In Defence of Insane Projects: Some reflections on Julie and Julia
When one Julie Powell, resident of a tiny loft apartment above a pizzeria in New York, decided to cook her way through Julia Child’s mammoth classic – Mastering the Art of French Cooking – 524 recipes in 365 days and write a blog about it, she probably didn’t know the earth-shattering impact of her push button actions on the blogosphere. For some like us.
It was 2002. By day, Julie was a secretary in a government department that dealt with the victims of 9/11. By night she morphed into a renegade – if hysterical – blogess, cooking hyper-exotic French food – aspic, anyone? – into the wee hours of the morning. She had to finish the project, just simply absolutely had to.
‘Why?’ her mother, mirroring mine, asked. And again, and again. And why, anyone might legitimately echo, would someone put themselves, their spouses, their purses and on occasion their bosses-and-friends-and-relations, through so much trouble? In stead of, you know, going on with life, doing rational things, in moderation.
I don’t remember exactly what Julie replied to her mother. But in the obituary of Julia Childs, a couple of years later, she wrote, ‘I have no claim over the woman at all, unless it’s the claim those who have nearly drowned have over the person who pulled them out of the ocean’ (http://blogs.salon.com/0001399/).
IPs probably represent a glimpse of that elusive shining extraordinariness that, through the mammoth effort they require of the soul, clarify the complex confusions of everyday living. The traffic, the desk jobs, the housework, the long queues, the grocery shopping, the cleaning (and the non-cleaning) of quarters. IPs are the waving of rebellious fists in front of an angry ocean of normalcy – but in that silly act, fist-waving and hysterics, they turn, strangely, dust into meaning. That sole prize for those hanging on by the skin of their teeth, teetering at the edge of a cliff, some semblance of meaning.
And in writing about it, in putting it ‘out there’ – a fragment on the cosmos of the World Wide Web – it becomes a virtual hand-signaling to others, of its humble need to share.
Thus, really, in the final analysis, the Julie/Julia project was not so much about French food, or even food, but about the need to surrender to an inner impulse towards clarity that in our postmodern hyperreal age, can only begin with a crazy enough, insane enough venture!
Dear Julie, thanks for all the fish.