Rain, rain, rain, and more rain. Last week I was so depressed I considered buying a S.A.D. light. Instead, I read Karen Karbo’s Julia Child Rules: Lessons on Savoring Life, and voilà, I was instantly lifted out of my black hole.
Karbo dishes up a book on Child that, despite the many volumes written about the woman already, is fresh, funny, and wildly entertaining. This is not a fan book written by a foodie, though it certainly has plenty of food anecdotes, nor is it a Child memoir in the strictest sense, but it is jammed with interesting tidbits about Child’s personal life. What Karbo set out to do was break down Child’s life to figure out how she found fame, fortune, and love despite her Amazon-esque stature, her lackluster performance in college, and her romantically-bereft teens, twenties, and half of her thirties.
The secrets of living life to the fullest and succeeding far beyond your wildest dreams can be found under chapter headings such as Live With Abandon, All You Need Is a Kitchen and a Bedroom, and Every Woman Should Have a Blowtorch. Yes, of course!, there’s lots of wine, sex, and blatant disregard for the opinions of others when it comes to doing what she wants. Wonderful stuff!
Child’s bawdy, raucous, and joy-filled life combined with Karbo’s darkly comical Nora Ephron-ish sense of humor make Julia Child Rules the perfect antidote to anything that ails you. I love the way Karbo puts her own anxieties and personal failures on the page to demonstrate a point. That quality coupled with her prodigious research on Child culminates in a wonderful pièce de résistance. Actually, if you must know, Karbo quite endeared herself to me with this book; I was already a Julia Child fan.
And may I add that Cheryl Strayed blurbed, “…manages on every page to be as enlightening as it is entertaining, as smart as it is funny…intimate, inspiring, and unlike anything I’ve ever read about Child before…Karbo’s unparalleled wit and wisdom…”
This was my first foray in Karbohemia, which is surprising since she’s written a slew of award-winning books including The Gospel According to Coco Chanel, How Georgia Became O’Keeffe, and How to Hepburn, which are all part of her Kick Ass Women series. Her memoir about her father, The Stuff of Life, was a New York Times Notable Book, a People Magazine Critics’ Pick, and winner of the Oregon Book Award for Creative Non-fiction. Her short stories, essays, and articles have appeared everywhere, and she was one of the lucky 24 writers who copped an Amtrak Residency last year.
P.S. Karbo’s Diamond Lane: A Novel was reissued by Portland’s Hawthorne Books last September. Originally published in 1991, The New York Times loved it—declaring it one of the best novels of 1991, and described it as, “A wonderfully comic novel about savvy Hollywood outsiders trying to get in…not only is the plot ingenious, but the writing remains deft all the way through.” Will definitely look for a copy and you should, too.
Julia Child Rules: Lessons on Savoring Life skirt!, 2013