Who Is Julie Powell?
Writer Julie Powell received national attention for her blog, "The Julie/Julia Project," which she subsequently adapted for a memoir. Nora Ephron wrote and directed a 2009 culinary comedy-drama, Julie & Julia, based on Powell's work and the life of Julia Child in 1950s Paris.
Powell was born in Austin, Texas on April 20, 1973. She attended Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts, graduating in 1995 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in theater and dance/fiction writing. She later married Eric Powell, an editor at Archaeology magazine, and the couple settled in New York City.
"The Julie & Julia Project" Blog
Powell began her famous blog, "The Julie/Julia Project," in 2002, at age 29. At that time, Powell was working an unfulfilling job at the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, fielding phone calls relating to the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks at New York City's World Trade Center. Powell began her blog with the intention of channeling her energy into a more fulfilling venture. The blog chronicled Powell's attempt to prepare all of the dishes described in Child's classic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in just one year.
Powell frequently invoked Child's journey to her culinary career, as she personally searched for a more meaningful use of her talents. Despite the popularity of Powell's blog, Child herself did not embrace Powell, describing her project as a stunt without culinary value. Of Powell, Child said, "I don't think she's a serious cook." Powell has said that her experience with the blog led her to embrace her talents as a writer, rather than as a chef. And despite Child's opinion on the culinary value of Powell's work, Powell was recognized with an honorary degree from Le Cordon Bleu, the Parisian culinary school that Child attended.
Powell's blog developed a large following after appearing in an article in The New York Times. On the strength of her writing and her newfound popularity, the publishing group Little, Brown and Company offered Powell a contract to develop a book about her experience. Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen was published in 2005; the paperback was published under an alternate title, Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously.
Powell received further national attention when Ephron adapted her story as a screenplay. Ephron also directed the resulting film, Julie & Julia. The screenplay is based on Powell's work, as well as Child's autobiography, My Life in France. In the film, Powell and Child appear in parallel story lines, with Powell working through Child's book and finding her voice as an author, while Child, in 1950s Paris, attends Le Cordon Bleu and begins her culinary career.
Powell was not deeply involved in the film adaptation of her book. Julie & Julia was released in August of 2009, with Amy Adams playing Powell and Meryl Streep as Julia Child. Streep's performance earned her an Academy Award nomination for best actress. While praising Adams's performance in Julie & Julia, Powell has distanced herself from Adams's character in the film, calling the portrayal "a rom-com version of my life."
Powell's second book, Cleaving: a Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession, was published in 2009. The book details Powell's experiences learning the trade of butchery, first in several New York City establishments and ultimately in a butcher shop in the Catskills.
In addition to butchery, Powell's second book touches on extramarital affairs that she pursued, as well as one pursued by her husband, Eric. These events took place following Powell's initial success as an author. The tone and graphic content in these sections of Cleaving provoked unsympathetic reviews. Powell has expressed surprise at the harsh reactions she received, pointing out the essential role of candor in a memoir and the ultimately constructive outcomes of the affairs, in terms of her marriage.
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