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The Interestings: A Novel Hardcover – April 9, 2013
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I can make the case that "The Interestings" can be considered a historical novel of the past 4 decades; I call that "recent" history because I can remember it! Reading about the 1980s for example, brought back memories of:
- the first cases of AIDS and how bewildering that was
- the first cordless phones
- mugger-full and dirty NYC
- the first soapy taste of the now ubiquitous herb cilantro
- the Moonies
- "Women's Lib" being the term to describe feminism
This novel is full of such memories because it's about six friends who meet in a summer camp for artistic kids in the 70s and it follows their lives into the present, touching on each decade as they make their way to adulthood. The novel moves quickly and is never boring or slow as many things happen to each of these people as they face their lives. It felt voyeuristic - in a good way - to follow their ups and downs. I could relate because I also "grew up" at the same time. There is a bit of jumping around in time and significant foreshadowing which I found to be an effective story-telling device here.
There are many "themes" in the novel; friendship, the nature of art, the meaning of "talent", loss of innocence, sexual attraction, and the relationship between art and money, to name a few. But I think the theme that interested ME the most, was the theme of envy and it's ugly and corrosive nature.Read more ›
But let's talk about the novel, shall we? In 1974, six teenagers meet at a summer camp for the arts and jokingly refer to themselves as The Interestings--exactly the kind of ironic, half-kidding-half-hopeful joke that captivates them at that moment in time. The six run the gamut of the art world: a dancer, a musician, an animator; an actress who wants to further the cause of feminism in theater, a wannabe architect, and a comedic actress. The latter character, Jules, forms the center of our story. Significantly, she's also the outlier. Jules isn't an artist when she ends up at Camp Spirit-in-the-Woods. It's unclear how she found her way to a camp for artists when there were so many different options out there (one of those woefully nitpicky details that nevertheless irked me); she simply wanted an escape from her family and the grief they all feel after the abrupt death of her father from cancer. What's important is that she's an outsider in this world when we first meet her, and she very much discovers herself once she has been thrust into The Interestings. She doesn't feel like she belongs but she desperately wants to. She discovers an ability to make people laugh and parlays it into a comical role in a camp play--a moment that overwhelms her with the sense that she has arrived, that she has found her life's calling.Read more ›
But then there are the subjects being addressed, the characters, and the tone. Personally, I can't connect to the people described here. I'm not an East Coaster. I'm not super-liberal. I'm not plugged into popular culture, even the stuff that is regarded as high-brow television. If you're a boomer who loves things like The Daily Show, reads the Style section of the NY Times, and reads profiles in the New Yorker of movers and shakers in the business and art world, you'll probably find The Interestings appealing.
Wolitzer has written a sprawling, decades-long tale of six East Coast kids who grew up in the 1970s. Five of the kids come from wealthy homes full of strivers. The sixth is the main character in this novel and is a scholarship kid enamored of the privilege of the others. In a lot of ways, The Interestings is a much better version of another novel I read recently, The Marriage Plot. They are both Jane Austen-like in their approach. Both have third person narrators who are not at all shy about telling exactly what is going on inside the heads of the principal characters. Mental illness plays a significant role in both stories. In The Interestings there is the welcome bonus of some quiet, droll humor.
If you like traditional novels in a modern setting that are focused on relationships between friends, The Interestings will likely be a worthwhile read. If you have an aversion to East Coast culture and gravitate toward novels with big ideas, I'd stay away.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I grew fatigued of the characters --- too much obsessing, not enough ability to "get on with life!"Published 11 days ago by EMH
This book was recommended to me as a mentor text for a book I am finishing. The depth of the characters is so realistic and the story is engrossing. Highly recommended.Published 1 month ago by Sharon J Wilson
I don't think you need to have been a part of an artsy teen group to enjoy this book. It fell short for me in that I never came to care about the characters. Read morePublished 1 month ago by JaneReader
As in the title this book just gets more and more interesting. I dislike reviews that tell too much of the storyline but suffice it to say a highly recommended read. Read morePublished 1 month ago by J. KELLER