Tag Archives: meg wolitzer

Interested in the Interestings

The InterestingsI’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately. My lack of interest in The Thin Place kept me from reading very often and now I find myself well behind in the number of books I’ve read year-to-date compared to previous years. But it’s not all about the numbers and now I’m ready to reclaim my reading enthusiasm.

Well, sort of.

At the moment I’m catching up and reading a few books for work. So far, I’m enjoying the one I’m in the middle of now so things are looking up.

On the purely for pleasure side of things, though, I’ve found a new addition to my TBR list. And it’s an interesting one… The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.

If the name Meg Wolitzer rings a bell, it could be because her book The Ten Year Nap is on my mom’s list and I went to one of her readings at Barnes and Noble awhile ago. While I wasn’t super excited about The Ten Year Nap, I never blamed that on the author, just that it seemed to target a different, slightly older demographic. I did like her writing. Now, with The Interestings, I think I’ve found a Wolitzer book I would really enjoy. Here’s the (short) description:

The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed. In The Interestings, Wolitzer follows these characters from the height of youth through middle age, as their talents, fortunes, and degrees of satisfaction diverge.

I mean, I love camp! Plus, this book seems like it would appeal to all age groups.  It helps that I’ve been reading rave reviews on this one everywhere (Entertainment Weekly, I’m looking at you). Also, I’m a sucker for the pretty cover. All good things.

Hopefully, I’ll get to The Interestings this summer when a good amount of travel will probably mean a good amount of reading time.

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A Night With Meg Wolitzer, Mary Gordon, and Reading With Robin

Meg WolitzerIf you’ll remember, back in December, I was on a radio show called Reading With Robin. Ever since, I’ve stayed in touch with the host Robin Kall and you can often find her commenting here. We’d spoken of meeting and the day finally came that she was in New York. So since we are both quite book-ish, Robin invited me to join her at a Barnes and Noble event for authors Meg Wolitzer and Mary Gordon last night.

Each author read from their most recent book: Gordon’s The Love of My Youth and Wolitzer’s The Uncoupling. If Meg Wolitzer’s name sounds familiar, it’s probably because you are a dedicated reader of Reading For Robin (I’m pretty sure I’ve used this line before). Wolitzer also wrote The Ten Year Nap, which is on my mom’s list and I read last April. While I thought The Ten Year Nap was perfectly good, I could tell I was not its target demographic. However, The Uncoupling appeals to me more and no, not just because it focuses on sex. This new novel is about a spell that comes over a town, where the high school is putting on the play Lysistrata, causing the women to stop wanting to have sex with the men in their lives.

Wolitzer read a funny passage from the book and her humor carried over into the Q and A session. She’s an author I could be friends with. And yes, as she said during the presentation too, I did just end that sentence with a preposition.

Anyway, all in all it was a lovely literary evening of meeting new people, meeting people who I knew only through email and radio, and meeting (or at least seeing) people who I knew only through books.

A Review of The Ten Year Nap

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Meg Wolitzer’s The Ten Year Nap isn’t really aimed at me. As a twentysomething living and working in Manhattan, spending time with my friends and boyfriend, and frequenting fun bars and restaurants in the city, I’m more the “before” of this story.

The four women at the heart of this story, also in New York, were all promising young women with careers ahead of them when they decided to sacrifice that life for the role of stay-at-home mom. Now, ten years later, they are examining their choices as their kids become more independent and their lives begin to feel a little less satisfying. It’s a story of marriage, motherhood and personal fulfillment. One day I expect to face the same choices and feelings. I’m just not there yet.

In the meantime, I thought the perspectives were interesting. Not only did the story feature the main women, but it also offered vignettes of other women from earlier times. All of the women’s mother’s stories were included as well as chapters that focused on such powerful women as Margaret Thatcher and Nadia Comaneci. It really added to the book to have these additions, giving a nice layered look at womanhood.

The story itself doesn’t move all that quickly, delving more into the character’s thoughts and feelings than actual developments. In some ways, this is good in that you get full portraits of the characters. However, I would have preferred a little more advancement in the plot.

Overall, the book was well-written with insightful viewpoints. It is just perhaps something I should reread in ten or twenty years. I enjoyed it now, but I think I would get more from it then.

A Quote Worth Quoting: The Ten Year Nap

I’m not a person who underlines phrases that speak to me in books. I’m not one who even thinks that phrases speak to me in books. But during this project, I’m going to try and be that kind of person. I think it will add something to the discussions about the books and maybe even give you all a little insight into who I am.

Last night, I stayed up late to finish The Ten Year Nap. I am happy to report that I did finish it, but I was too tired to form a coherent opinion or write an insightful review for today, so stayed tune for that. In the meantime, I will offer you a quote, something I haven’t done for a little while.

