Saturday, August 8, 2009

Book throwdown: Julia vs. Julie

Meryl Streep in the movie
“Julie & Julia” doesn’t come out until Friday, but thanks to a huge publicity push, beloved actors, lots of movie previews and three popular books, there is already an incredible amount of buzz surrounding the movie.

Even this book reviewer got to attend a preview. I’ll leave the film review to colleague Joe Williams, of course. But I will say this: The movie is guaranteed to sell a lot of books.

This week I looked at to see how “Julie & Julia,” “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and “My Life in France” are doing saleswise.

Not surprisingly, the three books that provide most of the inspiration for the movie are in the top 100.

“Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” which blogger Julie Powell cooked from for a year, was ranked highest at 34. The 40th anniversary edition, published in 2001, now sports a removable wraparound band with a photo - not of chef Julia Child but actress Meryl Streep!

Meanwhile, “My Life in France,” Child’s memoir, has not only a photo of Streep, but also one of actress Amy Adams. It was ranked 357 (the edition with the real Child’s photo was ranked better, at 99). The movie tie-in edition of the book by Julie Powell was ranked at 43, which was better than the original paperback.

I checked the catalog at the St. Louis County Library, and from what I could tell, there were more requests for “Julie & Julia” than for the books by Julia Child.

Even though the movie was charming (I could watch Streep play Child all day), I’d rather see the real people on the book covers. Especially the iconic Child. Her real kitchen is in the Smithsonian, for pete’s sake. But I’m sure that the publishers don’t hesitate a minute about putting actors’ pictures on other people’s memoirs if it will sell books. And the movie really does make one curious about the books - I’m reading “My Life in France” now.

In the movie, both Streep and Powell are appealing. (Maybe a bit too cutesy, but that’s typical of movies by Nora Ephron.) I’ve already heard from filmgoers who differ on which cook they found more interesting.

In the meantime, which cook would you rather read?

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