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March 2, 2014

“The Interestings”

by Anne Paddock

From this day forward, because we are clearly the most interesting people who ever lived, because we are just so fucking compelling, our brains swollen with intellectual thoughts, let us be known as The Interestings. And let everyone who meets us fall down dead in our path from just how fucking interesting we are.

Written by Meg Wolitzer, The Interestings is about six teenagers who come together at Spirit-in-the-Woods – a performing and visual arts camp (reminiscent of French Woods in upstate New York) in Massachusetts in the summer of 1974.

There is Julie “Jules” Jacobson, a gangly 15-year old teenager with permed hair who always “felt all wrong” despite her quick wit and ability to make everyone laugh; Ethan Figman, a chubby and physically unattractive but talented cartoonist who invited Jules into the summer group; Ash Wolf, a waifish, big-hearted beauty with straight long hair and a talent for writing plays; Goodman Wolf, a tall, good-looking, testosterone-driven guy obsessed with architecture in its finality but not the process; Jonah Bay, an unusually good-looking musician whose primary identifying characteristic is his famous folk singer mother, Susannah Bay, and Cathy Kiplinger, a smart, full-figured blond with dancing aspirations and a strong sense of self – six very different but talented teens who shared a love of the arts and each other.

UnknownThere are people who peak in high school; there are those who blaze a trail for themselves, and still others who lead a satisfying life and don’t keep score – and we see this played out in The Interestings. The group of six struggle through high school and young adulthood wearing Huk-a-Poo blouses, celebrating themselves over Chicken Marbella, the prune and olive marinated chicken dish of the 1980’s that promised more than it delivered in flavor by The Silver Palate cookbook, while trying to figure out if they really are as talented and special as they had been told. For anyone who came of age in the mid-1970’s and 1980’s, when singers like Joan Baez were singing about political and social activism while the right was more concerned with corporate profits, the book will seem like a walk down memory lane.

Spanning 37 years, The Interestings tells the life stories of a group of friends from age 15-52, although the primary focus of the book is on Ethan Figman, who went on to create one of the most successful animated television shows – FigWorld – which rings of South Park; and Jules Jacobson who aspired to be a comedic actress but instead became a therapist. These two characters are the glue of the group that represented the world of art and artistic expression in the summer of ’74 and what became a world of success and disappointment in 2012.

…meeting in childhood can seem like it’s the best thing – everyone’s equal, and you form bonds based only on how much you like each other. But later on, having met in childhood can turn out to have been the worst thing, because you and your friends might have nothing to say to each other anymore, except “Wasn’t it funny that time in tenth grade when you parents came home and we were so wasted.” If you didn’t feel sentimental about the past, you wouldn’t keep it up.

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