“Julie & Julia” – first movie I have seen all summer, I think. And what a great movie. Meryl Streep and Amy Adams both played their parts beautifully, and the back and forth transposition between the Childs in Paris (and elsewhere) and the Powells in Queens was masterful. The cinematography was extraordinary – I really thought they filmed it in Paris of the 1950s (and I really want the Buick stationwagon) and the Queens neighborhood provided an extraordinary contrast in every way. The dialog was continually witty and flawless – Nora Ephron did a great job as screenwriter. I smiled throughout the movie, when I wasn’t laughing (and I do wish that the fight episode between Julie and Eric was not included; it was the only real downer). I cannot recommend this film too strongly.
As to Julia Child herself, I remember her from her TV show (which as a youngster I never thought too much of). I remember her from my days in and around Cambridge and how the Broadway Super Market (at least that’s how I remember the name) was known by everyone as the store where Julia Child buys her food. I don’t remember her books back then. I know my mother had Irma Rombauer’s Joy of Cooking as a main source (but didn’t everyone in St. Louis?), but I don’t think French cuisine ever entered our house.
We do now have a copy the first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in very good condition, and dated 1961, the date the book was first published. Looking at the used book sites, it is surprising to see how few copies of any edition are available for sale, and how expensive the older ones are. But ours is something of a mystery. It’s not a first edition, because the three authors are listed not alphabetically, but with JC first, but there is no subsequent date on it (I know that the book was reprinted in the 1970s and several times since, most recently, I believe, in 2001, and that this later edition is still being sold new), and I cannot find any other reference to the edition we have.
As long as I am complimenting folks, I have to put in a plug for this week’s The Onion (August 20). Although I often find this paper’s humor a bit sophomoric, in this issue they have two brilliant articles. One entitled “Congress Deadlocked Over How To Not Provide Health Care”. As the fake Nancy Pelosi says, “Both parties understand that the current system is broken. But what we can’t seem to agree upon is how to keep it broken indefinitely, while still ensuring that no elected official takes any political risk whatsoever. It’s a very complicated issue”. Equally clever is the article entitled “Film Edition of ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ Ends Where Most People Stop Reading Book”, providing a preview of a new movie that will ends after the first 142 pages in the book (because that’s when most readers put it down), that uses a new ‘skim-over’ technique for those sections of the story that readers normally skip through, and that replays earlier scenes with more concentration and detail, so you can better understand what is happening in real-story time. As one critic says: “when I saw Michael Caine up on that screen, repeating the same line over and over and over again as the audience looked on blurry eyed, I knew they had pulled it off”.
I did read a little over the weekend, starting and finishing on the same day Max Beerbohm’s 1911 book Zuleika Dobson. Why I read it and why I read it through to the end, I am not sure. It is a fairly well known book, and the only novel written by the early twentieth century English critic, humorist and caricaturist, and it contains a lot of very big words, and only a few less illusions to Greek mythology that passed right over my head. The plot line is simple – the beautiful Ms. Dobson comes to visit her grandfather, the Warden of Judas College, Oxford, and meets the handsome Duke of Dorset, a male version of herself. They fall in love with each other, but have vowed never to love anyone who loves them in return, so their connection is doomed from the start. To escape, the Duke decides to commit suicide, as to all of the other Oxford undergraduates: he is ending his life because his beloved loves him back (sort of), and they because they love Zuleika, who pays them no heed because they are not up to her standards. And, yes indeed, the entire Oxford undergraduate body commits suicide by drowning after the big crew race.
Yes, there’s more to the story than that (although not much). What gets me is that, when the book was written, the concept of the Oxford student body dying for such a worthless cause seemed preposterous, and thus a subject of satire, but lo and behold, come 1914, World War I starts and so many young English scholars died for what turned out to be equally a worthless cause. Prescience? Coincidence?
(I also read through the late Don Hewitt’s book Minute by Minute, the story of “60 Minutes”, the show he created and produced for so long. Filled with anecdotes, and ironic interview segments, this book was a delight to read through.