The hundredth anniversary of Julia Child’s birthday is being celebrated this August, especially on television where she was one of the most popular TV figures ever. But why did she become so popular?
By now you’re probably familiar with her books or, at least, you know that she wrote Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and maybe you’ve seen the movie, Julie & Julia, with Meryl Streep as Julia. Julia Child’s early shows appeared back when television was in black and white, not color, and those were the days when shows were often not prerecorded — if Julia fumbled a pot or dropped a spoon, that’s what you saw. (And if you actually saw those black-and-white programs you’re one of the older readers of Critical Pages.)
Everyone has an answer to the question of why she became so popular. (And so do we.) Yes, she knew French cooking and wanted to teach others how to enjoy cooking and, yes, she had a sense of humor and, yes, certainly, she was authentic — a word that’s often used to describe her TV personality. But maybe the more obvious is being overlooked. Julia Child was a big, tall, plain-faced woman with a terribly screechy voice. It’s worth noting that the excellent “Saturday Night Live” parody of her show didn’t use a woman but featured Dan Aykroyd as Julia.
Viewers who found Julia Child found her not on the big popular networks but on PBS, the Public Broadcasting Service. What they saw was a woman who wasn’t better looking than they were, a woman more awkward and more ungainly, a woman who had a voice they would have been ashamed of. But Julia Child didn’t seem to notice her own glaring deficits. On the contrary, she appeared happy and self assured. So people watched, maybe a bit interested in French cooking, certainly interested in how a person who had so little going for her could be so cheerful and so ready to share what she knew with them. This was a person they could listen to as an equal, or even feel a bit superior to, but maybe learn something from — maybe about French cooking, or maybe about how to be comfortable in your own skin.
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Gene Mirabelli writes most of the posts here, so we're very pleased to announce that his recent novel, Renato, the Painter, has won a first prize for Literary Fiction in the 2013 Independent Publisher (IP or "IPPY") Book awards.
The Awards program was created to highlight the year’s most distinguished books from independent publishers. Award winners are chosen by librarians and booksellers who are on the front lines, working everyday with patrons and customers. Some 125 books competed for the literary fiction Gold Medal. These books are examples of independent publishing at its finest.
Publishers Weekly says "In prose as lusty and vigorous as Renato himself, Mirabelli captures the feeling of coming to terms - ready or not - with old age." For more about the writer and his book, turn to our contact page or to the author's web site.
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