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The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

August 3, 2013

interestings

A teacher and good friend of mine used to say to me, “If you ever get boring, I’ll kill you.” Every group of talented, privileged kids believes (and are often told by their parents and teachers) that they will grow up to be exceptional. That they’ll be successful, stand out, probably be famous. The Interestings is a story about a group of kids who, as teens, attend an art camp in upstate New York over a few summers. They vow to remain friends and dub themselves “the Interestings” because, like all kids, they believe they are interesting. The novel charts the direction of their lives over the course of the next few decades as they find varying degree of success in art and other careers, deal with the changing landscape of American culture, wrestle with personal demons, and try to live up to the “interesting” label they gave themselves.

There are a few annoying elements of the novel—it’s easy to dismiss the day-to-day struggles of these white, upper-class kids as “first-world problems.” The pivotal event of their teen years, when ugly adulthood crashes their frivolous partying—an event which haunts each of them to varying degrees and is in many ways the linchpin of the plot—feels forced into a larger role than it would realistically have. And as a few critics have pointed out, Wolitzer relies on a kind of shorthand for some of her characters, building them on well-known American figures (or, one might argue, new American archetypes). One is essentially Matt Groenig, creator of The Simpsons, only his show is called Figland. Another is Joan Baez. There is a stand-in for the TED conference.

But these criticisms are small. Wolitzer’s writing is very strong, and her characters, importantly, are interesting to the reader, if not always to themselves. Some of them sink into ordinary adult lives while others fall to one side or the other of the bell curve, but their struggles are usually relatable, often insightful. They’re imperfect people, with messy, realistic lives. And Wolitzer deftly bounces us around in time, adding plot points when necessary. I didn’t love all of the characters, but they were entertaining to live with for a while.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 4, 2013 2:36 am

    It’s next on my reading list, cheers for the great review 🙂

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