The highly-anticipated film Julie & Julia, set for release Aug. 7, has sparked a renewed curiosity about both protagonists portrayed in the film: The late Julia Child, as well as writer Julie Powell, author of the memoir Julie & Julia. Over drinks, the self-effacing Powell, who was in town promoting the film, discussed the movie, the extramarital affair that is the subject of her next book, and her response to less-than-kind feedback from both Julia's editor, Judith Jones — and Julia herself. Get the scoop when you keep reading.
YumSugar: Do you feel like you were accurately portrayed on screen?
Julie Powell: Julie Powell in the movie, she's a fictional character. She's much softer than I am, and she doesn't curse nearly as much as I do, and — this is a nitpicky thing — perhaps doesn't have the sense of self-awareness that was key to the blog and the book. Amy Adams is lovely, and I'm happy with it. She [the main character] is just not me. You have to go into it thinking, this is a Nora Ephron movie — not my book. Then you can enjoy it.
YS: After completing the Julie/Julia project, you got a letter from Julia. What did it say?
JP: I'd written her a letter. Regardless of what she thought, I had to thank her, because her example and the blog changed my life. The letter that I received back was cordial, and, I'm sure, typed up by her secretary. She was glad that she had been an inspiration to me, and I was trying to learn to cook, and suggested an organization for aspiring chefs . . . It was kind of her to acknowledge my letter. She didn't address the project, because I'm sure I didn't articulate it well. But it meant so much more to me than learning to cook. It taught me a great deal about what I was capable of, how I could turn my life around. But at the time when I was so close to it, that was not something that I could have said to her with any clarity, and maybe not something she could have understood.
YS: What do you think of Julia's editor, Judith Jones, and her remarks about you "not being a serious cook"?
JP: I've only met her once, and I wasn't aware at the time that she was saying things like that. But honestly, she's right: I'm not a serious cook. I hope that I might get her to understand that that was never my goal. What I wanted to do was use Julia's book as a creative outlet. From that, I found my voice, I found my subject, I found my tone. That gets a little lost in the movie, because the movie Julie & Julia is about the cooking and food. But for me, the project was at least as much about finding my vocation as a writer. So I completely agree with Judith that I am not a serious cook. Maybe someday I will be, but I'd prefer to be known as a serious writer.
YS: Your new title, Cleaving, comes out in December, where it's said you'll chronicle your "insane, irresistible love affair."
JP: Never let the interns write your cover copy! Cleaving is about my six-month stint in upstate New York, learning to butcher at this shop called Fleischer's. Cleaving covers a crisis point in our marriage, and using butchery as a way to both escape the pain that was happening there and also to kind of explore and work through. Butchery is very clarifying, almost like meditation. The one thing I'm looking forward to about being off to the tour is getting back to it.