This particular passage comes from the musings of Jill, one of the main characters in the book, who’s mother killed herself when Jill was in high school. Now Jill is married with an adopted daughter and has recently moved to the suburbs, a change she is not particularly happy about. When her husband brings up her lack of friends in this new neighborhood and Jill’s general unhappiness of late, the author Meg Wolitzer writes:

“It was the primary difference, Jill Hamlin thought from time to time, between someone whose mother had killed herself and someone whose mother had not. But this distinction, like so many others, had been lost. Your personal history of pain, by the time you reached the age of forty, was supposed to have been folded thoroughly into the batter of the self, so that you barely needed to acknowledge it anymore.”

(I do apologize that most of the quotes I pick vary on a similar theme. You’ll have to understand, it’s this similar theme that tends to be on the brain and the books I read seem to highlight it so well.)

Anyway, I find Jill’s thoughts interesting. When a tragedy is still so recent and fresh, it’s hard to imagine what it will be like down the road. Does it get folded thoroughly into the batter of the self? That hardly seems likely. It may no longer be recent or fresh, but I can’t imagine it ever becomes just another part of you. But I guess that’s one of those things that only time will tell.

It’s War… Mommy Wars

So I didn’t have a lot of time to write this post, but I did want to share a little about The Ten Year Nap so far. It seems that central to the plot is the comparison between working moms and stay-at-home moms. Not exactly a major conflict in my life just yet, but interesting nonetheless.

The book centers around women who gave up their high-powered careers to take care of their families only to “wake up” ten years later and reflect on what’s become of their lives. Some women in the novel stopped working and revolve their days around their families, others try to make up for not working with other activities, some work and seem frazzled when it comes to handling everything, and then there are the rare few who manage to work, take care of the kids and do it all seamlessly and glamorously. In the real world, the question of which of these types of women are “right” or “better” makes up the so-called “mommy wars.” So who is right or better?

In an interview with Salon back in 2008, Wolitzer tries to stay neutral:

You claim not to be taking sides in the mommy wars …

Oh no, I would never.

But is she really Switzerland?

But I can’t help but feel that a book that begins with the sentence, “All around the country, women were waking up,” is a pretty broad blow against those who have opted out.

Oh, you found me out! When I started writing “The Ten-Year Nap,” I was judgmental of women I had known and liked, who had given up careers when their kids were born, and somehow 10 years had gone by and they weren’t sure what they were doing. I thought to myself, “Why aren’t they driven? Why aren’t they guided by some singular purpose?”

But as I wrote and the characters became more complex, I thought, “Who am I to say?” I’m not writing a polemic. I really want to show what it’s like for women who stop working. And that hasn’t been done, as far as I could see, in fiction.

I’ll have to read more to see just how truthful she is being. At this stage in my life, I’m not sure where I stand yet but I’ve found it somewhat entertaining to read about so far. Any thoughts?

Next Up: The Ten Year Nap

You’ve probably all spent days wondering, “Where’s the ‘Next Up’ post?” That’s supposed to come after the review posts. I know you’ve all been anxious about my next selection. The delay is due to the fact that I was reading a non-Robin’s List book and so hadn’t picked a new list book yet. But don’t you worry – I finished that book quickly and have returned with my next choice from the list: The Ten Year Nap.

This is actually the book I was buying when I thought of the idea for Reading for Robin. My dad, brother and I were in Barnes and Noble and I remembered that this book was on my mom’s list. A few other books on her list popped out at me while I was browsing too. That’s when it occurred to me that I should make my way through the whole list and blog about it too. So my first step was to buy a book. And that brings me to The Ten Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer.

Check out Barnes and Noble’s description of the book:

From the bestselling author of The Wife and The Position, a feverishly smart novel about female ambition, money, class, motherhood, and marriage-and what happens in one community when a group of educated women chooses not to work.

For a group of four New York friends, the past decade has been largely defined by marriage and motherhood. Educated and reared to believe that they would conquer the world, they then left jobs as corporate lawyers, investment bankers, and film scouts to stay home with their babies. What was meant to be a temporary leave of absence has lasted a decade. Now, at age forty, with the halcyon days of young motherhood behind them and without professions to define them, Amy, Jill, Roberta, and Karen face a life that is not what they were brought up to expect but seems to be the one they have chosen.

But when Amy gets to know a charismatic and successful working mother of three who appears to have fulfilled the classic women’s dream of having it all-work, love, family-without having to give anything up, a lifetime’s worth of concerns, both practical and existential, opens up. As Amy’s obsession with this woman’s bustling life grows, it forces the four friends to confront the choices they’ve made in opting out of their careers-until a series of startling events shatters the peace and, for some of them, changes the landscape entirely.

Written in Meg Wolitzer’s inimitable, glittering style, The Ten-Year Nap is wickedly observant, knowing, provocative, surprising, and always entertaining, as it explores the lives of these women with candor, wit, and generosity.

This may be yet another book aimed more at my mom’s demographic than mine, but I am interested nonetheless. Plus, it will be a nice change of pace to be reading a paperback instead of an e-book. I hope I remember how to turn a real page!