The thing that’s interesting about The Interestings (yeah, I went there) is how uninteresting (I know, I’ll stop soon) the characters truly are. And that’s the point.
The book follows a group of teenagers at an arts-focused summer camp from their meeting to middle age. There is the magnetic brother and sister duo of Goodman and Ash, one of whom is bad and disappointing while the other is good and perfect. There is Ethan, the talented, socially conscious animator, Jules, who is the funny one in the way that only that group of friends can appreciate, Jonah, the damaged son of a folk singer, and Cathy, the dancer cursed with an un-dancer-like body.
The book touches on different aspects of the group’s lives–a rape accusation that rips the group down to four, the loss of loved ones, marriage, depression, babies, successes, failures, the confrontation of an abuser–and shows the reader how average life truly is. And that’s what really makes life so interesting is these mundane small things that virtually everyone eventually experiences.
“And didn’t it always go like that–body parts not quite lining up the way you wanted them to, all of it a little bit off, as if the world itself were an animated sequence of longing and envy and self-hatred and grandiosity and failure and success, a strange and endless cartoon loop that you couldn’t stop watching, because, despite all you knew by now, it was still so interesting.”
While the majority of us won’t ever experience the riches and success that Ethan’s talent brings him, we can all relate to Jules and Jonah falling into professions that they are good at and enjoy, but aren’t their hearts’ passion. Who can’t relate to sometimes feeling jealous at a friend’s success the way Jules does about Ethan and Ash’s; realizing that you will never have the kind of relationship you dreamt of with your soul mate that Ethan eventually comes to realize of Jules? Who hasn’t eventually come to the understanding that that thing that you’ve clung to, that you’ve based your entire self on, that thing that is supposed to make you special and endear you to the world is really not all that special or interesting at all–coming to the realization that yes, you actually might be average.
This is the thing we watch Jules struggle with. While Ash finds success as a feminist director and her husband Ethan becomes an animation phenomenon with his Simpsons-like Figland series, Jules continues to search for that feeling she first felt when she was at Spirit-in-the-Woods camp. But even returning to the place she idealized doesn’t have the desired effect on Jules. She’s slow to accept it, but eventually Jules finally comes to accept that perhaps this is what life is. You work your whole life to creating this image of uniqueness and specialness and you long to be accepted for this person you wish to be, and maybe you truly are that person, but at the end of the day you’re only really interesting to yourself and maybe, if you’re lucky, those who love you and that’s when you stop striving for it and “[you] could cease to be obsessed with the idea of being interesting.”
And perhaps, that’s when it actually happens. Once you stop caring about being interesting, you finally are.