XOJane Book Club discussion

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The Interestings > Let's start discussing The Interestings!

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message 1: by Goldilocks322 (new)

Goldilocks322 | 4 comments Mod
Hey everyone :) Just made this folder- for the first month, its just going to be a free for all- start a new topic in the folder with any discussions you want, and we can try and streamline this next month by learning what works and what doesn't for this :)

If you think your question may contain spoilers, please include the chapter in the topic heading, to allow commenters to opt out of that topic :)


message 2: by Jen (new)

Jen D. (pghgrrl) | 6 comments I'll fess up to being one of the people who voted to read this book. It seemed, er, interesting, but also I thought it would likely provide the most compelling topics for discussion and story sharing.

That said, I don't know how to begin discussing those things without giving spoilers, since we don't know where everyone is in the book. So, I'll throw out this question: how far along is everyone? Personally, I finished this morning.


message 3: by Lauryn (last edited Jun 01, 2013 02:20PM) (new)

Lauryn (that_dariamom1332) | 6 comments I read the first chapter about a week ago, but thought about re-reading it before today.


message 4: by Haley (new)

Haley Rogers (haleyrogers) | 7 comments I'm about halfway through chapter 7. I started off pretty slow. I need to actually make time for reading again, instead of defaulting to more mindless stuff (or xojane/vain) I'm enjoying it so far, though. I can't relate much, sadly. I don't have friends for life really, and never went to camp or anything. Does anyone else has these experiences where they just "fit" like how Jules found her place at camp?


message 5: by Faye (new)

Faye | 17 comments @Haley: I went to summer camp and hated it. I thought that was one of the less realistic aspects of the book, I know the author was developing the idea of a utopia, this nostalgic place you can never really go back to. But there's always a little more angst in childhood I think. :)I have lifelong friends, but that shit took work. We hated each other for portions of our lives.

I finished reading the book. But I think I can talk about it without ruining it. For me there were two main arcs I wanted to follow:

1. What makes a creative person? How does talent evolve into a paying gig? (personal investment, here)

2. What goes into lifelong relationships? Do you decide who to love, who to partner with for life, what friends you keep? (uh...also personally invested)

There were other things I could talk about, depression, jealousy, money. But these two stuck out. Anyone else?


message 6: by Fem (new)

Fem | 47 comments I just started part three.

Not relating to the characters much, but I guess it's part the time span of this story, and the other cultural differences. (It is weird, because the US and the EU don't seem all that different, compared to the rest of world, but we don't do summer camps, and there are some determining things in this book that just aren't part of my life.)

I like the writing though. Somewhere it says "so many worlds within worlds" and that what's I like, how a lot of things that don't necessarily are relevant to the story (like when they have vietnamese take out, and then it says that this would become their standard take out, untill the place goes bankrupt in 2008 due to the crisis - I swear this is not a spoiler, it really doesn't matter to the story),I like how the author is constantly creating context.


message 7: by Becky (new)

Becky | 6 comments Fem wrote: "I just started part three.

Not relating to the characters much, but I guess it's part the time span of this story, and the other cultural differences. (It is weird, because the US and the EU don't..."


Yeah, at first I didn't like how it jumped back and forth so much, because I kind of wanted to know how everything evolved with Dennis and Jules from the beginning instead of already knowing how it ended up!! It is kinda cool, and different and interesting, though.


message 8: by Fem (new)

Fem | 47 comments It did annoy me at first as well, it didn't seem to have a function (this may be a Dutch thing? In Dutch literature everything has to have a function, it is less so in German and English literature), so it was just making for a complicated read. But now I think it is part of the context creating and I enjoy it now.

(Btw, the only other book I recall now that has all these little stories about side characters and events, is Das Parfüm by Susskind, and there everybody dies, so there is never a trace of the main character).


message 9: by Aja (new)

Aja (etoilee8) | 5 comments @Faye: I finished this last week and I must say I kind of loved it. I knew I would, but it left me feeling insanely human. (Which I don't always get from simply reading a book). All the arches that you point out have crept into various friendships at one point or another.

To Answer Faye's Very Interesting Questions:

1. I think creativity is one part good intuition and one part good luck. Often being in the right place at the right time. Or meeting the right people at the right time and being ballsy enough to follow through. But I also think the book hints at certain characters getting what they deserve because they worked very, very hard for it from the very beginning. I think transferring your creative talent into income takes a lot strength but often I think it also comes down to luck.

2. I didn't go to summer camp but I had a similar experience where I went on vacation to the same place summer after summer for seven years. I essentially grew up with this pack of kids I would see every summer. I don't see everyone as much as I used to since I don't live in London but I still consider some of them my dear friends. The ones you can pick right back up with where you left off every time you see one another. My best friend for life on this coast is a girl I met seven years ago. In my dearest friends I look for a healthy dose of self deprecation mixed in with equal dislike for the same people. But mostly I look for someone where I can share unflattering things about myself and they tell you "now now, it's really not so bad". Or "Oh I've done worse!"


message 10: by Faye (new)

Faye | 17 comments Fem wrote: "It did annoy me at first as well, it didn't seem to have a function..." I think the function of it ends up being to show how relationships evolve over time and how a memory from the past can be triggered while you're doing something else?

