Two years ago, I read a New Yorker review about this book–it was brief but it intrigued me. Then, there was this article about Meg Wolitzer’s influences as she was writing it. I’ve since kept an eye out for it and snatched up a copy at the Schlow Library booksale (an on-going sale at my local library–keep an eye out at your library for these types of sales–great spot to pick up books to give away and the money supports the library).
Basically, The Interestings follows a group of friends who meet at the Spirit-in-the-Woods summer camp for art in the 1970s and then moves with them through the next forty years. The cast: Jules, the witty actress who never quite feels like she belongs with this group; sweet, beautiful Ash and her imposing, charismatic brother Goodman, who come from privilege; odd Ethan Figman, who draws/animates and smooths over conflict; Jonah, a musician whose mother is a famous folksinger; and beautiful Cathy, a dancer.
What I liked most about this book was how it followed these characters as they grew and changed, loved and lost. In some ways, it reminded me of a Jonathan Franzen book (only less sexist)–epic, sweeping, carrying you through the zeitgeist of each generation. I found myself really relating to the characters even as their flaws were exposed. It also explored the crisis of becoming and adult and how to be artistic or talented or creative as an adult. The different ways in which characters were able to incorporate their teenage creativity into the adult world raised some interesting questions for me. Is it foolish to think we can carry our mediocre creative talents into adulthood? What if you are really talented? Is it then your obligation to use that talent in your job? How can art sooth us as children and adults.
Some favorite quotes:
- “People could not get enough of what they had lost, even if they no longer wanted it.”
- “I always thought it was the saddest and most devastating ending. How you could have these enormous dreams that never get met. How without knowing it you could just make yourself smaller over time. I don’t want that to happen to me.”
- “She recognized that that is how friendships begin: one person reveals a moment of strangeness, and the other person decides just to listen and not exploit it.”
- “If you can’t have a good relationship with somebody, then you should at least have a good relationship with your work.”