In high school, I did my best to morph from shy wallflower into mysterious guitar-slinging writer. Not as a pose, but because I felt the most ME when I was jamming with friends or banging out a story. I thought I found myself and my group. I wanted, more than anything, to ring true. I wanted to surround myself with people who wanted the same thing. That was my ideal life.
Fast forward fifteen years. I’m an attorney walking downtown, lost in thought about some projects, when a group of middle schoolers on a field trip walk by. A skater kid overtly up-downs me and says, “Nice tie, Mr. Businessman Man!”
The kid walked away, not realizing he’d just thrown a hilarious grenade of insecurity and self-reflection in my direction and opened up my guts.
“Wait!” I wanted to yell after him. “I’m not The Man! I’m YOU!”
But, I had to ask myself, did I sell out?
That’s more or less what Wolitzer’s The Interestings is all about. The hefty piece of literary fiction follows a handful of friends who meet at a summer art camp. The book spans about forty years, from the time they meet at art camp in the 1970s to the present. Jules is the marginally talented, gawky girl happy to the be in the group. Ash is beautiful, talented and kind. Ash’s brother Goodman is the camp’s sex god screwup. Cathy is the dramatic dancer, Ethan is the animation genius, and Jonah is the unknowable musician. They’re the Art Camp Avengers.
As the reader expects, not every camper necessarily follows their teenage dream. Wolitzer explores if moving on from those dreams is settling, moving on to other goals, or maybe just life. It’s a thought-provoking exploration of the lives that we build and whether or not they are enough.