This year- Days three hundred fourteen and fifteen. (Cleaving.)
I read most of Cleaving (the new book by the Julie and Julia writer... who I already thought was a terrible writer) that I had checked out from the library a few weeks ago.
Ann warned me that it was mostly about her "gross affair." Unfortunately for Ann (and me, I guess) I hear "tell all about a gross affair" as "oooh, fun gossip!" and put it on my library list stat. Ann was right though, it's actually really gross and makes Julie Powell seem even whinier and more annoying than she ever has before. A miraculous feat!
The book starts up as she and her husband are caught in the whirlwind of the success of Julie and Julia (an excellent idea for a blog but a terrible book and 50% incredibly bad movie) and she seems to not really know how to handle it at all. Sidenote- as noted in the Village Voice review linked above, this book was supposed to come out when the movie did but it was pushed back. I have to assume that it's because her "sainted" husband is treated completely like shit and they knew that would hurt sales. They were definitely right.
I really really dislike her writing style. I cannot stress that enough. I hate it! It's very "blog" which is fine with me in blog form but bugs the shit out of me in book form. She does very little character development and then just drops characters left and right. One of the main characters in the Butcher Shop leaves the shop and we are not told until well after he is gone. Why? There is little else going on here so it's so strange that she just drops important things all the time. She also loves quoting Buffy and just tosses quotes in here and there like it's super deep which screams blog to me. Her problems are also so hard to relate to. Like she wanted drama in her life so she created some stupid drama. It's very hard to care. Oh, and she's mega rich now and can take up apprenticing at a butcher shop, unpaid, as a hobby. As well as spending a month in Argentina and then months in Eastern Europe and Japan... with assistants, while a guy who is totally in love with her waits for her at home. We, as readers, are supposed to think "awww, that's sad"? What? Get some actual problems and then maybe you'll understand how great you've had it all your life, Julie Powell.
Okay, so this story is about her learning how to butcher and her gross affair with a guy she also had an affair with in college. Butchering is marginally interesting but she goes into way too many details for someone who has no interest in butchering. I skimmed over most of the butchering details, to be honest and I know a lot about cooking and the butchering world. I don't know what a real noob would do with those chapters. She really liked to compare the separating of bones in the meat to the idea of separating herself from her husband... somewhat unbelievably since she is also emotionally separating herself from him everyday.
The affair... where to begin? Firstly, she is super in love with the guy she is banging and ruining her marriage because of it. She is very open about how much she loves "D" and their affair only ends because HE ENDS IT and dumps her. Which breaks her heart and leaves her crying and drinking herself to sleep in bottles of wine every night... next to her husband in bed. What? Why does her husband put up with this? It is never explained. He's basically nursing his wife through a breakup, it's nonsense. I actually found myself being offended on the part of the husband while reading the book. She's so mean to him and just writes the intricate details of it so easily, like he's not a real person with friends and family who can pick up this book and read it. I get how memoirs work, but this is not really a memoir, and it really makes it hard to believe that she loves the guy that she keeps saying "but I love him!" about.
She also reveals that when "D" moved to NYC they rekindled their friendship and he became friends with her husband and they would hang out and he'd have dinner over at their house and then make out with her when her husband went to bed. WHAT? That is awful. You're a terrible person who has no respect for this person you claim is so much a part of you that you can't separate yourself from them (eye roll). He even went out with them when her family was visiting from out of town. It's not like an anonymous thing that happened one time and would never happen again. She paraded him around her family! Let him sleep on the couch while her husband unknowingly slept in the other room and she paraded him around town, to the places she and her husband went together. That is awful and hurtful. Plain and simple. To say nothing of the several anonymous encounters she had via the internet with strangers that she writes about in embarrassingly great detail.
She really, desperately tries to write about it like it's big and meaningful and heart breaking but it comes off as incredibly immature, hurtful and mean. Like a teenager who gets dumped for the first time and then writes a bunch of angsty poetry about the meaning of love and death. Ultimately embarrassing when you realize you're reading the writing of a woman in her 30s who is still married and supposedly in love.
The second half of the book is literally her traveling and keeping a sort of journal about it. It's as interesting as it sounds... I skimmed roughly 50 pages because it was so boring. So much of this book read like a very self indulgent person's diary that I can't believe it was published and that she got a somewhat large advance. It's pretty infuriating when you think of the publishing industry as a whole and how hard it is to get a book published today- that this book exists is simply gross. The one good thing is the hand-lettered cover, which I do tend to be in favor of as a rule.
To sum up, Julie Powell is a bad writer and an even worse wife and now there is a book to prove it. Good for her?