Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings: A Review

The most interesting thing about The Interestings is how addicted the author is to every single trite and boring cliche known to humanity. The fascination of the book, to me, resided in trying to guess if there was going to be an authorial wink, signaling that Wolitzer knew that these cliches were stupid and possibly even offensive to some people. I missed any indication that she was aware of what she was doing.

Here are some of the cliches that organize the novel’s plot:

1. Jews are brilliant at making money. They make tons of it. And they help each other in secret ways to make money.

2. Nobody but Jews can make money.

3. Even half-Jews are incapable of making money. But they can always try to attach themselves to money-making Jews and leech off them.

4. Jews can’t have good marriages because they are too fucked up by their parents.

5. It’s a woman’s lot to bear in cheerful silence any ridiculous antic that her husband might throw and any form of torture he might subject her to for decades. But it’s not a husband’s role to do anything like this for his wife.

6. Few things in life are worse than having an autistic child because those autistics are just useless and icky.

7. Dancers of any age, gender or race are extremely sexual in a way that non-dancers can’t hope to be.

8. Hippies are horrible parents and immoral drug addicts.

9. Everybody wants to be an artist. But you are only a real artist when you make tons of money. But you won’t manage to make tons of money because. . . see cliches 1 and 2.

I also have positive things to say about the book but they will have to wait until the next post.

A College Degree Does Not Lead to a Better Job

My sister is coming to give a talk to my students about their career prospects. She will tell them that a college degree does NOT lead to a better job or a higher salary.

Instead, it leads to a better career. Faster promotion, greater lifetime earnings, better prospects. And this is something that recent graduates really need to know: people with college degrees should start thinking of their lives in terms of fashioning a career, not just finding a job.

College graduates will probably find the same job and get the same starting salary as people who didn’t go to college. However, college grads will have a completely different life strategy which will be about life-long projects, not solving a temporary need of the moment. They will not get stuck in those first jobs for nearly as long. And that’s the whole point: not being a helpless toy of forces beyond your comprehension.

OK, maybe I also need to give a talk. Of the motivational kind, possibly.