Julie Powell, author of the extremely successful book-into-movie, "Julie & Julia", has a new memoir, "Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession". Though the book has gotten a lot of attention, reviews of "Cleaving" range from dismissive criticism to hesitant, partial praise. Part of the story is that Powell takes up butchering and many praise her descriptive ability in that arena, but when it comes to writing about infidelity and her marriage troubles, the general response has been a feeling that the narrative is more cringe-worthy than anything else.
"Reading this book is like watching an automobile crash in slow motion," says the San Francisco Chronicle, calling Powell's descriptions of her infidelity "painful (and often boring) reading."
The Wall Street Journal notes that, frequently, Powell's descriptions of her treatment of her husband "strain the reader's sympathy, as does Ms. Powell's apparent self-satisfaction."
Powell has taken it upon herself to respond to the negative reviews in a series of blog posts for the website Double X. Her conclusion? Reviewers have accused her of TMI, which she admits she has a penchant for:
Apparently, I have tendency to overshare. Which seems to me, at first glance, a rather odd thing to be rubbed wrong by when reading a memoir. I mean, do you want to read a memoir by a person who undershares? I've been a professional oversharer for seven years now, so the label's not news to me. I guess what is news is how surprising it is to everyone else.
Reviewers are calling for discrimination on the writer's part:
"To write a good memoir," says the Los Angeles Times, "you have to be more than shameless; self-awareness -- which is not the same as self-loathing -- is at a premium." The Times goes on:
No doubt Powell has been as honest as she knows how to be, but she's an unreliable narrator, vain and self-pitying by turns, and lacking necessary perspective.
Yes, she can be fearless and provocative, but "Cleaving" -- which has a third meaning: to penetrate -- wants to be wise, as well. Unfortunately, at the end of this book, Powell seems not much closer to piercing insight about anybody's heart, her own least of all.