As Always, Julia

asalwaysjuliaWhen you read a book like As Always, Julie: The Letters of Julia Child & Avis Devoto it's kind of hard to say much about it from a writing stance. They were private letters that were never intended to be publicly presented. It's also hard to say that you don't like it and yet here I sit thinking that this was not one of my favourite Julia collections.

I thought that I'd love this. I grew up watching her toss food around. If I remember correctly Julia Child was on right before Mr. Dressup on CBC in the mornings. Or maybe just after. I just remember watching this remarkably tall woman cook things that we rarely saw in our kitchen. It was a chance to see what that non-public Julia was like and to read that now famous letter that she sent to Bernard Devoto about knives.

But I didn't love it. I think one of the reasons that I didn't love this collection is because it was well, political. Julia was a deeply political person and my issue with it has nothing to do with her political views at all but rather the idea of the political in general. I don't talk politics if I can at all avoid it...not even among those who are my friends and share my political views. For me the political is very much the personal and I have to trust you a heck of a lot to have those discussions with you because I know too many people who take their politics really seriously and really personally and those that disagree with them are The Enemy. I tend to view politics much the same way I view book reviews -- everyone has an opinion and their opinion is as equally valid as mine and I don't need to prove them wrong any more than they need to prove me wrong. And yes, I also believe in unicorns.

Anyway, so Julia and Avis talked politics which is fine and great but it kind of made my eyes glaze over they way they do with political discussions in general but it was also American post-WWII politics of which I know very little due to the fact I'm Canadian and while I've studied some post-WWII politics it's largely been Canadian and British.

And how's that for a run-on sentence? Woo!

The other reason that I did not personally enjoy this collection is, as with the case of just about any collection of letters, it wasn't necessarily a straight back and forth communication. I love epistolary novels because I do like the format of letter/email/whatever writing as a storytelling device but it works for me because it's fiction and they (usually) write in the whole story. In real life letters get lost or there's more from one writer than the other and they need to be curated to balance the collection for publication. I get it and I do think that Joan Reardon did that well. But I feel like I'm missing things, which, of course, I am. I hate feeling like I'm missing part of the story. It irks me, even when I understand why it happens. Like those Choose Your Own Adventure books? I hate them because I'm always missing something.

Basically if this book and I were in a relationship I'd end it with one of those "it's not you, it's me" conversations.

It is, however, an excellent companion to Julia Child's memoir My Life in France and anyone who wants to know a bit more about how Mastering the Art of French Cooking came to publication will find a few gems in it.