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The Interestings: A Novel Paperback – March 25, 2014
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“Remarkable . . . [The Interestings’s] inclusive vision and generous sweep place it among the ranks of books like Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom and Jeffrey Eugenides The Marriage Plot. The Interestings is warm, all-American, and acutely perceptive about the feelings and motivations of its characters, male and female, young and old, gay and straight; but it’s also stealthily, unassumingly, and undeniably a novel of ideas. . . . With this book [Wolitzer] has surpassed herself.”—The New York Times Book Review
"A victory . . . The Interestings secures Wolitzer's place among the best novelists of her generation. . . . She's every bit as literary as Franzen or Eugenides. But the very human moments in her work hit you harder than the big ideas. This isn't women's fiction. It's everyone's."—Entertainment Weekly (A)
"The big questions asked by The Interestings are about what happened to the world (when, Jules wonders, did 'analyst' stop denoting Freud and start referring to finance?) and what happened to all that budding teenage talent. Might every privileged schoolchild have a bright future in dance or theater or glass blowing? Ms. Wolitzer hasn’t got the answers, but she does have her characters mannerisms and attitudes down cold."—The New York Times
"I don't want to insult Meg Wolitzer by calling her sprawling, engrossing new novel, The Interestings, her most ambitious, because throughout her 30-year career of turning out well-observed, often very funny books at a steady pace, I have no doubt she has always been ambitious. . . . But "The Interestings" is exactly the kind of book that literary sorts who talk about ambitious works . . . are talking about. . . . Wolitzer is almost crushingly insightful; she doesn't just mine the contemporary mind, she seems to invade it."—San Francisco Chronicle
"A sprawling, marvelously inventive novel . . . ambitious and enormously entertaining."—The Washington Post
"A supremely engrossing, deeply knowing, genius-level enterprise . . . The novel is thick and thickly populated. And yet Wolitzer is brilliant at keeping the reader close by her side as she takes her story back and forth across time, in and out of multiple lives, and into the tangle of countless continuing, sometimes compromising, conversations."—Chicago Tribune
“Masterful, sweeping . . . Her clear gaze captures the intricacies of lasting friendship, enduring love, marital sacrifice, bitter squabbles, family secrets, parental angst and deep loss. Though the story hops back and forth in time, it is rarely confusing, frequently funny and always engaging. . . . A story that feels real and true and more than fulfills the promise of the title. It is interesting, yes, but also moving, compelling, fascinating, and rewarding.”—Miami Herald
“Wolitzer has produced a novel that is big by at least a couple of clear measures—it’s nearly 500 pages long, and it covers a lot of time and drama in the lives of a small circle of friends. . . . It’s a small world in which these characters want to live large, and Wolitzer is wonderful at conveying that through the point of view of someone who doesn’t even see it, all the while shading in the stuff that lives, big and small, are made of.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“It’s a ritual of childhood—that solemn vow never to lose touch, no matter what. And for six artsy teenagers whose lives unfold in Wolitzer’s big-hearted, ambitious new novel, the vow holds for almost four decades.”—People
"Readers may also enjoy comparing The Interestings with Claire Messud's The Emperor's Children . . . In probing the unpredictable relationship between early promise and success and the more dependable one between self-acceptance and happiness, Wolitzer's novel is not just a big book but a shrewd one."—Christian Science Monitor
"[The Interestings] soars, primarily because Wolitzer insists on taking our teenage selves seriously and, rather than coldly satirizing them, comes at them with warm humor and adult wisdom."—Elle
"In Meg Wolitzer's lovely, wise The Interestings, Julie Jacobson begins the summer of '74 as an outsider at arts camp until she is accepted into a clique of teenagers with whom she forms a lifelong bond. Through well-tuned drama and compassionate humor, Wolitzer chronicles the living organism that is friendship, and arcs it over the cours of more than thirty years."—O, the Oprah Magazine
"Juicy, perceptive and vividly written."—NPR.org
"A sprawling, ambitious and often wistful novel."—USA Today
"What becomes a legend most? or rather, who? Those with innate ability? Those blessed with enough beauty or money to indulge any creative whim? Or just those who want it the most? In The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer's quarry is ambition: what it means to have it, how to use it, how it's lost."—Time
"Best-selling novelist Meg Wolitzer specializes in witty, knowing takes on contemporary marriage, divorce, and relationships. Her ninth novel, The Interestings, is smart, nuanced, and fun to read, in part because of the effervescent evocation of New York City from Watergate to today, in part because of the idiosyncratic authenticity of her characters."—The Daily Beast
