Thursday, December 10, 2009
Oh My! Julie Powell, Skanky, Girl.
Photo by Carlo Allegri
In case, you haven't seen this yet:
A Q&A with Julie Powell
By Jackie Burrell
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 12/09/2009 12:00:00 AM PST
One thing seems fairly clear: Amy Adams, who played the food blogger in last summer's breakout hit, "Julie & Julia," probably won't be donning a butcher's apron for Julie Powell's newest memoir.
Nor will anyone who devoured every last morsel of naive, witty adorability in Powell's first book that recounts the year she spent cooking all 524 recipes from Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," willi find the new book to be the polar opposite.
"Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat and Obsession" is a tale of tortured wedlock, jaw-dropping adultery, unbelievable wine consumption, and more meat than you could ever imagine. Yes, there are recipes, but after reading about the metallic fragrance of freshly butchered, "custardy-smooth," burgundy-tinged livers, you may find yourself in the mood for a nice bowl of soy products.
But flying cartilage and sinew aside, the most brutal parts of the book outline Powell's two-year affair with D — an old flame from her college days with whom she cheated once before on her then-boyfriend Eric Powell. Fast forward to 2004 and "Julie & Julia" is soaring up the bestseller lists when D comes around again. What ensues is an affair that verges on obsession, even cruelty, including sexting and wee hours makeout sessions in her apartment, while Powell's husband, Eric, sleeps in the next room. That Eric quickly discovers the infidelity and has an affair of his own does not make any of it
Yet we're helpless to resist. We keep turning the pages and when Powell, who has made a career of baring her soul, offers to chat, we grab the phone.
Q: So what happened? You worried that people thought you were too adorable last time around?
A: People are reacting in all kinds of ways, very strongly. People who were invested in Eric's and my relationship in "Julie & Julia" — and then the movie was a sweetened version of that — it's unnerving. A lot of people saw the relationship as this paragon. It's not that it was a lie, but I wrote it at this period where I was very naive and I thought marriage was a pretty little box with a bow. Marriage is incredibly difficult and the people in it change. I wanted to honor that. Both of us — primarily me — have made some really terrible choices.
Q: Eric and Damian know they're in the book, right? With... everything?
A: Eric and I are together now. He's not tripping through the roses (about the book), but we talked a long time about this, did counseling. I could never have published it without his blessing. I've exposed our life in a way that's not comfortable for both of us, but he's been extraordinarily supportive. D had to sign off on it. He read the manuscript. I don't know that I'd say he's on board. I haven't spoken to him in a great while.
Q: So in the midst of this crisis, you decided to do ... a butchering apprenticeship?
A: I've been fascinated by butchers for a really long time. I grew up in Texas, where all the meat I bought was from a supermarket, wrapped in cellophane. I discovered these old world New York butcher shops and these guys who had been doing this work for decades. They'd learned from their fathers. I was envious of that innate skill. One facet of my personality is, when I'm in crisis, I seek a project. I needed a haven of sorts, and this idea of spending all this time in a shop with guys who didn't know me or anything about me, it felt like an escape.
Q: But big macho butchers? Flying meat?
A: There's this stereotype of butchers. They're big macho guys, no question, but what I found was how delicate the work is, how meditative — 85 percent of butchery you can do with the tip end of a boning knife. There's a sort of road map with everything, how muscles are supposed to come apart, that tiny crevice between the cup and ball of the joint. There's this rote aspect and yet you still have to concentrate your mind and body on what you're doing. It became this way to work through this crisis.
Q: OK, so you leave your butcher apprenticeship and instead of going home to Eric, you head off on a Grand Meat Tour of Argentina, Tanzania ... and the Ukraine??
A: It was a little random, I'll grant you. Argentina makes sense — it's a great meat culture, also a good first country to visit alone. I'd always wanted to visit the Carpathian Mountains. Tanzania? The people who live there, the Masai, their entire identity as a culture revolves around the animals they raise. And the bleeding of the cow —
(A pause, while we reread the description of Masai tribesmen piercing a cow's jugular vein so everyone can drink.)
— It's so primal and so central to their tribe. It's the sole reason I went.
Q: Does Amy Adams have any idea what's in store for her?
A: I have this little fantasy. In this alternative reality, Amy Adams is going to be forced to play Julie Powell in all her guises. I don't think we're going to see a Nora Ephron movie of this one. I haven't even sent (the book) to Nora Ephron. I'm terrified she'll explode.