Excerpt from The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Interestings

by Meg Wolitzer

The Interestings
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2013, 480 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2014, 544 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elizabeth Whitmore Funk

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No one really had money, and no one ever seemed to think much about not having money. Warren Jacobson had worked in human resources at Clelland Aerospace; Julie had never understood exactly what his job entailed, but she knew that the pay wasn't enough to allow the family to build and maintain a pool in their small backyard. Yet when she was suddenly offered a chance to go away to this camp in the summer, her mother insisted she accept. "Someone should have a little fun in this family," said Lois Jacobson, a new, shaky widow at age forty- one. "It's been a while."

Tonight, in Boys' Teepee 3, Ethan Figman seemed as confident as he'd been on the lawn that first day. Confident, but also probably conscious of his own ugliness, which would never go away over the whole of his life. On the surface of the record album, Ethan began rolling joints with efficiency. It was his job, he'd said, and he clearly liked having something to do with his fingers when there was no pen or pencil held between them. He was an animator, and he spent hours drawing his short animated films and filling the pages of the little spiral notebooks that always bulged from his back pocket. Now he took tender care with the tiny shovelfuls of grain and twig and bud.

"Figman, increase the velocity; the natives are restless," said Jonah Bay. Julie knew almost nothing yet, but she did know that Jonah, a good- looking boy with blue- black hair that fell to his shoulders, and a leather string around his neck, was the son of the folksinger Susannah Bay. For a long time, his famous mother would be Jonah's primary identifying characteristic. He had taken to indiscriminately using the expression "the natives are restless," although this time it did make partial sense. Everyone here was restless, though none of them were native to this place.

That night in July, Nixon was still over a month away from being lifted off the White House lawn like a rotten piece of outdoor furniture. Across from Ethan, Jonah Bay sat with his steel- stringed guitar, wedged between Julie Jacobson and Cathy Kiplinger, a girl who moved and stretched all day in the dance studio. Cathy was big and blond and far more womanly than most girls could be comfortable with at age fifteen. Also she was "way too emotionally demanding," as someone bluntly later observed. She was the kind of girl who boys never left alone; they were relentless in their automatic pursuit of her. Sometimes the outline of her nipples would appear through the fabric of a leotard like buttons on a sofa cushion, and they would need to be ignored by everyone, the way nipples often needed to be ignored in their vicissitudes.

Up above them all, on a top bunk, sprawled Goodman Wolf, six feet tall, sun sensitive, big kneed, and hypermasculine in khaki shorts and buffalo sandals. If this group had a leader, he was it. Literally, now, they had to look up to him. Two other boys who actually lived in this teepee had been politely but emphatically asked to go get lost for the night. Goodman wanted to be an architect, Julie had heard, but he never spent time figuring out how buildings stayed up, how suspension bridges withstood the weight of cars. Physically he was not quite as spectacular as his sister, for his good looks were a little muddied by troubled, stubbled skin. But despite his imperfections and his general air of laziness, he was a huge and influential presence here. The previous summer, in the middle of Waiting for Godot, Goodman had climbed into the lighting booth and plunged the stage into darkness for a full three minutes just to see what would happen—who would scream, who would laugh, how much trouble he'd get into. Sitting in the dark, more than one girl secretly imagined Goodman lying on top of her. He would be so big, like a lumberjack trying to fuck a girl— or, no, more like a tree trying to fuck a girl.

Much later, people who'd been at camp with him agreed that it made sense that Goodman Wolf was the one whose life had such an alarming trajectory. Of course they were surprised, they said—though not, they made sure to qualify, all that surprised.

Excerpted from The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. Copyright © 2013 by Meg Wolitzer. Excerpted by permission of Riverhead Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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