"You’ll want to be friends with these characters long after you put down the book.”—Marie Claire
“[A] big, juicy novel . . . Wolitzer’s finger is unerringly on the pulse of our social culture."—Readers Digest
"Meg Wolitzer kicks off her buzzy tenth novel in 1974 at a summer camp for artsy kids, where a tight-knit group of campers is plotting world domination. The result is a Franzen-like treatise on talent, fate, friendship, and the limits of all three."—V Magazine
“Breathtaking in its scope and a remarkably fun page-turner . . . “[Wolitzer's] social commentary on art, money and fame should have her compared to Tom Wolfe, but her work is much larger than that.”—Matchbook
“[The Interestings is] so approachable one can almost miss the excellence and precision of its prose. . . . Ultimately The Interestings is absorbing and immensely likeable.”—Nylon
"Like Virginia Woolf in The Waves, Meg Wolitzer gives us the full picture here, charting her characters' lives from the self-dramatizing of adolescence, through the resignation of middle age, to the attainment of a wisdom that holds all the intensities of life in a single, sustained chord, much like this book itself. The wit, intelligence, and deep feeling of Wolitzer's writing are extraordinary and The Interestings brings her achievement, already so steadfast and remarkable, to an even higher level."—Jeffrey Eugenides
"Wolitzer follows a group of friends from adolescence at an artsy summer camp in 1974 through adulthood and into late-middle age as their lives alternately intersect, diverge and reconnect. . . . Ambitious and involving, capturing the zeitgeist of the liberal intelligentsia of the era."—Kirkus (starred)
About the Author
Meg Wolitzer is the New York Times bestselling author of The Interestings, The Uncoupling, The Ten-Year Nap, The Position, The Wife, and Sleepwalking. She is also the author of the young adult novel, Belzhar. Wolitzer lives in New York City.
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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. When we envy our friends' successes or their material wealth, or their looks or their talents, what does that do to us and how we negotiate in the world? How does that affect our friendships and does envy actually negate true friendship? Can you envy someone you truly love?
I love novels that entertain me, inform me, and that challenge me to think about things from different points of view - as through the lens of well-crafted characters. This novel gave me all of that.
Wolitzer too frequently dumps obscure (at least for me) literary references and employs dictionary-defying word choices when simpler ones would do, but overall this is a wonderful read whose characters will remain with you long after the book ends. Of particular note is Wolitzer’s ability to relay a circumstance from multiple perspectives while allowing the reader to render his or her own judgment. The incident between Goodman and Cathy is one outstanding example of this.
As a huge non-fiction reader, The Interestings is not something I would ordinarily have picked up. But I was more than pleased that I did.
If you were young, or even young-ish in the 70s and 80s, the pop culture references will interest you. At this point, an event such as Nixon's resignation is taken for granted in a cynical sort of way, as in "well, of course he's a crook; he's a politician." Given all that has happened since Nixon left the White House in 1974, I long ago lost that feeling of betrayal and shock that an American president could behave so badly. Seeing it referenced in this novel and witnessing the impact it has on the characters brought back to me the recognition of the immensity of Nixon's deceptions and how they shook the nation and individual citizens.
While I would sum up The Interestings as a very good character study, it has another attribute that deserves mention, and that is its several, overarching themes. Most prominent, at least the way I read this book, is that identity formation entails making a major decision -- whether one is conscious of it or not -- about the type of relationship you're going to have with your birth family once you're an independent adult. All of the characters detach from their birth families to a greater or lesser extent, with one girl in particular remaining much closer to her birth family than the others in the group. This has major ramifications down the road when she's married and must come to grips with a secret that she's kept from her husband -- also one of the group -- at the behest of her parents. These questions of identity and detachment come up again once the characters have become parents and must cope with their own children leaving the nest.
This novel is of the type that literature snobs enjoy being seen reading on the subway or while sitting alone at a Starbucks. That is to say, the type I often shy away from. In this instance, however, I'm quite glad my Kindle promotions motivated me to read The Interestings. Bottom line: This novel is especially worthwhile if you're interested in tuning in, or re-tuning in, to the America of the 1970s and 1980s.
Most recent customer reviews
It's just not very good. It's very linear and boring. There are too many characters to get emotionally involved and to connect to it.Read more