Sunday, February 7, 2010

Book 7- Cleaving: A Story of Meat, Marriage, and Obsession

Cleaving is the second memoir written by Julie Powell who rose to fame in 2009 when her first book was made into a major motion picture called, sharing the title with her first memoir, Julie & Julia. Yes, this is the second offering from the woman who spent a year cooking her way through the Julia Child cookbook and extolling her wonderful, fantastic, supportive husband. Cleaving is... well, not that. At all.

I'm going to deviate a bit here from standard form so please hang with me, here.

First, I was excited about this book and looking forward to it for ages. I asked my public library to order it for me and they did. I didn't even have to buy it, and I was the first one to get it. I figured I would end up buying it eventually because I thought Julie& Julia was so brilliant and funny and poignant and just.... excellent that I would eventually buy a copy of Cleaving but I didn't want to wait until I had the funds to do that.

Cleaving is everything that Julia & Julia was not, which to me was sad. Cleaving is about Julie wanting to learn to be a butcher. Okay, cool concept, right? She wrote that she was always interested in butchery and she even thought butchers were sort of sexy. She went on a quest to find a place that would let her apprentice in a butcher shoppe. She wasn't looking to get paid, she just wanted to learn the art, to the learn the technique.

But Cleaving is more than Julie learning butchery of meat; she is certainly butchering her relationships. In this book, she also tells how she single handedly tore her marriage apart, because she wanted more from life. She was unsettled and wanted to 'find herself', which she actually wrote and I actually threw up in my mouth a little at the trite line written by a person I thought was a smarter writer than that. Not only did she write about her experience as a butcher's apprentice, but about how she had an affair with a man she called D and her obsession with him when it ended- serious stalker like obsession that bordered on the psychotic (and made me increase my hatred of Blackberrys even more...). She wrote in graphic lurid detail about her cheap and tawdry S & M sex with strangers, about her travels to Russia, Africa and Buenos Aires to learn more about butchery, and about hurting Eric.

She went into page after page detail about butchering, about how to break down a side of beef or tie a round or.... whatever she was doing. That reading was long and tedious, like reading directions. Written in Chinese. I finally just skimmed those sections, which is probably why I killed off this book in about a half a day. She also interspersed recipes but most of them had bizarre ingredients for things no one in the US can even buy or get unless they "know" a butcher.

Other than the reading was bogged and mired with too much detail about the butchering, the personal stuff was just has hard to read and to stomach as the butchering part in an entirely different way. She was so sad and depressed and maudlin. She was also creepy in her stalking, obsessive behaviors about this D person. I realize she was laying her soul bare but I was at a "enough is enough" point and wanted to scream and shout "get over him already"!! I think I muttered that often enough in my reading, and I even caught myself rolling my eyes over here drama queen ways. Yes, I rolled my eyes at a book. I've been in relationships where I've been dumped and have hurt but there is a line and she crossed it, in my opinion, with her behavior. Furthermore, she didn't appreciate the wonderful relationship she had with Eric. No, I wasn't there to know what it was like behind closed door, but in Julie & Julia she extols his many virtues, AND this continues in this book. She knows how great Eric is and how lucky she is to have such a husband, yet she continues to hack away at her marriage-- you know, butchering it. She had in Eric what all women seemingly want in a marriage yet she wanted... more? Something else? Maybe she's just a freaking crazy woman...

I was so disappointed because in Julie & Julia Julie was likable, sweet, smart, funny, and completely quirky. In Cleaving she's none of these things. I appreciate she had the guts to write a book where she laid it all on the line, like she did here in Cleaving, but it's such a drastic change from what she offered before, such a drastic change it read like it was about a different woman, written by a different person.

I was truly disappointed.