23/30 Book Review: Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession

Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession
Julie Powell


Julie Powell thought cooking her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking was the craziest thing she’d ever do–until she embarked on the voyage recounted in her new memoir, CLEAVING.

Her marriage challenged by an insane, irresistible love affair, Julie decides to leave town and immerse herself in a new obsession: butchery. She finds her way to Fleischer’s, a butcher shop where she buries herself in the details of food. She learns how to break down a side of beef and French a rack of ribs–tough, physical work that only sometimes distracts her from thoughts of afternoon trysts.

The camaraderie at Fleischer’s leads Julie to search out fellow butchers around the world–from South America to Europe to Africa. At the end of her odyssey, she has learned a new art and perhaps even mastered her unruly heart.

A Perfect Storm

On the surface, Cleaving looked like a perfect book. I love reading about marriages and also extreme challenges. Julie Powell’s writing is often hilarious, as evidenced by the wild success of Julie and Julia.

But Cleaving is Continue reading

Book Review: Committed

Committed_Book_CoverTitle: Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Page Count: 279
Genre: Memoir/Non-Fiction

I’ve been on a bit of an Elizabeth Gilbert kick since reading Eat, Pray, Love (see here and here), so my next two reviews are also Gilbert books. It is too simple to say that I’m reading more of her work because I like her. She has an interesting voice. I’m fascinated with the leap she made as an author and with the spiritual peace she has found. She puzzles me more than I like her. And she is a good writer — her stories are compelling and her prose is thoughtful and precise.

So, Committed. It’s basically a follow-up to EPL, Continue reading

Book Review: The Vow

Yes, The Channing Tatum, Valentine’s Day Tearjerker Vow. Please don’t stop reading.

The Vow film was based on the true story of Kim & Krickitt Carpenter, who told their story in a book titled “The Vow.” The plot doesn’t really have much suspense, so I don’t feel that my review really includes spoilers, but if you’re super careful about such things, skip this review. Continue reading

Shadows of a dream

There is one major reason why I am an English major. I get into English class, read the assigned poem by Milton and fall in love. I’ve never been a big fan of John Milton, honestly. His poetry is great, just takes a little bit more analysis than I want to practice on a regular basis. Actually, I take that approach with almost all poetry. I like reading it in short sittings, just a few poems at a time. So this was perfect, exactly the setting I need to fall in love with a poem. Anyway, enough commentary. Enjoy!
Methought I saw my late espoused saint
       Brought to me, like Alcestis, from the grave,
       Whom Jove’s great son to her glad husband gave,
       Rescu’d from death by force, though pale and faint.
Mine, as whom wash’d from spot of child-bed taint
       Purification in the old Law did save,
       And such as yet once more I trust to have
       Full sight of her in Heaven without restraint,
Came vested all in white, pure as her mind;
       Her face was veil’d, yet to my fancied sight
       Love, sweetness, goodness, in her person shin’d
So clear as in no face with more delight.
       But Oh! as to embrace me she inclin’d,

       I wak’d, she fled, and day brought back my night.

This poem is filled with allusion and all types of literary devices that my professor wants me to notice. But here is what stood out to me: It is full of emotion. From my scant knowledge, I’d always considered Milton a serious (and boring) guy. However, this poem is full of pathos. It portrays a man passionately in love with his wife and depressed at her death. Added to that, you have the fact of his blindness, leading to that magnificent last line. That was my initial feeling on the poem.
Just like Milton, I have woken to disappointment. I did a little bit of Internet research. As far as I can tell, Milton was very serious and stern, possibly even arrogant. His marriages (3 of them), were not necessarily romantic. The wife he is apparently writing about was married to him for less than a year. Milton himself was a strong supporter of divorce, making me skeptical about his commitment, both emotional and legally. All of this makes it seem that the emotion displayed in the poem may be somewhat feigned. In a technical manner, the poem is still masterful. But for me, a lot of the attraction to the poem was the emotion, the imagined depression of a heartbroken, lonely husband. Withdrawing that, it is far less powerful.