julie Powell whining about her boring life, her not-so-exciting desk job, her crappy apartment, her not pregnant yet, and so many other things. One day, she cooks something that happens to be one of the recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Arts of French Cooking. Then, at that very moment, a brilliant idea pops into her head and she decides to go ahead with cooking all the recipes listed in that unbelievably thick book. Her husband suggests that she puts her cooking experience on a blog. So, from then on, Powell cooks every meal in the MtAoFC with the help of her husband and reports the result on her blog, which gains its fame and high statistics in a slow but steady progress. It takes a year for her to finish all the recipes, even though she doesn’t really practice some of them. Just for the record, not all of her cooking experiments are successful, some are failed and some others are just okay. As we know it, the Internet is the best place to get an instant fame, and Powell definitely gets it with her cooking blog. Many people know her, the whole media knows her, and everyone seems to have a nice comment about her and what she is doing, except Julia Child herself, who thinks that Powell is not that serious about cooking and only having fun.
If you look at the narrative closely, Julie & Julia is not actually about cooking, at all. It’s only a book about Julie Powell herself, although it’s not a biography, either. Well, it’s not that, in my very limited reading experience, Powell is the first to write a book about herself and her private life, but the fact that this book is supposed to be, even if only in part, about her cooking experience and turns out that it is not really irks me so. Instead, Powell talks endlessly about herself, her husband, her family, and her friends with all of their personal problems. Some people are indeed curious about the others’ lives behind the closed doors, but some others don’t seriously want to know about those things at all. If you want to talk about your cooking experience, then do just that. What’s more, (some) people really do not want to know, or care, about your friends’ sex lives and creepy fairy tale. And they won’t seriously like your yowling, crying, and shouting at your husband.
Fortunately, on the positive side, Julie & Julia is quite well-written. It has a believable plot and, as crazy as I know it is, I think it has an interesting style of writing. It’s funny, it’s absorbing, it’s catching my attention. I didn’t really like the book but Powell’s diction and style of storytelling succeeded in making me stay to the last page. I was so tempted to skip some parts, but Powell’s writing managed to hold me hostage and make me swallow everything in it. In my eyes, Powell has actually a talent for writing, if only she knows what she is writing.
At the end, I would say that Julie Powell’s Julie & Julia is nothing special. It’s a fun read but there’s not much point in it. It doesn’t give the reader anything, except for a glimpse into her cranky private life. It is well-written, but that’s it all. I cannot say much except that it’s not a book you really should waste your time to read.