Words on the Street

Book and tributes mark centenary of Julia Child’s birth

Amy Bates

Eight years after Julia Child died, the books and tributes keep coming. An all-day symposium on Sept. 21 will focus on three “sites” that Child inhabited, learned from, and influenced: Cambridge, post-World War II Paris, and national television. Among the speakers will be Bob Spitz, whose biography of Child, “Dearie,” was published by Alfred A. Knopf last week.

Registration will open Aug. 15, the centenary of her birth. The symposium is sponsored by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study’s Schlesinger Library, which houses Child’s papers.

Two new books, both from Abrams, about Child’s cherished feline companions draw on those papers. When Child lived in Paris, she regularly inquired about the cat she left behind in Cambridge, as Patricia Barey and Therese Burson relate in “Julia’s Cats.” “How is my pussycat (I think of her every time I throw out a boiled chicken neck!)” Child wrote in one letter.


“Minette’s Feast,” written by Susanna Reich and illustrated by Amy Bates, is a charming picture book (above) about the lucky life of Child’s beloved cat in Paris as Child works on her French cooking. The smells, tastes, and leftovers were heavenly. Yet it remained hard to compete with Minette’s taste for mouse.

‘Virgins’ goes e-book

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In “Virgins,” Catholic schoolgirls coming of age in the mid-1950s chafe at a world that refuses to take women seriously. The 1984 comic novel by Caryl Rivers sold a million copies worldwide. This summer “Virgins” has been released as an e-book and the issue of sexism in the Catholic Church is still making headlines, with the Vatican having accused nuns of overstepping their bounds.

“I must admit it didn’t occur to me that some of the issues I was writing about — like the equality of women in the church — would still be in the news,” Rivers wrote in an e-mail. “I would have thought we’d be way beyond that now, especially since some of my early role models for feminism were nuns.”

Rivers, a journalism professor at Boston University since 1971, is now at work on her 16th book. A memoir about her life with her husband, the late Alan Lupo, a Boston Globe reporter and columnist, is titled “Riv and Loop: Snapshots from an Equal Marriage.”

Talking cars

Wisecracking “Car Talk” co-hosts Tom and Ray Magliozzi have long capitalized on the fact that people have complicated relationships with their cars. With the brothers retiring from their call-in public radio show, where will people turn to talk about their cars?


Massmouth, a nonprofit dedicated to the art of storytelling, is offering an avenue. It is joining forces with the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline for “MotorMouth,” an evening of storytelling about learning to drive, trips of a lifetime, and meaningful moments behind the wheel. Doors open at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 16. Tickets are $10. Admission is free for storytellers. Details at

Coming out

 “This Will End in Tears: The Miserabilist Guide to Music”by Adam Brent Houghtaling (HarperCollins)

 “The Kingmaker’s Daughter”by Philippa Gregory (Touchstone)

 “And When She Was Good”by Laura Lippman (Morrow)

Pick of the week

Alise Hamilton of Andover Bookstore in Andover recommends “Battleborn: Stories” by Claire Vaye Watkins (Riverhead): “This extraordinary debut collection is the short story form at its finest. Linked by setting, in the tradition of Annie Proulx, these 10 brave tales create a new mythology of the American West, from the 49ers’ desperate Gold Rush to the small, safe world a heartbroken woman conjures in her bathtub.”

Jan Gardner can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @JanL Gardner.