I finished Julie Powell's second book Cleaving while I was in Little Rock. Like most of the people who have contributed to her success, I have an inexplicable fascination with her. The obvious reason must be because I see myself as a near-thirty, semi-adrift, wanna-be writer with growing worries as to when the grandiose plans of my youth are planning to bear fruit... just like Julie in Julie and Julia.
Perhaps I should be more worried by the fact that I enjoyed Cleaving because I also saw myself in this completely different version of Julie Powell: an attention craving, outside approval seeking, game playing manipulatress (yes I made that word up) with membrane-thin concentration on carefully chosen projects to try and distract from incessant wants, (wants damaging to both the wanter and the wanted[s]).
While the book was odd in that it goes from butcher shop to recipe to love affair to marriage to repeat to "oh, hey I'm in Buenos Aires! And Nairobi! Or some such place..." and back to butcher shop, I still found it intensely readable. Proust it is not, but sometimes I don't want Proust, I want cake. This was cake, and for that I congratulate her.
My disappointment in the book was the lack of revelation or epiphany at the end. Another character calls her "zen-like" in her attitude towards herself, her husband, and their various infidelities, but the cause of that one-ness with the world wasn't spelled out for me beyond a single sentence where she says she is not bothered by her husband's lover, as she gives the girl props for having good taste in men. Her lover issue is resolved in that the guy disappears, an apparent pattern. Where's the catharsis!? The take-home lesson!? The applicable insight I can use to move past being like the Julie of the first few hundred pages of the book!?
Maybe she's saving it for the next memoir...
The guts and gore of the book, (it is about butchering, partially... I had to know what I was getting in to), were particularly uncomfortable for myself, a vegetarian, to read. While she tried to describe the beauty and delicacy of meats, her descriptions of pulling apart animal muscles at the seam, cows hooked to ceilings, and depressed pigs being shot between the eyeballs and stabbed, really just affirmed my commitment to an avoidance of livestock.
And possibly affairs. If anything, she reminded me that nothing is worth the drama, the heart ache, the lying, the everything associated with betrayal.
To counter-balance this book, I have started reading Elizabeth Gilbert's (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) new book Committed.
Three chapters in and I'm already questioning my OCD need for high-security protected personal space, my tendency to title my life-chapters by the names of the boys I dated at the time, and I can have a great laugh at people claiming that marriage is "biblical" and "holy." I guess I need to read my new testament a little more closely. Apparently, the apostles claimed God didn't like the marrieds with all their sex and babies! Unclean! Ha!
Ok, back to my book.