Friday, November 7, 2014

Meg Wolitzer Says Hi

That was a very cool Subject in an email I sent to an old friend this morning.  Very cool, indeed.

It was true, as my email went on, that I was eating lunch with her. The Literary Society of the Southwest, my favorite organization with the most pretentious name, hosted The Interestings's author at our first luncheon of the year. Scarlet, newly arrived from New York City (Murray Hill, to be precise), and my guest for the afternoon, said that she was a front row kind of girl, and since I am, too, we took two seats at the author's table. 

The author walked in, alone, pinning her name tag to her outfit, saying "Hi, I'm Meg," as she distributed herself and her materials into and around her chair.  "Yes, you are," I replied, inanely, but she smiled and we all introduced ourselves and we chatted, just the way women all over America are chatting today. 

I wondered which town on Long Island she ascribed to Jules; it reminded me of mine, Oceanside, but not Syosset, Meg's hometown.  We settled on West Hempstead and then I asked her if she knew Maid Marian, my friend since 7th grade, whose books are on the shelves next to Tolstoy and Theroux and Thurber. 

Of course she did.  She smiled as I took out and turned on my phone; she knew I was sending a message.  It was so cool.

And that's why The Interestings didn't interest me when I picked it up last year.... being cool, fitting in, it was all there and it was too close to home. All those fears, all that angst, all that worry about being cool came back and held onto my heart and my soul and I had to put the book down before the first scenes ended.

Ugh.  Why would I want to go there again? Voluntarily subject myself to the reemergence of all of that crap?  Because, even forty some years later, I still carry the baggage of those years.  I know it's crap and it still hurts.  Not as reality, but as sorrow for the girl who was there at that time.  I was sad enough, right then; I didn't need to add anything else to the mix. 

I started it again because Scarlet and I were going to the luncheon.  With a chip on my shoulder I opened to page one, and by page five I was wondering why I'd ever put it down.  I was entranced.  I was in love with The Interestings just as much as Jules was in love with them in the book. 

They are the most clearly drawn characters I've encountered in a long time.  Though some in the room questioned the probability of the relationships, it all felt very real to me.  I went away for a transformative summer, too, where people who wouldn't have noticed me in high school sought me out at lunch time. 

That was cool, too.

Watching the characters grow over time, their story told in the convoluted, folding back on itself way that conversations among girlfriends have a tendency to do, I never felt a false note.  The characters surprised me and shocked me and worried me and appalled me, but they never felt untrue to the selves the delightful woman across the table had created for them.  The story moved along more quickly when children of their own arrived and they had less time for one another but, as that Facebook meme keeps reminding me, we all have friends with whom the passage of time is immaterial; two months or two years and you still pick right up where you left off.

Sitting with Meg Wolitzer was like that.  A gentleman at the back of the room told her that he didn't like the book, that he liked her mother's work better, and then he left..... and he was the first thing she talked about when she returned to us after her speech.  Not the laughter, not the compliments, but the one thing that had gone slightly awry occupied her attention ... along with the chocolate desert.

We reassured her, we dismissed him, we made excuses for bad behavior and turned the conversation toward how wonderful she had been, picking up on bits and pieces which had intrigued us, drawing her away from judging and into our circle ... of new friends .... who felt like old friends....... which is a good thing because Scarlet got Meg's personal email address.

We're having lunch next time she's in town.

And THAT is very cool.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Talk back to me! Word Verification is gone!