Monday, December 20, 2010

Julie and Julia

I just watched the movie Julia and Julia. I read Julia Child's book, My Life in France, when it first came out and Julie Powell's Julie and Julia in the past year. It's not a particularly deep movie and yet it gave me much food for thought. When I read Julie and Julia, I couldn't help but think about all the things I had read by and about Julia Child including Noel Riley Finch's biography Appetite for Life and Laura Shapiro's Julia Child. I don't know if it's just me but I don't see any way one can read the two books and not feel a huge gulf between the two in terms of their accomplishments. I'm not sure how whether my feeling came from who Julie was or from my comparing her to Julia Child.

To me, Julia was an artist. She was a creative force. She fell in love with French food and her life became about sharing that love. In My Life in France, she wrote, "the best way to describe it is to say that I fell in love with French food—the tastes, the processes, the history, the endless variations, the rigorous discipline, the creativity, the wonderful people, the equipment, the rituals.” While she had ambitions, her work grew organically and always from the core of her love and enthusiasm for French cooking and for life. She was transformed by something larger than herself.

Julie Powell is a writer, and I would say a good one based on Julie and Julia. She's funny and smart and writes well, describing her entering the blogosphere like this: "And so, late that evening, a tiny line dropped into the endless sea of cyberspace, the slenderest of lures in the blackest of waters." But her project, cooking every recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year, seems forced in contrast to the more organic development of Julia's cooking and writing career. She started her blog in a kind of desperation that endures throughout the book. She draws great sustenance from her readers and seems fed from without as much as from within. Her life may have changed as a result of her project, but she was never transformed.

Why I feel the need to examine this is because it brings up a fundamental conflict within myself. I am both a populist and an elitist. I believe that everyone is creative and spend a lot of my time and energy encouraging others to engage in creative activity. I like to think of myself as supportive and kind. But I harbor a strong judgmental streak that I am trying to understand better as I think it may be holding me back. While I believe that everyone is creative, I don't believe that everyone is an artist. I believe that is a title that you earn through work. And as if that isn't enough, I believe art should be made for the right reasons. To me, the right reason is for the love of the doing, not for the attention it will get you. I personally struggle because I want both the purity of the right reason and the attention that is hard to get without specifically seeking it.


Trace Willans said...

not everyone wants to be an artist. I think that is one of the key differences. Desire. It is when you can couple aptitude with what you want that magic happens.

my croft said...

It's not elitism. Yes, everyone is creative. No, not everyone is an artist. Those are simply facts. Creativity is but one component of being an artist -- there are also talent, drive, expertise, intellect. I also value maturity as a component of artistry, but I seem to be in the minority about that.

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