Julie Powell of Julie and Julia fame came to the Free Library of Philadelphia to promote her second book, Cleaving: A Story of Meat, Marriage and Obsession. I think she was surprised by the turn-out – she did a double-take when she came out from behind the curtain onto the stage. (She also tripped a little when she got to the podium which was totally cute.) I think she was really nervous because she had a hard time looking at the audience. I don’t blame her – there were 300 people there sitting in an auditorium, all staring at her!
Julie explained her story: how she came up with the Julie and Julia project, how it took on a life of its own, how it became a Nora Ephron movie starring Meryl Streep (which she mentioned several times – Amy Adams not so much! ;-)), how her life changed so much after the fame and fortune. She likened it to winning the lottery, how she “put her numbers in and hit big”, but the lottery doesn’t fix your problems. Julie was building up to what we’ve heard about the new book, that she had an affair and the foray into butchery was her way of dealing with it and her unraveling marriage.
Julie prefaced her reading by warning people that it’s very different from Julie and Julia, that it’s much darker. She said if J&J is Nora Ephron then Cleaving would be (some David guy I never heard of and now I can’t remember). She even said, “You will hate me.” We laughed, and she said, “No really. People love Eric Powell” and in the book she did some bad things to Eric Powell.
She read a passage about learning to butcher (is that how you say it?), and when she mentioned cutting her thumb (after telling us how you have to be careful about your fingers getting numb so you don’t cut them off without feeling it), everyone gasped. She looked up, surprised, and laughed. “That’s nothing!” So I’m guessing we’ll find out about other injuries while reading. 😉 But her reaction is why I love reading out loud to my students – the reaction when they get it.
By now she was more relaxed. (She even joked about being terrible at speaking “off the cuff”. Not true though.) Then she talked a little more about her affair. She said she should have known the guy was no good because he had absolutely no interest in cooking. (He also didn’t like dogs. What’s wrong with that?) During Q&A (which she said is her favorite part – “I’m really good at that!”), someone asked if it was hard to write about something so personal, to be so brutally honest and “put it out there”. She replied, “People who use their lives as creative fodder do it bcs it is just necessary… to understand it.” So like she had to do it to get through it and figure out what happened. Reminds me of the benefits of journalling (except I would never publish them ;-)).
This idea was reiterated when someone asked for advice about finding a project. She said you just have to find something that means a lot to you so that you will turn off that Editor in your brain that says, ‘You stink, you’re no good, you may as well quit now.’ By this point I was nodding, thinking of my own blog “project”.
Another question came from a fellow Texan who blogs about the connection between food and love. Julie had already talked about feeling bad while butchering because she was always thinking about her affair (which was already over) and not about her marriage. She realized it was because Eric was so intertwined in her life she couldn’t fathom him not being there, even though they had been apart and even technically separated. Basically she rook him for granted, but they worked it out. (She said so, and she was wearing a wedding ring.) The blogger asked for Julie’s thoughts on the food and love, to which she replied, “Cooking requires a kind of trust that is also required for loving someone.” Everyone approved.
I was able to get a good spot in the line though it seemed like most people just left. Sunshine had asked me to tell Julie she couldn’t be there (probably as a joke, but I said it anyway!) because she was stuck getting her house ready for a Christmas visit from the in-laws. Julie laughed. Good one, Sunshine! And wait til you see what she wrote in your book! (I won’t spoil it here. ;-))
Definitely see Julie Powell if she comes to your town!