Julie Powell


"Libraries Are Where I Cut My Teeth"

I was at the library two, three, four times a week and I checked out the maximum number, whenever I could. I was, from a very, very young age, a total book nut.

My father always tells the story of finding me at the age of, I don't know, four or five, backseat of his car reading a back issue of The Atlantic. I mean I clearly had no idea what it was, but it didn't matter whether it was a cereal box or The Atlantic or "The Dragonriders of Pern," or anything.

I was just...I could get so immersed in everything, so libraries were key, otherwise I would have broken the bank [laughs]

One of my greatest memories is being allowed into the upstairs room of the school library when I was only in the second grade and it was all the "big kid" books.

So libraries are where I cut my teeth, really and it's been vital ever since.

Well I work in libraries, especially when I'm on deadline. the forty-second street library in New York, which is where I go.

I love the fact that libraries are both very private places and extremely, couldn't be more public. Everyone can, and does, come to the libraries for all kinds of reasons. I love that. And every window is pretty quiet, so you've got the people and it's pretty quiet.

I don't do a lot of research because mostly I write about me, that could change at some point. I did do some research for "Julie and Julia." I went to the Schlesinger Library to look at Julia's archives. I mean I could have looked it up in books or transcripts, online even, but the experience of having those actual objects in my hand, those letters between Julia and Paul. 

The original manuscript of "Mastering," was so invaluable to me, as a person and as a writer. I could not have gleaned nearly as much understanding of those characters and their idiosyncrasies and passions without seeing those objects themselves, and I treasure that experience. I wish all the time that I could go back and bury myself in it again.

My new book is called "Cleaving: A Story of Marriage , Meat and Obsession." It's another memoir. It takes place a couple years after the events of "Julie and Julia." It covers a substantially darker period in my marriage. It also covers the six months I spent as an apprentice in a butcher shop in Upstate New York called Fleisher's.

It's all about me learning to cut up meat and trying to see if I can repair my marriage.

[Do you think you're going to become a butcher now?] Well, I'm kind of a butcher, a quasi-butcher. At the time when I was butchering every day, I could hold my own with the guys. Now that I don't do it every day, I'm a little out of practice. I might need to get a job again and in that case I'm going to knock up Fleisher's and see if they'll put me on the table again.

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Book Title: 

Julie & Julia

Library Name: 

Schlesinger Library