Last month I wrote a blog praising the movie Julie & Julia. I honestly can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a movie so much. In fact I was so enamored with Julie Powell’s story that, as soon as I came out of the theatre, I decided to read the book. Several weeks later I found it on the Hot Reads section of my library, and proceeded to dig in.
I had zero expectations going forth with this memoir. I had never read Ms. Powell’s blog, or anything else about her for that matter. I assumed the movie would be true to the storyline – which it was, for the most part, except for one thing: Nora Ephron, the movie’s producer, downplayed Ms. Powell’s politics big time. The author’s Democratic leanings were alluded to in the movie, but it left no indication that the actual story is saturated in left-wing politics.
Rest assured I am not the kind of person who doesn’t read a book (or listen to music) if it’s written by someone whose politics differ from mine; I just hate being absorbed in a story – even if it is true -- only to have the author throw in his politics. For me, it throws the story completely out of whack and takes me awhile to get back into it. I even hated it when Elizabeth Gilbert did it in Eat, Pray, Love and I inhaled that book -- twice. Bottom line: I can appreciate someone’s artistry regardless of what I think of the artist. But when it comes to Julie & Julia – the book, not the movie – there is no artist to admire. The book reads like a painfully long blog, and the political diatribes make you wonder whether Ms. Powell wanted to write a different book altogether. Not that she could have, for there is no substance to her political leanings. All there is is a lot of name calling.
When I started the book, I imagined pages of interesting dialogue interspersed with romps in the kitchen and anecdotes about married life. After all, the story itself is great: secretary looks for greater purpose in life, proceeds to cook her way though an extremely complicated cookbook, and then blog about it. It’s unique and it appeals to the old and young alike. Indeed, the book idea had tremendous potential. The actual book, however, is unpolished, unprofessional, and downright immature.
There is simply no reason, for example, for the excessive use of profanity and politics (and I'm no prude, believe me) – except, perhaps, to fill pages Ms. Powell could otherwise not fill. And though it had the potential to reach a large audience – like the movie – the book is written exclusively for a Sex in the City audience. Ms. Powell and her friends are painfully young in their attitudes toward men, marriage, and sex. One even carries on with a married man – no relationship, just sex -- and shows frighteningly little remorse about it. Ms. Powell is the ever-loyal liberal – assuring readers that she may be a lot of things, but judgmental she is not.
Of the 440 reviews currently on Amazon, 147 give the book a 1-star rating. Another hundred or so give the book a 2-star rating. As an author myself, I appreciate that bad reviews from everyday Americans don’t mean much – particularly if the book’s topic is controversial. In such cases, the “reviewers” often don’t even read the book. But this is not the case here. Julie & Julia is, at face value, a delightful concept; few are turned off by the story itself. It’s only once you read the book that you learn what it’s really all about. Even self-described Democrats had trouble finishing the book. The profanity and politics were simply too much.
In response to her critics, Ms. Powell writes this on her blog: “Yeah, I bash on Republicans a lot. It's nothing personal - some of my dearest friends... well, no, but dearest relatives - are Republican. I just am terrified of everything you stand for is all. I don't bash all Republicans - though I am, truly, frightened by the Republican Party Platform itself.”
This anecdote just about sums up the extent of Ms. Powell’s intellect -- and apparently the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. In the book, Ms. Powell shares a comment her mother makes on Powell’s blog. After thanking readers for supporting her daughter’s cooking and writing endeavors, and signing off as “Julie’s mom,” she writes this: “PS – Clarence, who fucking cares what you think, anyway.”
In yet another chapter, Ms. Powell tells about the time she was in fourth grade when her parents were temporarily separated. One day in the car the author notices her mother is distraught and asks, “Are you okay, Mommy?” To which her mother responds, “No. My heart hurts because your father is in love with another woman!”
All this childishness and tolerance demonstrates a painful truth: the modern generation – who’ve been raised largely by baby boomers who never grew up -- is self-absorbed and morally vacuous. Indeed, if there’s one thing boomers stink at, it’s parenting. They’ve raised a bunch of whiny, narcissistic children who cannot seem to grow up and get on with it.
Julie Powell, author of Julie & Julia the book is the poster child for everything that’s wrong with the modern generation.