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Julia Child becomes a best-selling author

By A. James Memmott

August 25, 2009 at 9:11am

They loved the movie, now they’re buying the book.

Fans of the film Julie & Julia are rushing to purchase Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the 752-page guide co-authored by Julia Child and published in the fall of 1961.

The book, which Child wrote with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, is considered a classic, but it has never enjoyed the sales it is enjoying now, thanks to the film.

Julia Child
Julia Child

Written and directed by Nora Ephron, the movie depicts Child, played by Meryl Streep, in France in the 1950s studying cooking and putting the book together.

Scenes focusing on Child, who died in 2004 at age 91, are alternated with scenes that show the real-life blogger Julie Powell, played by Amy Adams, attempting to cook all of the recipes in the cookbook in a year.

The movie was released on Aug. 7 to positive reviews, and bookstores were immediately besieged.

On Aug. 11, The Los Angeles Times reported that Mastering the Art had moved to No. 1 on Amazon’s list of most popular books. Child’s other books were also selling better than ever.

The interest has continued.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that Mastering the Art had sold more copies in one week (22,000) than it had sold in any year since it was published.

The book, which has a cover price of $40, is at No. 1 in the Times’ most recent weekly list in the advice and how-to category.

“This was a secret dream,” Ephron told the Times, “that the movie would sell a lot of books.”

Purchasers of the book are discovering that Child recommends ingredients, such as butter, goose fat and salt, that are somewhat out of favor in today’s health-conscious kitchens.

“I’m looking at these ingredients going, Oh sweet Lord, we’ll die,” one person new to the cookbook told the Times.

Another cook said “the amount of butter was a bit overwhelming. There’s a picture of me cooking and I have this glow, and it’s from too much hot butter. I expected to break out the next day.”

The movie has also spurred sales of Julie Powell’s account of her year of working her way through Mastering the Art.

She first chronicled her efforts in a blog called the Julie/Julia Project begun in 2002.

The blog led to the 2005 book, Julie and Julia: 365 days, 524 Recipes, One Tiny Apartment.

With the release of the movie, the book was published in a paperback edition entitled Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously.

Powell’s next book, Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat and Obsession, is due out in December.

In the book, Powell, who seems happily married in her first memoir, writes of an affair with a former lover and of her training to become a butcher.

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