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The Interestings > The thing that cannot be named [SPOILER ALERT]

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message 1: by Fem (new)

Fem | 47 comments So, here it is, a topic about the thing that cannot be named (but maybe there are more?):

I was really, really bothered by how everybody supported Goodman's side of the story, and not Cathy's. Even when Jules visited her, and she saw the signs of distress, she only doubted Goodman for a moment. And he fled the country, seriously, it must have been known then that rape conviction rates are really low, so in my mind, fleeing does hint towards his guilt.

It makes Ethan and Dennis the most likeable characters, for not supporting Goodman.


message 2: by Jen (new)

Jen D. (pghgrrl) | 6 comments @Fem, thanks for starting the spoiler chat!

All around yes. Ugh. God. I was in the Peace Corps and something similar happened - a friend of mine was raped by another volunteer. You'd think that a group like that would be really progressive about things, but people IMMEDIATELY took his side and said that she misinterpreted, wanted attention, was jealous of his WIFE, etc. I don't talk to most people from PC for that reason. I came out hard and fast with my support and cut off all contact to people who doubted. No. Patience. For. Bullshit.

My point is that people really do this in real life.

Plus, back to the book, Goodman fucking creeped me out. Like when he showed up at the damn camp - WTF?! Everything about what he said and did said "I get what I want and I know you want it too."

Good on Ethan especially for talking to Cathy right away and seeing her side of it. I liked him a lot as a character and liked that even though he had great success, he still struggled professionally and personally. That's how it works - you aren't ever "done" or perfect.

The other spoiler topic I'd like to talk about is the Jules and Ethan relationship. Did he love her and Ash? Pine for Jules? Was her marriage comfort or genuine love for Dennis? I felt like she was loyal to Dennis (minus the dinner in the Animation Shed), but she seemed kind of tepid about him overall. I think there was a sentence about not marrying your soulmate or something. I didn't feel for either marriage, but I'm not married so I don't want to draw conclusions.

What other topics are we missing here?


message 3: by Casey (new)

Casey King | 8 comments I was really confused, too, that everyone took Goodman's side. This is another way Ash is an unrealistic character to me. Even as an adult, she never questioned it?

As far as the Ethan/Jules thing, I think it's pretty clear that Jules wasn't ever interested in him like that. I do find it a bit odd that he continued to pine for her, even as they grew up.

It was hard for me to sustain my disbelief in some parts of this book because of things like that. Ethan, Dennis, even Goodman seem like real people. But the women in this book seem to be so, I don't know, wimpy. Jules acts like a teenager the whole time. I get that that's her "thing" connecting with teenagers. And her encounter with Goodman at the camp seems like it would have been a really good time for her to be like, oh yeah, I'm an adult, you don't have any power over me, you've made terrible life decisions, and you're creepy. But she doesn't. Dennis completely handles it.

It must have been difficult for Dennis to be around three (and sometimes four, with Jonah) who's lives basically begin and end with a summer camp they went to as teenagers.


message 4: by Fem (new)

Fem | 47 comments Casey wrote: "I was really confused, too, that everyone took Goodman's side. This is another way Ash is an unrealistic character to me. Even as an adult, she never questioned it?"
But it goes for both the female characters that their professional life doesn't seem to impact their personal life and personal opinions.
Jules is a therapist, but the one who gets Dennis the right treatment is Ethan - sure, Jules can't perscribe, but she should read about the developments in the field, shouldn't she? And when Ash's son is diagnosed, Jules is there in lieu of Ethan, but again, it's like Ash knows more about this than Jules does. At the same time, she is consistently described as a popular therapist, so she must know her shit.
Same with Ash, who is a feminist, and carries that out in her work, but when something in her life happens that is hugely impacted by the patriarchy, she discards it as such, and won't even contemplate the possibility.
For me, who I am as a professional is a manifestation of who I am as a private person, I don't close the door at my workplace and stop reading the financial times. But I absolutely love my work, I don't think Jules does, and it's vague with Ash.

