Earlier this month, magazine editors around town received a phone call from somebody at Little, Brown about Julie Powell’s forthcoming memoir, Cleaving: A Story Of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession. Specifically, the person calling was concerned with galleys for the book: evidently a batch of them had been sent out, but now Little, Brown needed them back.
Judy Clain, Ms. Powell’s editor at Little, Brown, said in an interview earlier this week that the recall was initiated because the publication of Cleaving—originally slated for next month—had been pushed back to December. “We moved the book to December, and some copies of the early galley had gone out through our rights department for first serial,” Ms. Clain said, adding later: “The serial rights person didn’t know that we had moved the book and realized it was a mistake that they had gone out and wanted to get them back.”
So why was the book delayed? Ms. Clain explained that it had to do with Nora Ephron’s film adaptation of Ms. Powell’s first memoir, Julie and Julia, which stars Meryl Streep and Amy Adams and hits theaters in August. Initially, Ms. Clain thought that having Ms. Powell’s new book in stores while the movie was in theaters and getting attention would boost sales. But sometime in February she changed her mind.
“I think the original feeling was, ‘Wow, the movie will be out there, won’t that be good?’” Ms. Clain said. “And then I think we sort of re-thought and realized, ‘Well, you know what? We’re doing a trade paperback tie-in edition, and we’re doing a mass-market tie-in edition … and collectively with our sales people we started thinking a little bit outside of the box, and thought, ‘You know what? We’re going to get all that attention for the first book—does it make sense to have it competing with the paperbacks?”
On Wednesday, a Page Six item appeared in the New York Post noting that the script for Julie and Julia, which features Chris Messina in the role of Ms. Powell’s loving, supportive husband, did not include any reference to the fact that in real life, its main character, Ms. Powell, would go on to engage in an “insane, irresistible love affair with one of her close friends”—and then chronicle it in her second memoir.
Ms. Ephron was quoted as saying, “That happened way afterwards, so how could I have addressed it in the film? It didn’t happen in the time frame of the movie.” But the Post, citing “insiders,” advanced the notion that Ms. Ephron “purposely stayed away from Powell’s confession that she had the extramarital affair to keep audiences rooting for her.”
If those insiders are to be trusted, it does not take much of an imagination to envision a scenario in which the folks at Columbia Pictures discourage Little, Brown from publishing a book about Ms. Powell’s affair while the Julie and Julia movie is in theaters.
But Ms. Clain said that was not a significant factor in her decision to delay the book.
“Honestly, the number of people who would have read the book and would have been bothered by it—I mean, in our dreams!” she said. “Anyway, it wouldn’t bother me. You don’t want people to be confused, but personally I think it just makes it a little more interesting and exciting and fun.”
She added: “Listen, could Nora Ephron be somewhat sensitive to not wanting people to think the character had an affair? I’m sure she is! It’s one of a million other things that are on her list of things to worry about. I worked in the movie business—they worry about everything! Could she be sensitive to that? She might be, as one of the things she’s sensitive about. It’s possible!”
But, Ms. Clain emphasized, the decision to hold off on Cleaving was at heart a “publishing decision.”
“It was less likely that [Cleaving] was going to get review attention on its own if it was coming on the heels of the movie,”she said. “We wanted to build her platform, so it was sort of a publishing decision to change our plan—to let the movie do its magic, build our audience, and then, when the second book comes out, we’ll have this huge—hopefully—audience for her of people who want to go and see what Julie Powell does next.”