Monday, May 10, 2010

Cleaving (Should Be Simply Re-Titled As "Cheating") by Julie Powell

So I finished reading Cleaving, Julie Powell's second book after the first, Julie & Julia, skyrocketed her from obscurity to blog-worthy-movie-screen fame.  Yes, after much head shaking, gasps of disbelief, anger, and swearing at ... um ... Julie, I threw down the book at glared at John.  "I just finished this book, finally," I said to him.  He turned from his place at the couch to look at me, with some relief and nervously laughed, "Good.  Heh heh.  Heh heh."  "Yeah, I hate her so much," I said.  I stared at the peaceful serenity of the garden outside our windows.  "If I ever met her, I'd punch her in the face."  I glared at John as if he were Julie.  He turned back to the safety of the football soccer game he was watching.  The game wouldn't punch him in the face.

Why?  I hear you ask.  Why read a book when the first one aggravated you so much, caused you to bitch about Julie at work and to anyone who was willing to hear?  Well, I don't know, curiosity, perhaps?  I wanted to know how a woman could single-handly hurt the man who loved her so much, so often and so intensely.  I wanted to hear the gruesome details of her lying, cheating, and self-righteousness.  In short, I was asking for self abuse.  Not to mention, I'm slightly conflicted because I sometimes do enjoy Julie's bitchy, witty tone and smarty-pants remarks.  It's only when her arrogance and inflated sense of self-worth threaten to make me vomit that I have to literally, throw the book across the room (thankfully I only own it in paperback - otherwise, our walls would have some damage). 

Worse yet, in the middle of reading it, I found her blog and read the readers' comments (fascinated), some 314 on one post, filled with effusive praise for Cleaving, calling the book "brave" and even ... "liberating."  Oh my God.  If this is what feminism has become, then I hang my hat up in shame.  Repeatedly cheating on your husband with some college fling you're obsessed (read: OBSESSED) with, then flirting with every man walking into your path and exposing all to make a profit in some mediocre, guise of a metaphor (she constantly links her apprenticeship at a butcher's to her marriage) is BRAVE?  LIBERATING?  (I mean, it's not just as if she cheats on the poor guy, feels bad about it, attempts to fix things, and writes a novel.  No, she cheats on him, rubs it in, becomes infatuated with her lover, rubs it in, then has the audacity to take on the 'poor me I'm soooooo alone' attitude).

Then, after all of THAT, I decided to go on the Guardian website and watch her debone a chicken so I could hear her voice.  I wanted to hear what she sounded like (talk about obsessed) and was left smug and satisfied when I read the derisive comments below about how she was going about the chicken all wrong and what a horrible person she is for cheating on Eric then writing about it.  Then I felt a little better.

So, please.  Go out and borrow - not buy - this book from your local library.  And read it.  Cover to cover.  Then we can sit down and have that conversation that goes something like, "Can you believe it?  No, me neither.  Don't you hate her?  Yeah, me too."  Then hit yourself over the head with a stick a few times.  Both have the same effect.

Photo source


  1. I've reserved the book at my local library! I hated her character in the film so much, I'm looking forward to hating the books and discussing it with you!

  2. Yes, let's pour ourselves a glass of Hater-ade and get hating!!!

  3. Book pissed me off so much I had to (now how's this for irony) set up a blog about it.

    Just go google "julie powell is despicable" and you'll find it.

  4. Simply amazing, Jody. Couldn't agree more. Thanks for sharing - I'm going to pass this on to my other Julie-despising friends!

  5. I came here from Jody's blog. She and I have a strong difference of opinion on this (fyi).
    I happen to be one of those people who think it was a brave book. And I went so far as to fly to NY to meet her in person.
    I love her THAT much.
    Honestly, you either get it or you don't.
    And, I don't think that she's claiming she's a feminist because she had an affair. The feminist issue is that people are criticizing her for writing about an affair - and calling her out because she's a woman, while men write about their affairs and don't get called out for it.
    And, sorry - but that is a feminist issue.
    But, I don't get searching out sites just so you can find other people to hate her ... and then tell people to read the book so you can all hate together.
    That's pathetic.
    By the way - I can appreciate where Jody is coming from. I read her blog all the time.

  6. Hi Laural, thank you for your comment and for taking the time to read my post!

    I'm so glad you enjoyed Cleaving, just as I enjoyed reading Julie & Julia (which is evident, if you click on the link embedded in my post to my first review) - Julie has a great voice and that's a huge reason why I couldn't put down the book.

    I do not state in my post that Julie claims to be a feminist. Instead, I criticise those commenters and reviewers who have interpreted her actions as feminist justification. It's not even her affair that I have a problem with. Rather, I stand by my assertion that having an affair and then writing about it with such self-pity, arrogance and self-righteousness while humiliating one's husband (among many others) in the process does not deserve my respect.

    Regarding your penultimate (I think) point, I did not search out sites to find people who hate Julie. Your friend Jody, above, found me and I enjoyed reading her thoughts on the book on her blog, as well. I read her blog and her article in the Guardian (which is my favorite newspaper, so I'm on their website every day), as I was curious to learn more about her, versus the misinterpretation you've been led to in your comment above.

    And that is the beauty of having different opinions, so I thank you for sharing yours!

  7. yes, that Laural totally missed the point of this blog. she just didn't get it because she was so concentrating on the words "hate" and "despicable". on the other hand, Jody could see through the humor of this blogger and took everything as a "metaphor". but that's what a book club (even though this is not one here) is about, for readers to express their own thoughts.


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