Watching the movie Julie & Julia over the weekend, I was reminded of one of my favorite literary genres: the project book. Choose a task (like making all the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, et al), give yourself a year to do it, write about all your experiences related to it, and voila! you’ve got yourself a book.
It’s almost certainly not as easy as it sounds. I mean, one must certainly clear the schedule, make some serious (and pricey) reservations, and, oh mercy, pack thoughtfully for something like a three week trip around the world (see Nicholas Sparks’ project book/memoir Three Weeks with my Brother). And there’s some serious research to be done before embarking on a year of eating only things grown locally or, better yet, in one’s own backyard (see Barbara Kingsolver’s family’s food diary, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle).
It may all be worth it, though. Think of the years (months? seconds?) that a plunge in Siberia’s icy Lake Baikal might add to your life (perhaps enough to balance the years’ lost from the vodka Peter Thomson had to drink riding the Trans-Siberian railway for his book Sacred Sea). Imagine the hoot your children will have someday over Dad’s ridiculous but Torah-mandated beard (see AJ Jacobs’ facial hair progress in The Year of Living Biblically). And think how much fun you’ll be at parties when you tell people that you travelled cross country with Einstein’s brain (yes, it’s true—see Michael Paterniti’s Driving Mr. Albert: A Trip Across America with Einstein’s Brain).
If I were to write a project book, I wonder, what task would I undertake? Certainly I could remove something from my life: TV, automobiles, electricity, frozen food, purchases of anything new, my hair, hand sanitizer, cardboard. I could add something to my life: a part-time job…training animals…at the circus. I could go somewhere: does the laundramat count?
So I guess I’ll just throw it out there. Ideas, anyone?