In America, the writer Meg Wolitzer is usually compared with Jeffrey Eugenides and Jonathan Franzen, and perhaps this comparison is not without formal reasons. The stories that Wolitzer tells are of the same type as these two, and are also best described by the well-known phrase about the long vine and the top flight of the angels: a small private human life on the one hand and a cast-iron tread of great American history on the other.
The characters of “The Interestings” meet in a summer camp for gifted children in the mid-seventies. They – three guys and three girls – bring together the total teenage restlessness in half with a keen desire to stand out from the outside world, to prove to him his own “interestings” and uniqueness. As time goes on, the characters grow up, the circle of friends breaks up, but some connections remain, in general, unchanged – with the few exceptions that envy begins to blend in with mutual affection. The main heroine Julie soon realizes that in their brilliant company she is just quite ordinary, ordinary, devoid of any special talents.
Ethan Figman, the most talented boy from the “The Interestings” brotherhood, happily marries the most beautiful girl Ash Wolf, and both achieve dizzying success: he becomes a cult animator, and his series in the spirit of “Simpsons” brings millions to its creator; she is an outstanding actress and theater director. And while Ash and Ethan step by step make their way to the top, heroically overcoming the difficulties that have fallen to their lot, Julie first puts an end to her stage career, then retrains into an inexpensive psychotherapist, marries the most ordinary guy named Dennis – an ultrasound diagnostics specialist , gives birth to a daughter. In a word, while friends brilliantly justify in advance the assigned title of “interestings”, Julie lives a quiet little life – not that it’s completely meaningless or unhappy, but local, private, not at all etersnuyu. In addition, in order to realize the value of such a life and the deceptiveness of someone else’s success, the heroine will need to return to where it all began – in the summer camp. Just do it in a completely different quality.
In principle, Meg Wolitzer tells an honest story that the swamp fires of youth, combined with the obsessive cult of “interestings”, can lead a person to a bad place and that a modest life is no worse than an “interesting” life – the happiness and unhappiness in them are approximately equal, and nothing else, by and large, matters. This idea is necessary and important, and the story itself Wolitzer tells with a rare literary generosity, not stint neither characters nor plotlines. However, the trouble of “The Interestings” as a novel consists precisely in this redundant conceptual simplicity, in some functionality and reducibility to one simple idea. As soon as you understand what the author wants to say (and you understand it pretty quickly – pages, say, a hundred and fifty out of six hundred and more) magic dissipates, and all the experiences of the characters turn into a flat illustration of the main line. In a word, everything seems to be fine, but still not Jonathan Franzen with its galactic scale and multidimensional romance space.