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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Review: Cleaving by Julie Powell

I just finished reading Julie and Julia when I found out Julie Powell had a new book out. I was very excited, because I didn’t want Julie and Julia to end. It was original, witty with self-deprecating humor, and beautifully written.

I was shocked to hear that Julie’s new book was partially about cheating on her husband after the book was written. Cleaving: a Story of Marriage, Meat and Obsession was about that two year affair, interspersed with her apprenticeship at a butcher shop.

I made it half way through the book and I just can’t finish it. I’m glad I got it from the library and didn’t pay for it. The best thing I can say for this book is I love the title. It’s a clever take on both marriage and butchery.

The two year affair, which her husband Eric knows about almost since the beginning, is not interesting. There’s such a thing as TMI – too much information. I do NOT want to read every whispered sweet nothing, every detail about her lover biting her shoulder, about her being bound up during sex, about sex in the hallways, about embarrassing text messages she sends to her lover after he breaks up with her.

I get it. We all do stupid things when someone breaks up with us. However her attempts are so pathetic and embarrassing for her, I just don’t want to read it.

About the butchering. If I wanted to read a manual on how to butcher a cow or pig, I’d buy that. She includes so many details about each section of the animal, I had to start skipping pages. I’d like to know some general information about how to butcher. Her section on making head cheese, for example, was fascinating. But I don’t need to read about every ligament. Every slice. Every muscle group. It’s not interesting.

Plus, Julie includes too many banal snippets of conversation from the butcher floor. At some point you have to know where to edit your conversations. It was like reading a minute by minute account of her life. And no one’s life is interesting enough to do that.

When reading Julie and Julia, I really liked Julie as a person. I cheered her on and wanted her to succeed. I wanted to hang out with her. After reading even half this book, I no longer like her. I don’t care what happens to her at the end. I don’t care if she breaks up with Eric or is blissfully happily ever after. I don’t care if she becomes a master butcher or lives life as a hermit.

I do know she is not a likeable character here. I don’t know why her husband stayed with her. I hope her family didn’t read this book – it’s embarrassingly personal and not for good reason.

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