Monday, October 7, 2013

The Interestings

We had a great meeting Chez Jefe last week, getting together over a mega cheese and charcuterie platter, duck liver and all, followed by Prune Restaurant's lamb-chuck burgers with parsley butter on English muffins, and finally Sweet Rose Creamery ice cream sandwiches. Like bears hoarding calories in preparation for winter hibernation.

The Only Cheeseburger Recipe You'll Ever Need

The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer, may or may not have deserved its title. 

The book scored a respectable 7.6, partially the result of a 10 dragged down by a few 6's. OK, admittedly the 10 came from a once-every-few-years El Jefe rave review, and disappointingly the Doctor broke ranks. So much for loyalty en la familia. Starting with the praise: the book was exceptionally well written and had excellent character development, a la Jeffrey Eugenides (who wrote the book jacket quote). There was a little of everything in this story-- some drama, primarily around Goodman's alleged rape of "Cathy Kiplinger" and his subsequent flight to Iceland, a bit of humor, a bit of romance, and plentiful references to current or recent historical events, such as the AIDS epidemic, the "Moonies" cult and the obvious reference in Ethan's character to Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons. Also, the sheer breadth of this story was impressive, in that it deeply explored social, emotional and career-related themes involving characters with widely varied personalities and over a long period of time, from the early teen years through adulthood. Finally, for at least one of us the book resonated on a personal level with reaching an age where you look both backwards and forwards at the trajectory of your life, partially with nostalgia and partially with adult objectivity, reassessing long-held perceptions of friends and family in light of the way they, or you, have changed. 

And then, of course, the irony-- that these fabulous youngsters riding atop the world, profoundly impressed by their own ideas and opportunities, poised for greatness and yearning to conquer New York, were at the end of the day not all that interesting. While this undoubtedly was part of the book's message, and in fact the author expressly acknowledged it on the last page, it didn't necessarily make for good reading according to several in our group. Boring, self-indulgent, young, lacking in forward trajectory. The characters were stereotypical (in fact, several people disliked Jules, the main character, finding her weak and annoying), certain of the writing conventions were obvious and the whole thing was just, well, uninteresting. 

Our next meeting is on Tuesday, November 5. The Doctor is hosting (in her new (temporary) house!), the Highlander is on apps and the Foxx on dessert. Having read ahead, El Jefe can guarantee that the November book, A Hundred Summers, will be a fun and pulpy change of pace. Highlander, don't miss this one, it's right up your alley!

 Ethan... fo' sho'

Mass wedding performed by the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity under Rev. Sun Myung Moon

1980s. We have come a long way.