Once upon a time, I told you I liked all (literary) things weird: Weird plots, weird alternate universes, weird special powers, weird bendings of time and logic. And I do. But recently I’ve been on a kick of devouring novels that are firmly grounded in the real world. Last week‘s was heartbreakingly beautiful in its simplicity. This week’s pick, while not necessarily as beautifully told (no offense, Meg!), is also a keen observation of human relationships.
In The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer follows six creative teenagers — they range from wannabe-musicians to stand-up comedians to cartoonists — and charts their dreams and friendships as they age from kids at a Summer Camp for the Arts to adults. Some become disillusioned 30-somethings. Some opt for practical, lucrative paths. Some stay the course, forever chasing the dream.
I can’t imagine that this novel doesn’t hit home for everyone who reads it. Sure, we didn’t all go to artsy camps or belong to theater troupes, but we’ve all dreamt about being a rockstar, haven’t we? We all grew up wanting to be special, different, recognized. But that doesn’t happen for everyone. In fact, it happens for almost no one. The Interestings (currently in paperback) is an incredibly perceptive account of all that goes into giving up, or sticking with, such dreams; about society and the indignities of actually becoming the starving artist.
I very distinctly remember telling my mom, at probably too young an age, that I wanted to be the Editor of a certain magazine. Her response: “Oh great, Mad, because there is exactly one of those…” I’m not the editor of that magazine (geez, I’m 24, get off my back!) but the point is that we’re all told from a very young age that we should do something normal. Get a variety of degrees. Pay our bills on time. Climb a corporate ladder. I don’t know…buy a house? Learn what a 401k is? Understand your credit score? Part of me was very sad to watch certain members of the group in The Interestings go mainstream, but, if I’m being honest, part of me was also relieved; happy for them in a way.
I love that aspect of this book. I also love a good chronicle of life-long friendships. There aren’t enough books that do this and given that I currently live with two girls from home — one I’ve been attached to since preschool and one from middle-school — I appreciate any story that shares my desire to laugh until I cry with friends over drama and gossip from ten years ago.
There are flaws to this book, but it is quite profound about life and longing, and that makes everything all alright for me.
*My mother is very supportive of my dreams and an avid EW reader. She is just glad I chose not to cling as desperately to my other dream: Become a CIA secret agent and live a life of mystery.