I did go to an arty summer camp when I was a teenager, and I too was from the suburbs. Everyone else seemed to be from New York City and I found them fascinating, they were so sophisticated but not jaded. I met my closest friend at this summer camp, and at the end of it I was changed. I couldn’t go back to who I was before I went away.
So far, so similar. But The Interestings isn’t just a nostalgic look at one teenage summer, it’s about the moment when you find your people, your cohort. Kate de Goldi describes it as a novel about a group or community anchored by the main narrative of Jules. It’s a novel about how talent does or doesn’t last, the way some things fade over the decades, and the way we shuttle back and forth in time within our thoughts.
But what about Wolitzer’s other novels?
I was interested in exploring what happens when women stop working to be with their families. After you have children, time seems to stand still for a while.
I wanted to write about the aging of women’s desire over time, but when I tried it sounded like a magazine article. Instead I used the idea of this literal spell that is cast over a town, because when you think about it love is like a spell. When you’re in love you want to talk to your lover ten times a day, but when you’re out of love suddenly you don’t think about them at all.
And then there’s Wolitzer’s upcoming novel for young adults, Belzhar, featuring a main character at a boarding school for highly intelligent teens with emotional issues. The title is a play on Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, and the novel asks, “What is the thing that we just can’t bear?”
Wolitzer talked about the angst that teenagers go through, and how there is no hierarchy of pain — the despair teens experience is the worst thing that has happened to them, and should be taken seriously. With that and Sylvia Plath it sounds like a grim read, but judging from the laughter during Wolitzer’s session and the humour inherent in her adult novels, I can’t imagine that it will be anything but enjoyable.
P.S. Just for reference, Wolitzer recommends pairing her books with a nice sauvignon blanc.
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