The way the author deals with these time changes is something I actually liked a lot--but I didn't really relate to the characters either.


message 11: by Casey (new)

Casey King | 8 comments I finished last night. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it, yet.


message 12: by Jen (new)

Jen D. (pghgrrl) | 6 comments @Faye I'm always interested in hearing how people make being a creative fruitful. I, somewhat like the author it would seem, think that luck (@Aja also said this) and money have something to do with it. Having a talent and working hard also matter immensely, obviously, but there would have to be a serious financial change for me to be able to take that leap into the unknown (I've also not had the best experience with luck). It's not that I'm so attached to "things" it's just that Sallie Mae is both evil and needy, and the idea of messing with that sends me into a state of panic. Success, and what fosters it, is always an intriguing topic to me.

I'm also interested in the topic of lifelong friendships, particularly how to keep them together and meaningful when people's lives progress at such different paces. I've had very mixed experiences with the topic. I've had times when I was much more successful than my friends and other times when I was much less successful (and financially stable) than them. Happiness levels also fluctuate and it can be hard to be a good friend to someone when you are really down (and they are really up) or vice versa. The friendships that have lasted have been more about sheer will and loyalty than a constant feeling of actually being friends, although that's the general outcome in the end.

That said, I didn't relate to the characters either. I very much viewed them from a distance and didn't feel particularly wrapped up in anyone's story. I struggled a bit to finish the book, actually.


message 13: by Fem (new)

Fem | 47 comments It's funny how no one seems to relate to the characters, because throughout the book I thought they were very plausible and very human. They acted like a lot of people do.

But then again, I don't like most real people either.


message 14: by Bessthelandlordsdaughter (last edited Jun 03, 2013 05:54PM) (new)

Bessthelandlordsdaughter | 3 comments I paused at this line:
"A first kiss, Jules had thoughts, was supposed to magnetize you to the other person; the magnet and the metal were meant to fuse and melt on contact into a sizzling brew of silver and red."

This was my adolescent idea of first kisses, as well. Yet my first kiss was extraordinarily embarrassing, and afterward, I couldn't even look him in the eye for 30 minutes. I was mortified.

I like Jules, so far. I'm on chapter five or so, and I like how as a girl, she mentally fought against the idea that youthfulness is wasted on the youth. I was exasperated at her jealousy of Ash and Ethan, but only because I recognized the same jealousy in myself. And I was proud that she was honest with Dennis about what she learned of him.

I will end my hazy stream of thoughts with this question: Which sentence or phrasing spoke to you most or gave you most pause, either for its style of writing or for its connectivity to your own life?


message 15: by Janine (new)

Janine Annett | 12 comments I have not gotten very far yet - only chapter 3 (but I'm a fast reader so I'll catch up).
I can actually relate though, to Jules reading the letter in Chapter 3.
It reminded me a bit of how I once dated a guy who I didn't think much of, then he went on to write an amazing book and date a famous musician and marry a semi-famous actress, and I read about them buying some million-dollar brownstone, and I just thought, Well, I really underestimated him.


message 16: by Faye (new)

Faye | 17 comments @Fem--yeah, I totally agree with you, actually. I think most of the characters are pretty realistic. Especially Jules (@Janine). I think I just wanted the author to go a little deeper with them. For example, I was interested to read how Dennis and Jules dealt with his depression, but having been in this experience myself, it really only scratched the surface of what the couple might go through and how they'd feel.

@Jen--I agree with you about the creativity angle. I tried to follow the career choices of Jules, Ash, Goodman and Ethan in particular to see why/if they succeeded. With Jonah and Cathy it becomes clear pretty quickly why they can't follow a creative career path. But Goodman and Ash are interesting because one is doomed and the other is successful, but they have the same upbringing. Ethan's path, on the other hand, seems clear cut in the beginning but gets more complicated later on.I appreciate the development of his character later on in the book.

Ash is the one character I least understand. Everyone seems drawn to her, she seems successful, but she doesn't seem any better at what she does than Jules is. She doesn't have much of a personality, yet we know everyone likes her.


message 17: by Jen (new)

Jen D. (pghgrrl) | 6 comments @Faye, I also felt like the author could have gone deeper into the characters and situations. The people and situations were very real to life, but I didn't get to explore them with the author/characters at all and it made me feel very far away.

Goodman and Ash did have the same upbringing, and yet they didn't. They had the same household, but different expectations from their parents (and for themselves). I wish we would have seen more of that explored. My sister and I have a similar distance in how we experienced the same house (and, ultimately, in our outcomes). If you asked my sister about it, she'd say I was the favored child. If you asked me, I'd say she was babied and enabled. Meh, who knows.

