Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Not Very Interestings

The Interestings: A Novel

I think I need a break from beach books. Or maybe its books that take place at summer camp.  

I'm actually excited that I am out of the prison of Meg Wolitzer's world of The Interestings.  Every character (besides Dennis) is so flawed and messed up, I just wanted the murky world and the "drama of the gifted child" experience to be over.  And now it is, so I can complain about it a bit.

First, I need to focus on some of the positives.  Meg Wolitzer is a brilliant writer in so many ways.  I am still thinking about the complexities and time span of The Interestings.  She took each of the characters from their awkward teenage years at Spirit-in-the-Woods art camp into their 50s.  She spanned decades worth of social issues - from HIV to 9/11, from the technology age to the Moonies, from women's lib to depression.  That takes talent.  It also takes talent to uncover the ugliness of human beings - the drive for creativity, friendship, acceptance, a life passion, money, love - Wolitzer touches on each of these themes and shows that even the best of friends and best of marriages can have messy patches.  I loved that the characters change and make huge life realizations as they grow older (even if at times it seemed a little too tidy). Jules, for instance,  realizes (after a life riddled with jealousy and a need to be interesting), "you didn't have to marry your soulmate, and you didn't even have to marry an Interesting.  You didn't always need to be the dazzler, the firecracker, the one who cracked everyone up, or made everyone want to sleep with you, or be the one who wrote and starred in the play that got the standing ovation.  You could cease to be obsessed with the idea of being interesting."

On the flip side of the realizations and the expansiveness of this novel, I wanted to LIKE Wolitzer's  characters (so I could actually care about them), but I didn't.   I did not like Jules.  I did not like Ash.  I certainly didn't like Goodman.  I kind of liked Jonah, although his cool detachment to life left me wanting to know him (which I think is the point, but I didn't really care about his tormented past).  I liked Ethan until he became a dad and then I just felt sorry for him being madly in love with Jules his whole life even though his own wife and family were so awesome.

That left me with Dennis - boring, run of the mill, lab tech, solid, depressed Dennis.  He was the most interesting because he wasn't part of The Interestings.  His averageness (in Jules' eyes) made him the most noble of the characters.  Even in his deepest depression, he managed to be a stay at home dad and care for Rory and raise her to be a confident, active woman.

I read reviews on, because I wanted to know why so many people loved this book and why picked it as the best book of April 2013, and as one of the best books so far in 2013.  When I hear those sorts of accolades, I want the book to be amazing . . . or interesting.  Instead, I felt empty while reading this book, and disconnected and sad for the jealousy that so many people dwell on in their lives rather than enjoying the lives they are living.  It took me a long time to get through The Interestings, which is another tell tale sign that I wasn't as interested or invested as I needed to be to fall in love with it.

I got the whole idea that life comes in waves of awesome and not so awesome.  There are times when life truly sucks and each of the four main characters suffers through something at some point.
Wolitzer's The Interestings made me think about the complexities of human relationships and human drive, but overall, I wanted more.

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