The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

The Interestings

The Interestings are a group of kids who meet at camp one summer in the ’70s and go on to become life-long friends. The book begins by introducing us to the group of six and their defining characteristics: Cathy has gigantic breasts that are surely going to put an end to her dream of becoming a dancer. Ash is gorgeous and smart, but not that smart. She’s no genius. Ethan, however, is a genius (but, like, not in the way a real genius is a genius) and incredibly homely. Boy-oh-boy is that boy homely! Jonah is suffering from trust issues because of a secret hidden in his past. Goodman, Ash’s freakishly large brother, is an unfocused teenager, which everyone knows will lead him down a path of destruction. And finally our main girl, Jules, is the funny, insecure, unattractive girl of the group.

And that’s all that you really need to know. The rest of the book is basically just a rehashing of the above traits with a few updates here and there on the progress of their lives as they move into adulthood. I admit that I don’t have the best memory, and sometimes I like to be reminded here and there of things, but I certainly don’t need to be told how large Cathy’s tits are 100+ times. (Seriously. If I went back through the book and counted I can guarantee you this number is an underestimation if anything.) I do think that this could be a great book for someone who is suffering from short-term memory loss, or maybe for your mother with Alzheimer’s – and then at the end they can blissfully forget how bad this book was and all the time they wasted reading it.

I knew from the first few pages that I was in for a brutal read. The writing was unnecessarily heavy on the descriptions. For instance, we are told the group is sitting in a teepee. Later, presumably because the word teepee was already used and the author felt that she couldn’t use it again so soon, we are forced to read that they are still sitting in the ‘single-bulb-lit conical wooden structure’. “Please don’t let the rest of the book read like this,” I prayed. I quickly had my answer to ‘is there or isn’t there a God?’ when I was immediately assaulted by this sentence: Jonah Bay dragged a cassette tape deck across the floor, as heavy as a nuclear suitcase. From there I was further bombarded with terrible similes and metaphors that sounded like they had been stolen from a junior high writing exercise.

I ended the book how I started it – with absolute contempt. But then I began to wonder… was that the point? Could Wolitzer be so diabolical? We are told from the start (multiple times, because Wolitzer does not believe in saying something once and being done with it) that The Interestings is quite an ironic name. We know these people will not be interesting, no matter how much they desire to be so. So when we never learn anything deeper about the characters from what we learned at the beginning when they were still teenagers, perhaps this is on purpose. There really is nothing more to tell. They are that boring. Or when they continually state how funny Jules is, but there is never anything solid to back this up, maybe that’s on purpose too. Jules isn’t funny at all! They’re a group so pathetic and uninteresting that she’s just the best they have! This got me wondering if there are groups of friends out there who don’t have a funny member? I’ve never used the word ‘blessed’ before, and I hesitate to do so now as it’s so goddamn hip, but I’ve got no other words – This book has made me feel so blessed for being surrounded by smart, witty individuals.

But could someone really be so evil as to subject me to nearly 500 pages of inane conversations, knowing full well that they’d be so uninteresting they’d make me want to rip my hair out?  Think pages upon pages of conversation like this one about a camping cup, “A cup isn’t supposed to collapse and reconstruct. It’s already a perfect object.” What type of person would do something like that?! If this was Wolitzer’s goal, to bore the hell out of me and make me hate this book she did a wonderful job. I don’t recommend it to anyone.

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