I was rather amazed about the Ethan-Jules thing too. It's pretty clear she feels no physical attraction to him whatsoever. Somewhere in the beginning of the book there is something about how Ethan could live without Jules, but not without Ash, because she's so freaking beautiful or something, and then when he has Ash, he keeps feeling some sort of remorse or Heimweh for what could have been. It's weird, and it contradicts that Ash is this super person in every way.

For the majority of the book I thought that this book was about Jules, and how she perceived the relationships from summer camp. But the way the book ended and when it ended made me think it was about Ethan the whole time, but from the perspective of Jules. Maybe Jules acts like a representation of the ordinary, not creative, not overly successful people who should be in awe of the Ethans of this world? Or not in awe.


message 5: by Faye (last edited Jun 05, 2013 12:03PM) (new)

Faye | 17 comments Fem wrote: "Jules is a therapist, but the one who gets Dennis the right treatment is Ethan -And when Ash's son is diagnosed, Jules is there in lieu of Ethan, but again, it's like Ash knows more about this than Jules does...Same with Ash, who is a feminist, and carries that out in her work, but when something in her life happens that is hugely impacted by the patriarchy, she discards it as such "

Yes to all of this. I understand why Ash would want to ACT like she has no doubt about Goodman because that could be hard to face. But it seems like there should be some point in the story where she reveals she has some doubts, even if it is through the narration and not to Jules.

Regarding Jules's role as a therapist, there is a part where she admits that she might not be doing the greatest job and she is constantly reflecting on how her clients don't progress.

I think the reason Jules isn't REALLY successful--at acting, at social work, as a camp director--is because she doesn't try very hard. She quits pretty easily and her decisions to move from career to career seem to be taken pretty lightly.

As far as the Goodman/Cathy rape thing...the only thing I can really appreciate about that is that it is an interesting plot point to acknowledge that consent can be murky territory. But ultimately, given the rest of their character depictions, I think he totally did it. Fleeing implies guilt. Not coming back does, too. Goodman's character is portrayed as not progressing at all and he remains a total douche to the end. Cathy, on the other hand, is portrayed as someone who follows through to do what's right for the 911 victims and is able to take the heat of accusations.

I think the Wolf parents' approach to parenting helped Ash and hurt Goodman. There's a scene where their apartment is described as really plush and cushiony, it says the Wolfs would make sure if their kids fell, they would be bouyed up (or something). And the rape is an instance where this was a bad move. His parents should have made him accountable, but they probably secretly thought he would be convicted (because they thought he was a huge fuckup all the time anyway) so they allowed him to skate through life.


message 6: by Fem (new)

Fem | 47 comments Faye wrote: "As far as the Goodman/Cathy rape thing...the only thing I can really appreciate about that is that it is an interesting plot point to acknowledge that consent can be murky territory. But ultimately, given the rest of their character depictions, I think he totally did it. Fleeing implies guilt. Not coming back does, too. "
And there's the abrasions, the state Cathy's in when Jules visit her, weeks or months later.

I think Goodman never even doubted that he was guilty (I can imagine the perpetrator being confused sometimes in murky consent situations, especially in the early 70s, when there probably wasn't a thing like marital rape) and that he fled because it was pretty sure that he was going to get convicted.

Odd thing is that he doesn't return. Or doesn't rape "expire" (there is probably a fancy legal name for it, but I don't know it now) in the US? In the Netherlands the only crime that doesn't ever expire is homicide (which I think is wrong, but that's the way it is.)
But if it had been possible to return and he would have done it, people would probably have expected him to do something. I doubt he would have been up for that.


message 7: by Fem (new)

Fem | 47 comments Faye wrote: "As far as the Goodman/Cathy rape thing...the only thing I can really appreciate about that is that it is an interesting plot point to acknowledge that consent can be murky territory. But ultimately, given the rest of their character depictions, I think he totally did it. Fleeing implies guilt. Not coming back does, too. "
And there's the abrasions, the state Cathy's in when Jules visit her, weeks or months later.

