Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Review of "Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession", (or Julie's Other Book).

I'm studying a little about butchery for my current novel project. a fantasy community which hosts, yearly, a butchery kind of festival. 

That's not even the dark part of the book, I swear. 

A lot of my research has come from people like Christopher Kimball, who likes to talk about the history of certain food practices. When someone mentioned that A. Julie from the Julie/Julia Project had A SECOND BOOK and B. That it dealt with mostly the art and practice of learning to butcher animals, I was really excited.

And then I read the other reviews. 

And I was almost upset. I'd read Julie Powell's first book-the modern walkthrough of Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". I also adore the film. 

I felt like, based on the warnings, I was going to read this and the magic and heart that ran through the first book would just straight up die. 

But I had to read it. I had to. 

And, you know what? I'm glad I did. 

Here are some talking points though: Some of the things Julie does are downright despicable. She cheats on her husband, repeatedly, and in a way that suggests he is, in fact, a non-person to her; not warranting the truth of any situation. It's horrible to read. She also stalks the side-lover when he loses interest. And casually addresses that as if it were not the terrible, scary thing to do to another human that it is. 

You could tear most of those pages out of the book and burn them and what you'd be left with is remarkably good. 

Burnt out on broken shards of life, Julie starts chasing a butcher's apprenticeship. Which apparently isn't easy to find anymore, even in and around NY. 

In that aspect of her life, she is relatable, especially to women honing a craft. 

That is more like the Julie we know from the first book. 

She's nervous and rehearsing what to say as she goes from meat shop to meat shop asking to be taken into learning the trade, she's terrified but resolved at getting better at her craft every single day in a way that is brave and admirable. 

The ins and outs of cutting up a dead animal are described pretty well. I've mentioned before that as a family we rarely eat meat, but this doesn't stop me from appreciating the work that goes into what these professionals deal with-and it's a lot of work. Possibly dangerous, always rough, and requiring so much study and know-how that it's daunting to even think about. Julie's entrance into that world is worth the parts of the book that might make you really dislike her.

She even travels to observe the dealings of meat in other countries, and those chapters are less hands on, but not less interesting. That's coming from an anthropology fan, so take that for what you will. 

So the magic got tossed in the dirt. And left to sit there for awhile, but it's STILL there in this book. 

And then there is the discussion that the author doesn't have to make us like her, or accept her decisions as not personality-disordered or anything...

Writers just don't owe us that. 

They do owe us good writing, and that's here.

So, I'd recommend this to fans of Julie's other book, I really would. 

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