Feature

Author of the week: Julie Powell

<em>Cleaving </em>is about Powell's apprenticeship in an upscale butcher shop and the torrid affair that almost broke up her marriage.

Julie Powell is no longer the “perky” novice chef that readers of her first memoir fell in love with, said Rebecca Marx in The Village Voice. In Cleaving, the second book from the 36-year-old author of Julie & Julia, Powell is done re-creating the recipes of Julia Child and instead is serving an apprenticeship in an upscale butcher shop. More unsettling than the bloodiness of her new pursuit are the detailed descriptions she provides of the “torrid, relentlessly selfish affair” that almost destroyed her marriage. Powell admits in Cleaving that she relished being bound and slapped by the lover she took up with after her blog about Child became a best-selling book and was optioned by Hollywood. It doesn’t help her image that her first book painted the husband she cheated on in “golden, saintly strokes.”

Powell expects that some fans of the movie may be turned off by the new book. “People are going to totally react very negatively,” she says. “They’ll find me ­reprehensible.” Her hope is that many readers will feel that her explicit account of a marital betrayal “addresses things they wish they could talk about more.” Powell and her husband have patched things up for now. “There was something that was essential that was still there,” she says. Though she wouldn’t advise anyone to use an affair to work through marriage’s challenges, she can recommend butchering. Slicing through animal flesh, she says, “was sort of like going to a therapist. I did therapy, too. Butchering was at least as helpful.”

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