Meg Wolitzer read from “The Interestings,” her New York Times best-selling novel, on Oct. 6 at the LeFrak Concert Hall as part of the Evening Readings series.
“The Interestings” is about a girl named Jules and a group of teenagers that become best friends at a summer camp for the arts in 1974. Aside from Jules, who aspires to be an actor, there is Jonah, a musician; Ethan, an animator; Cathy, a dancer; Goodman, a boy Jules likes and goes down the wrong path with; and Ash, Goodman’s sister.
It follows these friends for the next four decades as their bonds stay the same, but everything else in their lives change. Most of them change professions, like Jonah who becomes an engineer. Ethan and Ash become successful later in their lives with art.
Wolitzer’s best-selling novel focuses on the fact that not everyone can sustain what made him or her so special in adolescence throughout their adult life. It is about how art, power, money, friendship and success can change over the course of a lifetime.
Wolitzer is also the author of other novels such as “The Uncoupling,” “The Ten-Year Nap,” “The Position,” and “The Wife.”
The evening commenced with Joseph Cuomo, the founding director of the Evening Readings, sharing a synopsis of the novel at the podium and praising Wolitzer’s writing.
“My favorite thing about Wolitzer’s writing is its great warmth, heart, humor and deep understanding of its characters,” Cuomo said.
Afterward, the witty and entertaining Wolitzer was introduced and read a concentrated version of chapter one of “The Interestings.” She also sang a little song written in chapter one.
Wolitzer said the title of her book dealt with adolescence angst.
“The title is definitely ironic, I was trying to find the kind of thing teenagers, when they’re at their most pretentious state, say even though they are being jokey,” Wolitzer said. “There’s some part of them that think they’re the most interesting people who lived.”
Leonard Lopate, the host, and Wolitzer then discussed the length of this novel, almost 500 pages, and the significance of it.
“I wanted to write a long novel that you want to come back to at the end of every day. For me, that’s my favorite thing. Could that be something people would still want to read even now? I refuse to live in a world in which that can’t be true,” Wolitzer said.
Lopate asked Wolitzer if she is surprised how life changes over time as seen in “The Interestings” with Jules and her friends over four decades. She agreed and referred to British filmmaker Michael Apted and his “Up Series,” which documents the life of 14 children from age seven in the United Kingdom.
“I was very struck by Apted’s ‘Up’ films,” Wolitzer said. “I was struck by what happens to people and talent over time.”
Lopate then explained how the “Up” films are about going back to people every seven years and that turn out very different than initially imagined.
Furthermore, Lopate asked if the novel was about class and how class differences play out when people grow up.
“The American novel is often a novel about class. I think for me, I became more aware of class but I didn’t set out to write about it. I’ll say this: the successful Ethan and Ash become gazillionaires and Jules and her husband are a social worker and an ultrasound technician. The two couples are at different levels and it was a good way for me to explore class,” Wolitzer said.
The next QC Evening Reading will be on Oct. 27 with Mary Gaitskill. Admission to the event is $20, but free for those with a CUNY student ID.
For more information on the Evening Readings series, visit www.qcreadings.org.