By Julie Powell
Published December 1, 2009 (Hardcover) Little, Brown and Company
I interviewed Julie Powell many years ago at a downtown Portland hotel. She was escorted in as if she were a princess, and, perhaps, in a way, she was. She’d hit the NY Times bestseller list with her first memoir Julie and Julia. You’ll recognize the title from the movie that’s just out, starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. Cleaving is Powell’s follow-up.
I selected the book from my stacks this afternoon the way I always do. Intuitively. But, I’m not digging the marital indiscretions spliced with butchery. She writes beautifully. All the emotions are played out, nuanced, tangled, then smoothed, and pulled into yet another direction. But, among other scenes, I’m not crazy about the one where she and others slaughter a pig.
It reminds me of when I had just married my Texan (ex) husband. We had flown to south Texas to visit his parents, and we went shooting. When I was a kid at camp, I was a damn good shot, making my way to the rank of the best sharpshooters. But those were targets. And, it was before Lasik on just my right eye.
That breezy morning, we shot morning doves, and I brought a few down. Me, the petite twenty-something, with two red scars on my forehead from the traffic accident a few months prior, that put 66-stitches in my face – sliced me down to the skull and broke my nose. I did not like killing something when I had been so close so recently sliced – nearly to death – myself. Mama Lois cooked the morning doves, and we ate them. Sadly delicious.
Soon after the pig-slaughter, Julie visits a New York restaurant with her boss. They taste pig bonbons. Creamy, like pate. I loved pate when I was a kid, but I don’t know what was pated. Is it better not knowing? It’s a game Julie plays with the butchers, when they shove various meat into her mouth. One night, in a restaurant, she and her female boss taste the pig square sandwiched between two thin, crisp wafers of dark chocolate – and explode into orgasmic expressions. Magic.
Okay, so the book’s got its moments. The career comradeship . A few recipes to sweeten the ride. Some world-traveling. And an ending that’s more of a beginning.