From best-selling author Meg Wolitzer a dazzling, panoramic novel about what becomes of early talent, and the roles that art, money, and even envy can play in close friendships.
The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed. In The Interestings, Wolitzer follows these characters from the height of youth through middle age, as their talents, fortunes, and degrees of satisfaction diverge.
The kind of creativity that is rewarded at age 15 is not always enough to propel someone through life at age 30; not everyone can sustain, in adulthood, what seemed so special in adolescence. Jules Jacobson, an aspiring comic actress, eventually resigns herself to a more practical occupation and lifestyle. Her friend Jonah, a gifted musician, stops playing the guitar and becomes an engineer. But Ethan and Ash, Jules’s now-married best friends, become shockingly successful - true to their initial artistic dreams, with the wealth and access that allow those dreams to keep expanding. The friendships endure and even prosper, but also underscore the differences in their fates, in what their talents have become and the shapes their lives have taken.
Wide in scope, ambitious, and populated by complex characters who come together and apart in a changing New York City, The Interestings explores the meaning of talent; the nature of envy; the roles of class, art, money, and power; and how all of it can shift and tilt precipitously over the course of a friendship and a life.
©2013 Megan Wolitzer (P)2013 Penguin Audio
Deep, thoughtful, literary fiction—old, new, sci-fi, whatever—is my thing.
"The Group" meets "Meatballs."
What an all-around great story! It explores summer camp friendships with sophistication, following a coterie of "Interesting" East-Coast characters from their teen years through adulthood. Not at all sappy or melodramatic, Woltizer weaves a gripping tale, and Jen Tullock's interpretation is spot on. I happily hung onto every word till the end.
About 10 years ago my kids gave me an Audible account for my birthday. It was the best birthday present ever!
The story follows a group of teenagers from one summer, spent in a performing arts camp, to adulthood. They face challenges, disappointment, and joy as they make choices and look for ways to put meaning in their adult lives. Although they call themselves "The Interestings" and some of them have lives that are more than ordinary, it's clear that they're just people trying to make their way in the world. Good writing and compelling characters. Believable.
This is a great book thanks mostly to the stark realism. The characters are idealistic teenagers, growing up at a performing arts camp that tells them they can be anything they want if they just follow their dreams. Unfortunately, that is not how the world works. This book can be frustrating and sad, but that is the beauty of it: it truly exemplifies the realities of life. It perfectly captures the hardships everyone faces behind closed doors, and the struggles one must accept when our childhood dreams don't come true.
David Sedaris told me to read this when I met him at a book signing. I found out later that the camp I go too is the same one the novel is based on, so I can attest that it is very accurate. I have never before read a book and felt such a connection to the story. This novel has made me completely reassess my nine years of summer camp and the life long friendships I have made and lost while there. If you ever were blessed or harmed by the experience of summer camp I recommend this book.
No she has only recorded one other.
People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks.
It's just too easy to go for the low hanging fruit and sum this book up as the converse of its title. But then that is exactly the point of the book, that the artistically gifted teen summer campers who dubbed themselves "The Interestings" aren't really special, as one character explicitly admits somewhere along the line -- not even the one character who achieves the pinnacle of success in his chosen art form. Half a century later, they are as uninterestingly ordinary as when they started their little clique.
That's an, uh, interesting premise. But it doesn't necessarily make for interesting reading. It's not that I was uninterested, but I was definitely disinterested -- I just didn't care for them or about them. And it's not for lack of identifying with the characters -- they are exactly my age, from the same city, the same schools, the same career arc, similar artistic endeavors abandoned along the way. In fact, the only character I found at all interesting is the one who is least like me in most ways (still similar in some respects).
I am reminded of the criticism of the movie version of This Is Where I Leave You. I loved that book, in both print and audio, liked the movie well enough. But film critics wondered, "Why would we care about the trivial travails of affluent white suburbanites?" I cared. And yet here I feel nothing for the privileged urbanites of The Interestings, which book critics loved.
I won't try to argue that I'm right in this case where the critics were wrong about TIWILY (if I were to make the case, I'd start with TIWILY being played primarily for laughs, or maybe I'm just a contratrian). But it really all depends on who you like, who you don't like. Maybe these characters will grab you in ways that left me unintersted -- excuse me, disinterested.
Not for the first time in recent memory, I find myself wishing that this book had been heavily edited. Maybe at ten hours, the characterizations would have proven crisper -- lord knows the paucity of plot and action did not require fifteen hours. Thank heavens for Jen Tullock's alacritous reading (her performance is good all around). Actually, I want to read a 250-page book about Jonah. I couldn't care less about the rest of them.
Story was Ok, Narration was pretty bad, she spoke so fast I actually thought I had hit the speed control in error. I almost returned it without listening but because the chacters were exactly my age I plowed on and you do get used to the speed reading after awhile. These people weren't anything like the folks I grew up with, while I loved reliving, Nixon, Watergate, Munich, and the Berlin wall, that was all I had in common with these people. I just couldn't bring myself to care about any of them.
I didn't finish the book. I am going to read it instead of having a tedious speaker reading to me.
I found this appealing but I'm sure many listeners will be annoyed by the mostly well-off East Coast young people whining about what they don't have or can't do. It could have been shorter. Also it's mostly in chronological order but then items will be thrown in out of order for no particular reason.
The characters' happiest times are in high school at their arts camp. For many of us, being an adult is way better than adolescence but those people keep trying to return to their youth, which of course never works.
The narration is very good and it kept my attention. It's an interesting contrast with Shotgun Lovesongs, which is also about a group of friends in middle age regretting their lost youth. I think that one was deeper than this book.
I typically listen to mysteries or thrillers because they engage my attention more than literary fiction, which can be easy to stray from while driving, etc. But The Interestings thoroughly engaged my attention no matter where I was when I listened. In fact, I looked forward to driving, exercising, whatever and whenever I could just to be able to get back into the story.
What I liked:
• The writing. Wolitzer is a master of the meaningful metaphor. Her analogies are pitch perfect.
• The characters. Wonderfully drawn, fully human, the characters come to life, and you feel you really get to know them as people -- sometimes that's good, sometimes not so much.
• The narration. Well paced and engagingly delivered. Jen Tullock reads like she enjoyed what she was doing.
• The story. The tale explores the lives of 8 young people who meet at a summer camp for the arts, and traces their lives into middle age. We discover through them what it means to have dreams dashed and dreams fulfilled -- and that sometimes it is difficult to determine which is best.
This is a great book and a terrific listen.
Jen Tullock brings the book alive, giving each character a unique, real voice.
The story is enthralling, moving you through the lives of several people over many decades, some deeply, some only fleetingly. The chapters are not chronological, but that's not a hindrance.
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