Julie & Julia, the movie based on the memoirs of Julia Child and Julie Powell, opened today. New York Times film critic A.O. Scott opened his admiring review with a description not of a cooking scene but of the discussion over the title of Child's landmark cookbook:
It’s not an especially suspenseful moment — pretty much anyone who has cooked an omelet knows what the book is called — but it gives [director Nora] Ephron and the audience a chance to savor the precise nature of Julia Child’s achievement.
The book is “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” — not “How To” or “Made Easy” or “For Dummies,” but “Mastering the Art.” In other words, cooking that omelet is part of a demanding, exalted discipline not to be entered into frivolously or casually. But at the same time: You can do it. It is a matter of technique, of skill, of practice.
The title of Julie Powell's book, based on Powell's attempts to cook every recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, strikes a very different note: Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. It's a memoir, not a cookbook, and it's based on Powell's blog, which explains the first-name-basis, just-a-couple-of-gals main title. The numeral-heavy subtitle reflects a contemporary trend: compare Ammon Shea's Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages.
Need help with the title of your own literary classic? I've worked with authors and led workshops on trends and techniques in book titling. Here's something I wrote about one of those techniques; contact me if you want a consultation.