The Interestings is a coming of age story that just keeps going for several more decades. It starts with a group of teenagers at a summer Arts camp in the seventies – they decide that summer to commit to one another, and name their group (somewhat ironically) The Interestings. Each member of the group has talent, beauty or money- except the narrator of the story, Jules, who has none of these things. Indeed, it is this juxtaposition that what makes The Interestings interesting. In my opinion, more novels need to be written by ordinary, small talent, un-beautiful personalities.
But at the camp, they are on equal footing, all confident of a creative fulfilling future in the arts, with the fame and money to go with it. As they become adults and then move into middle age, The Interestings move up in the art world to varying degrees while Jules has to leave the arts to be able to pay rent. The reader journeys through her disappointment, insidious envy and finally, to her transformational revelation that one “could cease to be obsessed with the idea of being interesting.”
I read this novel the same time I was reading The Great Gatsby and was struck by how similar the refrains are – both are scathing critiques of self-creation (that great American theme), and are essentially, case studies in the destructiveness of selfishness and the poison of misguided desire. Both novels ask the reader to question their ideals of what makes a successful, fulfilling life. Of course, I don’t want to give the impression that The Interestings is all moralizing and no fun. The dialogue is a delight, the characterization compassionate and the plot is a page turner. This is an author who has great control over her material and it is a joy to marvel at her craft. Interesting to say the least.