Wednesday, January 19, 2011

His true Penelope was Flaubert

My sister would destroy me with chiding laughter for this, but I have to admit--I loved the film Julie & Julia. It's an incredibly relaxing film for me to watch as a writer, an epicurean--a boy who grew up watching Great Chefs with his mother while doing his homework. Lydia Bastianich is a saint. But I'll be damned if anyone says her Risotto trumps my own, original recipe.

Anyway why do I love Julie & Julia? It appears, at first glance, to be just a chick flick. The dialogue is weak, the voiceover pathetic and Julie about as irritating and whiny as Holden Caulfield. But the film carries an intelligent discourse on modernity with an incredible performance by Meryl Streep as the illustrious, pickled American-French chef, Julia Child. Anyway I'm a sucker for chick flicks. I enjoy watching the creative quest, undertaken by Julie, unfold and secretly (no more a secret) I root for her to accomplish what she's already accomplished in real life. I enjoy the biopic flashbacks to Julia Child in France and her learning experience while cooking at an under-ripe Le Cordon Bleu. I love food. I love cooking. And I feel for Julie & Julia both in their quest to be published authors, recognized writers. Another, more deep rooted joy I find in the movie, is the discussion of building a home. The environment is crucial to a writer. So the homemaking aspect of this film really gets me--it touches a dream I have. A dream, perhaps, we've all had of a home--the home. A dream I've had for a long time. A dream that's manifested itself even in hallucinogenic trips on varied sudsmachines. It's deep. This film appeals to something deep within me. But I realized a very interesting thing on this, my fifth viewing of Julie & Julia.

The reason Julia Childs' flashback scenes are more fascinating, aside from the reconstruction of an old, romantic Paris is the fact that Julia is mixing it up. The character of Julie is lost, and finds herself through the corpus of Julia Child. Julia Child is lost, so she undertakes an unwritten quest. Two different odysseys reflecting a transmission of information and, more importantly, the technology that comes to define an era.
(here's where it gets post-modern) Julie is hopelessly fixed on blogging her experience, extracting a thin pleasure from every comment she receives and every potential reader. Instant gratification--the dopamine squirt.

Heaven Goes Online

When the sidewalk's eyes were weeping
when snowflakes burst from the pillows
as the mayor talked from the bottlecaps of his ears
& the old women dusted off their beauty marks
when the graffiti artist's hand became a saffron scarf
when the breeze flashed its grilled teeth
& the sun torched the forest to a moon
when sad Amelia pierced the clouds in her veins
when my lips gathered at the beaches of your lips
& my tongue at the on-ramp of your spine

-Poem by Major Jackson
Holding Company 2010 W.W. Norton

-Andrew E. Colarusso


  1. My father recently suggested I see this movie. This is what he said: "Have you heard of this movie? I can't wait to tell you. You should see it. You will hate it. But you should see it. Do you know about Julia Childs? I used to watch her on TV. Oui! You are going to hate this movie. But you will love Meryl Streep. You will hate it. See it." He is a silly man.

    I used to cook all the time. I used to live with a room mate who would cook with me all the time (although she was not a very good cook) and I felt as though it was one of the closest friends I ever had, merely sharing some time cooking and eating a meal together once or twice a week. One day she just stopped, and it made me sad. Perhaps this movie really is for me (and maybe that is why I will hate it) but who knows what my father meant.

    I have yet to see it. Who has time? (Just kidding, I have plenty of time I just never seem to get around to things.) Blogs are an interesting thing. It is more difficult than it seems, and although you can put anything you want on a blog, to make it interesting enough in all the muck out there on the internet to actually attract people to reading it is very difficult. Why read a blog when you can watch cat videos? Hard to justify. You seem to do a good enough job posting interesting things, and they are well written too. This blog has a quiet allure, sort of like a painting by Edward draws me in, even to the quietness. It probably draws other readers as well, who just choose not to comment. I will refrain from saying more about why I like this blog because I fear that I will start to sound sentimental or cheesy about something that is neither of those things, but I wanted to illustrate my thoughts coming from the commenter not the blogger. There is a thin pleasure extracted from being in dialogue with someone.

    And this is a quiet and fascinating blog. I like it here.

  2. In all sincerity it has been nice writing for you and with you. And I hope to continue writing interesting/thoughtful things. It means a lot for a writer to have a thoughtful reader. Many thanks.

  3. I have a close friend who was a gifted cook. It was one area of his life where he felt confident, creative, strong. When we were together he did all the serious cooking. Then, with the onset of illness resulting in extreme disability, cooking became impossible. When I was with him, then, I took over and insisted he direct me as he was still in charge.This is how
    it is now. Recently the handyman in my building came to my apartment to check the oven, asked me when I last used it. I answered, "I hardly ever use it. In fact, I hardly ever cook."

  4. It's still going on...bitter, sweet and fond...and there's always the next risotto (metaphorical, since the actual thing eludes me)

  5. I'll email you my special recipe for risotto. But only if you promise to make it! I've never actually written it down. I'll have to take some measurements.

    Email and I'll get it to you for your cooking pleasure. Colarusso's Risotto.

  6. You have a deal! The friend I referenced is a big fan. I am not so sure but I guarantee it will be tried.