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The Elephant dines without butter.

The power of the cinema upon book sales.

Almost 48 years after it was first published, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child is finally topping the best-seller list, bringing with it all the butter, salt and goose fat that home chefs had largely abandoned in the age of Lipitor.

Associated Press

The book, given a huge lift from the recently released movie “Julie & Julia,” sold 22,000 copies in the most recent week tracked, according to Nielsen BookScan, which follows book sales. That is more copies than were sold in any full year since the book’s appearance, according to Alfred A. Knopf, which published it.

The book will make its debut at No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list of Aug. 30 in the advice and how-to category.

“In a month, I’ve sold almost seven times what I sell, typically, in a year of ‘Mastering,’ and it’s going to get even higher,” said Lee Stern, the cookbook buyer for Barnes & Noble. “It’s amazing.”

Amazing not just because the book is almost half a century old, costs $40 and contains 752 pages of labor-intensive and time-consuming recipes — the art of French cooking is indeed hard to master — but also for what those recipes contain.


Mastering the Art” — co-written by Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, and the first of two volumes — is not the only book that has gotten a lift from the movie. The book “Julie & Julia,” which was written by the blogger Julie Powell and was the basis for the movie, has been reprinted 13 times this year in movie tie-in versions by publisher Little, Brown.

The movie editions of “My Life in France,” the 2006 book that chronicles Ms. Child’s years there and provided biographical material for the movie, have been reprinted nine times by Knopf.

Knopf has also reprinted “Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom” six times this year, and it will top the Aug. 30 Book Review list of advice and how-to paperbacks. According to BookScan, which tracks roughly 75 percent of the book market, it is the second-best-selling cookbook in the country, behind “Mastering” and ahead of more contemporary titles like “Cook Yourself Thin: Skinny Meals You Can Make in Minutes” and “Hungry Girl: 200 Under 200,” a book of recipes under 200 calories.

As for “Mastering the Art,” even discount stores that have never stocked the book, like Sam’s Club, are putting in orders.

“We won’t be caught up for a while,” said Paul Bogaards, a spokesman for Knopf.

Part of the sales can be credited to movie promotions from Columbia Pictures, which released the film. “Basically, we just integrated it into everything we did, so if we had radio promos, we’d give away the book; if we had screenings, we’d give away the book,” said Marc Weinstock, president of worldwide theatrical marketing for Sony Pictures, Columbia’s parent company.(complete article)http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/24/business/24julia.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

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I'll be thinking about this for a while. Not because I'm surprised, but because while I can understand why people are buying the book "Julie & Julia" (perhaps they hadn't heard of it, before), I'm confused by the sales of the cookbook. Who hasn't heard of Julia Child? Who didn't know she had a cookbook?

Maybe the movie makes cooking look like fun. Maybe the movie highlights some tasty-looking recipes.

I guess I'll have to see the movie, now.