I'll also echo that I felt ZERO for Ash and wondered why everyone felt so drawn to her. It seemed like she picked people and they were so pleased to be picked that that was the crux of the relationship. I did like Ethan though - he developed the most of all the characters.

@Bess, I'll offer these two quotes that really struck me (neither is a spoiler):

In regards to the talent discussion: "Talent could go in so many directions, depending on the forces that were applied to it, and depending on economics and disposition, and on the most daunting and most determining force of all, luck."

This sentence kind of took my breath away because it is so true when you see a father and child interacting, but also because it wasn't my personal experience with "father" figures": "In a world in which big always crushes tiny, you wanted to cry at the beauty of big being kind and worshipful of and humbled by tiny."


message 18: by Fem (new)

Fem | 47 comments My favorite sentence was:

It was amazing to realize that there were so many worlds within worlds, little subcultures that you might know nothing about, in which someone's art could make them stand out.

I think Ash is really beautiful, but in a non-threatening way? And maybe kind. And maybe popularity is some sort of self-supporting thing? Like, when you're 4, you can be loved by everyone if you just look doll-like. And then, if you're loved by everyone, new people will want to be with you too, because you're popular and maybe it rubs off? And so forth, and so forth.
I don't know, I was really bothered by the thing I can't say without spoilering.


message 19: by Faye (new)

Faye | 17 comments Yes. We'll have to talk about the thing that cannot be named.


message 20: by Casey (new)

Casey King | 8 comments I don't get Ash either! There doesn't seem to be anything interesting about her, or Goodman for that matter, other than good looks. I don't get why Jules worships her. I mean, the same can be said for many "popular" girls in middle school and high school. So maybe that's it.


message 21: by Fem (new)

Fem | 47 comments Faye wrote: "Yes. We'll have to talk about the thing that cannot be named."
Maybe we should make a topic for that? It's a big thing, I think it deserves a topic of its own.


message 22: by Faye (new)

Faye | 17 comments Seconded.


message 23: by Janine (last edited Jun 07, 2013 10:42AM) (new)

Janine Annett | 12 comments I just finished part 1, so I think I can click over to "the thing that cannot be named" thread.
@Goldilocks322 thank you so much for starting this group!!!


message 24: by Fem (new)

Fem | 47 comments If you haven't already, you might prefer to wait, I think everyone there has finished the book, and we do discuss things that only come up at the end.


message 25: by Janine (new)

Janine Annett | 12 comments I caught up over the weekend and I'm finished now, so no chance of spoilers!


message 26: by Morgan (new)

Morgan Schulman | 10 comments Faye wrote: "@Haley: I went to summer camp and hated it. I thought that was one of the less realistic aspects of the book, I know the author was developing the idea of a utopia, this nostalgic place you can nev..."

Just started yesterday, but yeah, this was not my summer camp experience, which was basically just junior high with tanning oil.


message 27: by Faye (new)

Faye | 17 comments Morgan wrote: "Faye wrote: "@Haley: I went to summer camp and hated it. I thought that was one of the less realistic aspects of the book, I know the author was developing the idea of a utopia, this nostalgic plac..."
Haha! Exactly. With the possibility of a hierarchy shift: new place, new people.


message 28: by nine (new)

nine I must confess I am quitting this book (after prompting from the xo open thread) because I just can't find anything enjoyable about this plot or the characters. Perhaps the narrator is my problem? I dunno. I've been struggling to read this for the past 2 weeks so I could partake in this book club but instead I found myself avoiding the site. LOL! Ridiculous, I know.

ANYWAY: When do we choose the next book? Is this book of the month style, or what is the flow supposed to be here?


message 29: by Fem (new)

Fem | 47 comments In the summer reading topic, we're gonna start Valley of the Dolls next week.


message 30: by nine (new)

nine Thanks @fem for the update. I'll be picking up Valley of the Dolls soon.


message 31: by Janine (new)

Janine Annett | 12 comments Here is one other thing I've been thinking about after finishing The Interestings. All of the main characters aspire to be "artists" in some form, and I think many of them have this idea of artists as being superior to non-artists, and some I believe subscribe to the notion of artists as tortured souls. Yet most of them really have sheltered, upper-class lives (although Ethan, it could be argued, created his art in response to his parents' fighting/divorce). Yet Dennis, who is portrayed in the book as being "uncomplicated" and without any artistic aspirations, is the one who suffers from a terrible depression; and Jonah, who did experience something traumatic, rejects art almost entirely up until the end of the book. Anyone else have any thoughts on this?


message 32: by Faye (new)

Faye | 17 comments @J.: I understand quitting it. I really do.

@Janine: Yeah, I was thinking about some of these things. I think, in some ways, financial freedom is essential to creating--'A Room of One's Own' style. But then some sort of hardship is really necessary to creating something substantial or complex...if that makes sense?


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