Saturday, January 2, 2010

Thoughts on Cleaving

[Yeah, yeah, I should introduce this new blog and why it's different from, etc., etc. But that's not what I feel like writing about at the moment.]

I just finished Julie Powell's Cleaving (a Christmas present), and I hereby give it... well. I want to say "a mixed review," but that's not quite it. I had avoided buying it myself (having had the chance back in early summer, a copy having sat right there in front of me in Book in Bar, the English-language bookstore in Aix-en-Provence) — mostly because I had already heard rumors: Ms Powell was writing a sort of confessional about an affair she'd had. —And, as it all turns out (spoiler alert, sort of), my take at the end of the book is that at that point she kind of sort of wished that there were still something going on between her and the mysterious "D."

Hm. Having read some entries in her most recent blog iteration ("What Could Happen?"), my revised sense of things is that perhaps when she was done penning* Cleaving, she could still see herself as renewing the affair, but interspersed among the book signing dates and wry observations about the cities she's visited on tour, her blog entries conveyed to me a real sense of how intensely interested she was/is in keeping her marriage intact. And how — how grateful she was/is that she is still together with Eric.

I have not thought enough about the meat obsession and its metaphorical relationship to her obsession with "D." I found her descriptions of learning to become a butcher interesting, but at first I didn't know what to make of the book's organization: the fact that "apprentice" is very long, "journeyman" is about half that length, and "master?" is all of a few pages.

I did appreciate right from the start, however, the double meaning of "cleaving": in butchery, it is the act of division and separation; in marriage, it is the exact opposite: a man and a woman should "cleave together, forsaking all others."†

It still bothers me to know so much about Ms Powell's private life. The naked honesty or — what, the display? — with the occasional recipe thrown in as —what, garnish? That was just stranger than strange. I found myself cringing at the thought of what her husband's reaction to all the laying bare must have been. Or might still be.

(I have been guilty, if such is the word, of being "too open" about some kinds of things — Mr Mo having chided me for revealing to members of the American School community the fact that I was battling a cat-caused flea infestation in our former rental house in La Tronche, for example, but I just don't think I could ever, or would ever want to publish anything about my sex life, marital relations, and such. Perhaps that's just my mormon upbringing —okay, no "perhaps" about that — but while my, um, spoken expression has become salty outside of Delicate Mostly Family Company, not only do I not see see ladening my writing with that kind of language, I just cannot at this point in my life find myself devoting time to my Thoughts on Masturbation or whatever. Not even anonymously — not even under a different pseudonym. Holy crap, no. No way.)

Somehow I don't see Amy Adams as Julie Powell in this sequel (of sorts) to Julie & Julia. (I can't think of who Meryl Streep would play, for that matter.) Ms Powell conveyed very vividly the lost and tormented soul that she seemed to have been for most of the "apprentice" period, and I am willing to think that she is genuinely more at peace on a personal and relational level now as she continues in her "master?" period. At least I hope so. I don't think I want to read something quite like this again, well-written though it was.

As ever, I reserve the right to change my mind.


*Such a quaint term in the age of the blogosphere.

†As I suspected, the roots are different, per the Collins English Dictionary:


vb cleaves, cleaving ; cleft, cleaved, clove ; cleft, cleaved, cloven
1. to split or cause to split, esp along a natural weakness
2. (tr) to make by or as if by cutting to cleave a path
3. (when intr, foll by through) to penetrate or traverse
[Old English clēofan; related to Old Norse kljūfa, Old High German klioban, Latin glūbere to peel]
cleavable adj
cleavability n

(intr; foll by to) to cling or adhere
[Old English cleofian; related to Old High German klebēn to stick]

No comments:

Post a Comment