I think Goodman never even doubted that he was guilty (I can imagine the perpetrator being confused sometimes in murky consent situations, especially in the early 70s, when there probably wasn't a thing like marital rape) and that he fled because it was pretty sure that he was going to get convicted.

Odd thing is that he doesn't return. Or doesn't rape "expire" (there is probably a fancy legal name for it, but I don't know it now) in the US? In the Netherlands the only crime that doesn't ever expire is homicide (which I think is wrong, but that's the way it is.)
But if it had been possible to return and he would have done it, people would probably have expected him to do something. I doubt he would have been up for that.


message 8: by Colbyface (new)

Colbyface | 4 comments I just looked this up- the statute of limitation on rape depends on the state. In Massachusetts it´s 15 years. But maybe there´d be other charges for not appearing in court and running away?


message 9: by Becky (new)

Becky | 6 comments I honestly didn't really like any of the main characters in this book!! Except Dennis. But Ash and Jules were both so immature, Ethan was cool at first but then he reminded me of Jay Gatsby for lusting after another married woman for literally decades which is pathetic, and Jonah I just felt bad for. Goodman was a spoiled POS. I kind of want to read a book about Rory, because she seemed cool.


message 10: by Janine (new)

Janine Annett | 12 comments So having finished it now, one thing the book made me think about a lot was the concept of loyalty. A lot of the characters were very loyal to each other, but often blindly so. Is blind loyalty a good thing, a bad thing, or both? Ash was blindly loyal to her brother, who seemed pretty obviously guilty. Jules was so blindly loyal to her friend Ash, she could barely admit she thought Goodman might have been guilty (and then seems almost relieved when Goodman's former therapist can't confirm his guilt). Ethan is blindly loyal to Jules - he's giving her money after she rejected him time and time again and married another man. Can you be loyal to more than one person? They all tried to be extremely loyal but had conflicting loyalties - Ash's loyalty to her parents vs. Ethan; and Jules's loyalty to Ash vs. Ethan, etc.


message 11: by Faye (new)

Faye | 17 comments You make a good point here, Janine. I think loyalty is a complicated issue...sometimes maintaining lifelong friendships requires you to remain loyal in the face of flaws, doesn't it?

With Goodman, I lost the point a little bit. They barely saw him, he was a douche when they did see him.

But with Ethan and Jules, I liked how loyalty was portrayed. He couldn't help loving her and she couldn't help not being attracted to him, but she did love him in a different way.

Something I wish that had been developed more thoroughly was how Jules took care of Ethan when he sick at the end of his life. To me, that kind of loyalty repays a lifelong devotion. That's some real shit there.

I kind of wish I had edited this book! Meg Wolitzer, call me. :)

PS: @Becky, I kind of wish the book was more about Rory, too. I also liked the idea that some kids kind of emerge from the womb with distinct personalities...this is something I noticed in my nieces who were wildly different from Day 1.


message 12: by Fem (new)

Fem | 47 comments Really good point, the books make so much sense if you look at it from a loyalty angle.

Regarding Goodman, I think Ash is loyal because he is her brother, Jules is loyal because he was her first crush (and none of the characters in this book are put off by anything, so not even that harassment kiss did it, or the weird show up at the end - I got over my first crush when I was 17, when he threw his cigarette butt on the street instead of in a trash can - some things are just unacceptable). Ethan is not loyal to Goodman, and I'm not sure about Jonah, it is never clear.

I don't think that Ethan helping Jules out is all that remarkable. We all help our friends out, but he just had better funds to do so, so he could give a relatively large gift, from her perspective, but a small one from his.

And yes, Rory and Dennis are the most interesting characters in this book.


message 13: by Janine (new)

Janine Annett | 12 comments I think the one example of a true, un-conflicted, warranted, and reciprocal loyalty was Ethan and Old Mo Templeton!


message 14: by Jen (new)

Jen D. (pghgrrl) | 6 comments I saw this today and thought it was interesting (and relevant), esp since it mentions Iceland as a place to escape American authorities.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/20...

