I saw the movie Julie and Julia last night, with my mom. It was a good movie, I enjoyed it, so why, when I got home, did I burst into tears? Well, it’s been a tough week for a few reasons, but mostly it was the green-eyed monster. Why were things so easy for that bitch Julie Powell? In the movie, which is based on a true story, she starts a blog, with an admittedly great idea—-in one year, she would make all the recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and write about it. I haven’t read her blog, so I don’t know, but let’s say that it’s smart and funny and well-written. Fine. But then, with apparently no effort at marketing or self-promotion, within MONTHS she becomes the number three blog on salon.com? And then reporters start calling her, she gets a front page article written about her in the New York Times Food Section, and then hundreds of agents and publishers call her asking her to write a book? While her fairy tale story unfolded all I could think was “Fuck you Julie Powell.”
Interestingly, I did not resent Julia Child’s success. The movie showed her early years, when she learned how to cook French food, then stumbled into a cookbook project which consumed eight years of her life, which was then rejected by publishers before finding a home at Knopf, and going on to worldwide acclaim.
Going in, I knew that both Julie and Julia had happy endings of tremendous success, so why did I feel happy for Julia and resentful of Julie? I, like each of them, embarked on a quixotic, uncertain quest. Like Julie with her blog and Julia with her cookbook, I couldn’t say why I had to write the novel, I just knew that I did. Maybe I resented Julie because her success seemed to happen so quickly and easily, with so little effort on her part. Sure, she cooked a lot and wrote a daily blog, but I’ve been working my tail off on this novel for two and a half years and no one is banging on my door to publish it. Where is my happy ending?
As I sat in my kitchen, crying, I realized that I also have a Julia--Julia Cameron. So I took out one of her books and flipped at random. In the section about artistic integrity she writes that artists have an inner meter that tells us if our work is good or not, and that we need to listen to that voice within, and not the marketplace. This thought comforted me. What matters most is that I created something of worth, in my own estimation, and I have. Maybe that’s my happy ending. Or if not an ending, it is at least something that should make me happy.
I’m sorry, Julie Powell, I’m sure you’re a lovely person who worked very hard for your success. I will try to be happy for you, to believe that whatever is best for me and my work is what will happen, and to remember that I can choose to be happy, right here, right now, with or without a published book.