The Interestings

Carol Luers EymanI don’t follow any celebrities on Facebook, but I do think authors are interesting people and so I’m nosy about their lives. Who’s in a writing group with whom? Which writers were classmates in what MFA program?

The Interestings

“The Interestings” by Meg Wolitzer is available from the library in hardcover, large print, downloadable audiobook and (soon) audiobook on CD.

I love knowing that 2010 Nashua Reads author Elizabeth Berg is buddies with Jane Hamilton. (In fact, it was on her recommendation we invited Jane to the library in 2012.)

So I was thrilled to find myself, along with other members of the Friends of the Library’s Nashua Reads Author Committee, sharing dinner with Julia Glass after her visit to the library in October.

Books dominated the conversation, but I wasn’t going to leave without a bit of gossip.

“Do you know Meg Wolitzer?” I asked Julie on a hunch (juicy tidbit: Julia Glass likes to be called “Julie”). Based on my reading of her novel The Uncoupling, I had decided that Wolitzer was another interesting author.

“Oh, yes,” Julie said, and proceeded to give us her take on each of Meg’s novels. I decided to take her advice and read The Interestings. Wouldn’t it be fun to find out what types of characters this author-friend of Julia Glass found interesting herself?

The novel paints a panorama of the last 40 years, from the point of view of a group of friends who meet in 1974 at Spirit-in-the-Woods, a camp for teenagers passionate about the arts. The friends spend their evenings lying around the tepee talking about Günter Grass, Anaïs Nin, and other heady topics, so they dub themselves “The Interestings.”

Class tensions
The characters’ lives remain intertwined to the present day, when they’re in their fifties. The book is largely about class differences–Ethan creates an animated TV show that makes him and his wife hyperrich, but income inequality distresses them. They alleviate their guilt by offering friends Jules and Denis large sums of money and by starting an anti-child-labor charity.

This is also a novel of time and place. That first summer at camp plays out in front of a backdrop of President Nixon’s resignation. Jonah begins dating other men in 1981 New York City, just as AIDS begins to menace. Denis is incapacitated by depression in a pre-Prozac world.

For several of the friends, the aspirations that exhilarated them in their camp days are deflated in adulthood. In fact, Denis, who only married into the group later, calls out Jules on her obsession with Spirit-in-the-Woods, telling her that the exciting thing about it had been that they were young at the time, and if she’d gone to a different camp at that time, she’d have met different friends she’d have found equally exciting. Then, he closes with the most scathing observation in the book: “The fact is you’re not all that interesting.”

Well, to me they were interesting enough to read about for 481 pages. I loved Wolitzer’s narration–at once witty, omniscient, and gushing but sometimes timid and indecisive. If you can’t convince your book group to select this book, no great loss, because the author discusses it as she narrates, giving multiple takes on a character’s motivations or how events might unfold.

Julie Glass, thanks for the suggestion!

About Carol Luers Eyman

Carol Luers Eyman is the outreach and community services coordinator at the Nashua Public Library. After graduating from Kirkland College, she earned a master’s of education and a certificate in technical communication from the University of Massachusetts.

1 comment to The Interestings

  • Sophie Sophie

    I plodded through this book. I thought it was well written, but I never really connected with the characters. I know Wolitzer is a very well regarded author, so I may need to come back to her work at some point, but this one didn’t grab me.