Tuesday, September 16, 2014

There's No Place Like...Summer Camp

Dear Lake Geneva Friends & Cohorts in Artsy Crime at Arts World in Stevens Point, Wisconsin,

Please read Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings, if you haven't already. This epic tale spans four decades, weaving back and forth in time to dissect the lives of six friends who meet at a summer arts camp in 1974. Wolitzer lovingly, insightfully probes their minds and hearts with depth, humor, insight, sadness, and reflection; she explores the human condition so purely, honestly, rawly that you're left gasping and crying and laughing, wondering -- almost uncomfortably -- why some authors aren't willing to "go there" with the things we all really think about, covet, love, resent, regret, hope for. Wolitzer examines aging, sex, making it in the world of the arts, socioeconomic dynamics, abuse, AIDS, sexual orientation, family dysfunction, divorce, sibling relationships, clinical depression, the world of therapy, secrets, marriage, raising children, paying bills, death, forgiveness, and staying connected to those from our formative years who drift away from us, then drift back, and how along the way we all stumble in the waves or get sifted like sand through others' memories as they transform us into their versions of us. Wolitzer writes in third person, sometimes spending large chunks of time with one character -- Jules Jacobson, in particular -- and other times moving more quickly amongst everyone. I loved when the omniscience got blasted away so her focus could be excruciatingly held with one character, as if they were under the finest of microscopes.

Sadly, Meg Wolitzer wasn't on my radar before The Interestings. I have to say, I don't think I'd even heard of her. But then I read a review, in Entertainment Weekly, I believe, and I said to myself, "That sounds right up my alley, and I wonder if I'll think about Arts World and about Lake Geneva, and how this 37-year-old Nathan is both connected to teenage Nathan and is someone else altogether, and how I'm a million things in-between, and how I'm a ghost to others, and some others are ghosts to me, and how do I live on in their memories and in the present and how will I live on in their futures?" I was right. This is one of those books where I couldn't wait to get home, or take a lunch break, or drink my coffee in the morning before writing, so I could steal just a few more pages. And now I'm finished, and I'm both satiated and sad that the journey is done.

Meg Wolitzer, I'm onto you. I'm a lifelong fan now.


p.s. By the way, I still have my Oliver! T-shirt from when my brothers and I "starred" as Fagin's pickpockets and workhouse boys in a Lake Geneva production in the summer after seventh grade. I also still have my two Arts World T-shirts, one purple and one blue. What healing times and experiences these were! These times, and so, so many others. I wear these three shirts often. They've weathered time and storms. Haven't we all?

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Passage of the Day

"...and she thought, people shouldn't ever look closely at one another, they're not like pictures. There was not any sure way to know, from the eyes of her aunt or the mouth of her aunt or the hair or the eyebrows or the lines in the face of her aunt, whether the expression stated by her aunt's face was a faithful delineation of fear or anxiety or expectancy; it might be a kind of ecstacy, or it might be wholly false, and not at all the expression corresponding to Aunt Morgen's thoughts."

~ from Shirley Jackson's The Bird's Nest