Friday, March 20, 2015

The Interestings


I just finished a book called The Interestings. And it was. In fact, it was superb. Other than the dubious title, this novel by Meg Wolitzer did everything I hope a book can do. Swept me up into a world that I couldn’t wait to re-enter each night, peopled with—well, interesting people who I cared about. I was carried expertly through the twist and turns of a plot that more than satisfied my need for intrigue and drama and to top it off, it took place in a time and place (the U.S. between 1974 and the present day) that I knew. I will shelf it alongside Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections (a book I also mostly read in Salzburg in 2003), David James Duncan’s The Brothers K and Richard Powers’ The Time of Our Singing as other similar books in a similar place and time.

Ms. Wolitzer is first-class writer, in full command of an intricate cast of characters and both the joined and separate trajectories of their lives over 40 years. Her sentences sing with poetry and hum with philosophical insight and never artificially so, also at home in the plain talk of the day-to-day. When I reluctantly finished it last night, I went back to re-read the first chapter and could almost imagine reading it all over again, the language was so enticing. Damn, I’m going to miss Jules and Dennis and Ethan and Ash and the rest of them! My life these days is pretty interesting and I’m loving meeting up with my own tribe of fascinating characters, but isn’t a pleasure to have your own world plus another each day? And then add in a series like Downton Abby and suddenly, you’re living multiple lives and all of them intriguing enough to get you up in the morning and wonder, “What will happen next?”

I’m happy to report that my old geezer habit of browsing in physical bookstores (thank you, Green Apple, San Francisco!) has paid off handsomely. I take risks and buy books that seem promising (despite my wife’s urging to use the library, I want to support authors and bookstores and pass the good ones on to the family) and mostly, it has paid off! This is how I “discovered” Lisa See and Jonathan Tropper and Jess Walter and now Meg Wolitzer and it’s always a great feeling when I see they’ve written other books. Of course, recommendations from friends is still a viable voyage into discovering new worlds, but I still love the stalking down a bookstore aisle with antennae up and feeling little signals whispering “Choose me!” Are the books looking at us too and thinking, “Hmm. He looks like someone who would like me. Psst! Hey, buddy! Over here!”?

And so (in the style of my childhood 5th grade book reports), “if you want to find out what happens to Jules and Ethan, I suggest you read this book.”

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