I just finished reading Julie & Julia, Julie Powell’s blog-turned-book about the year she dedicated to cooking her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
I came into the book with high expectations. Eagerly engaged in my own happiness project, I thought I’d be inspired by reading about Julie’s. Moreover, I really enjoyed the movie version. (Plus, what blogger wouldn’t be intrigued by the idea of a teeny-tiny blog exploding into a hotly selling book and a blockbuster movie starring Meryl Streep?)
But, as it turned out, I wasn’t a fan.
On the one hand, I think that Julie Powell is a talented writer. No, I didn’t care for her liberal use of vulgarity. But I do think she has a strong voice and a way with a phrase. On the other hand, I was annoyed by her self-indulgent (and nearly constant) whining. (Needless to say that it became quickly apparent while reading why I found Amy Adams to be so irritating in the film version.) I also found the organization of the book to be odd and the book itself to be in serious need of further editing.
But even worse, I was disturbed by the callous way in which Powell mines her family and friends for narrative fodder. From mentioning her own workplace flirtations (how did that make her husband feel?) to revealing that her father had an affair while he was married to her mother (how did that make either of them or her brother feel?), Powell takes the idea of transparency to upsetting ends.
When we choose to blog, or write memoir, I think that we must be conscious of the threats we’re making to the people we love most. Reading Powell’s story, I saw her loved ones as victims of her work. (Did they know beforehand how they would appear in her story?)
So – and this brings me to the point of this blog post – why did I keep reading? I wasn’t really enjoying myself and I got increasingly frustrated with Powell as the book wore on. Why didn’t I put it down, put it away, and then give it away?
I struggle, you see, with my own personal BRP (Book Rejection Policy). For years, I forced myself to finish every book I started, especially if the book had earned an award or praise from a friend or other respected source. Then, about five years ago, I swung in the other direction, allowing myself to give up on a book if I wasn’t hooked 50 pages in. (After all, isn’t life too short to read bad books? Hat tip to Katy.)
Somehow, though, I’ve worked myself back to a place where I slog through books I’m not enjoying. But for what? A sense of accomplishment? A sense of obligation to the author? An imagined gold star coming my way?
Tell me, friends, am I alone in this? Am I the only one who can’t bring herself to bid adieu to a literary clunker?
What’s your BRP? What’s the last book you BRP-ed?
Did you read Julie & Julia? What did you think?