Saturday, September 12, 2009

Julie & Julia - Is this still topical?

I read Julie & Julia a few weeks ago. I contemplated writing a blog about it right away, but I'm kind of lazy, and honestly thought I should let the material and my feelings about it simmer for awhile first. (Notice that clever cooking reference? Huh? *nudge* Huh? *nudge* Okay, I'll stop.)

Anyway, I had mixed feelings about Julie & Julia, and thought it was a good example of my feelings for the genre that is memoir itself, which is why I'm writing about it on this blog, rather than doing a general review on my other blog.

One thing I will mention right away - unlike a lot of people, I took no offense from Julie's frequent use of certain words. I don't mind swearing, and in reality, most people without kids don't mind swearing. I am more in Julie Powell's book myself, possessing the mouth of a sailor, and offering few, if any, apologies for it. People swear. It's a part of the modern vernacular, it's normal vocabulary to use. If anything, I give Julie kudos for refusing to censor herself despite frequent request. Good for you, Julie! Stick it to the fucking man!

Particularly as a writer, I think that swear words, even if you don't use them yourself, are something you need to not be afraid of. If your main character stubs his toe, or she feels overwhelmed, most likely, he/she/it is not going to say: "Gee Willikers! That hurts/sucks/etc." That would be unnatural, and probably kind of creepy, like you're stuck in some weird fifties TV show universe, where Mrs. Cleaver has a Valium-induced smile pasted on her face as she secretly contemplates whacking her kids with the kitchen knife she uses to chop vegetables.

Timmy ruined another pair of pants today

Of course, a writer doesn't need to use swear words all the time - remember that fiasco that was the Blair Witch Project, with "the f-word" being spoken nearly every other word? Yeah, when you're scared, that's what you do, but such frequent use without furthering the plot is just irritating.

Words of Wisdom: Don't be a Blair Witch Project

Without much transition, I'm going to continue discussing Julie Powell's writing. I noticed something in Julie & Julia that I've noticed in a lot of memoir - sometimes the writing rubs me the wrong way. Since this has happened in several memoirs from authors who have an entirely different voice/writing style, I think there is something in memoir itself rather than Powell's writing that caused this.

Perhaps it's the reality? Knowing that this work is marketed as a memoir, and therefore, ACTUALLY happened? Yeah, some of the words may be flubbed a little bit, but Augusten Burroughs lived through some really crazy shit, and Julie Powell's apartment really was that dirty.

As I was lying in bed the other night, trying to go to sleep, the thought of Julie finding maggots in her kitchen just popped into my head, and really freaked me out. I mean - EW! I'm shuddering as I type this.

Does anyone else get this reaction? This feeling that you have to set the book aside for at least a few minutes before continuing? The mental equivalent from reading that some people physically get when they feel the texture of styrofoam or hear styrofoam being rubbed against itself?

It's... duh duh dun... styrofoam

Of course, I don't think there's anything wrong with writing or reading memoir. If you have a story to tell, whether it actually happened or not, you should write it down. But I think that when I read memoir, knowing that this author is claiming the events actually happened to him/her sometimes makes me cringe.

Maybe that's a good thing. I have a pretty strong stomach, and even if I'm disliking something I'm reading, the writing is inspiring strong feelings.

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