Also, if we are weighing in on who we wish the book was about, I'm going to vote for Cathy. It seemed like she always had a big personality and she overcame a lot (including, at a critical age, having all of her friends take her rapist's side). She was the most interesting of the Interestings, IMO.


message 15: by Becky (new)

Becky | 6 comments Janine wrote: "So having finished it now, one thing the book made me think about a lot was the concept of loyalty. A lot of the characters were very loyal to each other, but often blindly so. Is blind loyalty a g..."

Loyalty is definitely a good way to look at it. Most of the main characters were just blindly loyal to each other. I think that's why they all bugged me so much, because I have no problem calling my friends and family out when they're doing something stupid, and I wish the characters in this book had done the same!


message 16: by Faye (new)

Faye | 17 comments Jen wrote: "Also, if we are weighing in on who we wish the book was about, I'm going to vote for Cathy...."

Plus she had those huge, gorgeous boobs!


message 17: by Morgan (new)

Morgan Schulman | 10 comments The cover-up seemed believable to me in the teenage way, the way that everyone does what the popular, pretty girl says, even if it's wrong and an innocent person gets cut out of the group. I was surprised that it lasted into adulthood, though. It made it hard to root for any of them besides Dennis and Ethan.


message 18: by Morgan (new)

Morgan Schulman | 10 comments Also, I always got the sense that Cathy was always an outsider to them, as someone so passionate and emotional. The rest of them seemed so cold and closed off. I liked her and I hoped so was able to find happiness somewhere.


message 19: by Casey (new)

Casey King | 8 comments Morgan, you have some really good points there. Ash was definitely the queen bee. I think we forget how impressionable we were as teenagers. I certainly did some things I'm not proud of. But I hope if I'd been in Jules' situation and gone to see Cathy, it would have changed my mind.


message 20: by Thea (last edited Jun 23, 2013 06:26PM) (new)

Thea | 2 comments When it comes to the idea of loyalty, maturity, and requiring to suspend one's disbelief, one thing that really bothered me about Jules' relationship with her mother. The distance between them made sense when she was an adolescent, and even when she was in young adulthood. But I didn't understand how she could stay so estranged from her mother as she got older, especially after 1) Dennis almost died, and 2) Ash's mother died. The fact that she was annoyed that her mother wanted to go to Ash's mother's funeral just seemed so juvenile to me, but I guess even at that point she was relatively young. But towards the end of the book, when her mother is getting ready to move out of the childhood house and needs to convince Jules to come out to Long Island and help her? At that point Jules is a full adult, with a daughter who has grown into a young woman herself. You'd think she'd be able to show some compassion for her mother and see her from a different perspective. She hinted at those thoughts, but never acted on them. She just seems so bratty to her mother throughout the whole book. I couldn't tell if this was intentional or a neglected storyline.


message 21: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen Thea wrote: "When it comes to the idea of loyalty, maturity, and requiring to suspend one's disbelief, one thing that really bothered me about Jules' relationship with her mother. The distance between them mad..."

She seemed pretty bratty/cold towards her own daughter as well. A lot of her character arc seemed to involve the narrative of her life not turning out the way that she thought it would, and her control issues over that.

Her mom wasn't the way she envisioned. Her husband wasn't the way she envisioned. Her daughter wasn't this perfect, feminine thing like Ash's daughter. When she finally took over the camp, it wasn't like she envisioned. And every single time, she ran from the problem, either physically like leaving the camp, or emotionally with her family members.

I think that's part of what drove me crazy about the book. She didn't really grow from those experiences, in either a positive or a negative way. She just kind of sighed, and tried to push or prune her story tree back into the shape that she had dreamed it was going to grow into.

Like you were saying though, I couldn't tell if that was supposed to be intentional commentary or not.


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