Review of The Interestings, a novel by Meg Wolitzer, Riverhead Books, 2013.
I’m not really sure exactly what was so interesting about this book except that it really was interesting. I may look bored in the above pic, but I’m just feeling pleasant. I’m an easily distracted cat, but Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings kept me cuddly and engaged for all 400+ pages and all four decades of the characters’ lives.
It starts in the 70s with a bunch of teenagers at a summer arts camp called Spirit-in-the-Woods and follows a circle of friends up until the present day, including all the inherent shared generational phenomena: the waning of folk music, the evolution of anti-depressants, AIDs, the internet and whatnot. I’m only four years old so I missed most of this, and yet I totally felt like I was there. So much detail. Even as a cat, I couldn’t help but feel human. This novel was like a guide to human experience: Success, failure, envy, creativity, boredom, love, rape, autism, guilt, class differences, friendship, estrangement, city life, nature, parenting, mental health, secrets, coming out, drugs, being marginalized, and being normal.
It’s so expansive, yet so personal and absorbing at that level of storytelling where you feel like reading this book is like hanging out with your best friend. Or, it’s like having a whole forest to scurry around in, yet you revel in moments of climbing each tree one at a time, being present, rubbing your face against the rough bark and purring, curling up in the crooks between branches. The sentences are so well constructed. You can zoom in and things only get more interesting: the furrows in the bark, the ants, the inchworms. There’s so much to explore. Wolitzer takes you from the big picture down to the details and they don’t go all pixelated on you. It’s all real, real people you start caring about deeply. And like a best friend, this book is there for you during the hard times, sticks with you, like burrs, lets you know you’re not alone. I felt like I was part of this circle of friends, even though I’m a cat. Maybe that’s because Jules, our primary access point to the group, was one of those awkward marginalized types who was super thrilled to get invited into the popular kids’ tepee, and so you kind of feel this excitement to be included. And then you realize that everyone’s got their own issues and maybe shouldn’t be put on such a pedestal, and also that they’re mostly sincere, good people, and also that you, like Jules, are worth something to them, even if you’re constantly underestimating yourself. Also, Jules is described as having floppy, unruly hair. I could totally relate to that.
Sometimes I feel like a cross between a shag rug and a muppet:
Both muppets and shag rugs are references to things from the 70s, by the way. I think I would have been a very swanky cat then. Perhaps one that fit in, particularly with my shade of orange, which is kinda retro. But fitting in is apparently an illusion, a silly thing to focus on. Because we’re all human. I mean, not all of us. Gee wiz (that’s 70s slang), Wolitzer really got to me. I can’t get this feeling of shared humanity out of my head.
RATING: A big sunny corner, wet food (a hearty dose), a tad bit of dry food and ennui (not too much), a neck massage, a dash of catnip, a smattering of baby mice, and at least one tail fire fanned by a nice, light fresh breeze. Visit My Rating System for further explanation.
Peace Out (More 70s slang),