Book Club read She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb several years ago and I remember next to nothing about the plot of the book, what happened to the characters, or even what they were named. I do remember that at one point the main character suffered a nervous breakdown that caused her to voraciously, and in vivid detail, consume a large quantity of raw meat. Just thinking about it now sends shivers up my spine and makes me clutch my pearls and involuntarily contort my face into an expression of nauseous revulsion. One paragraph of that whole book will be what I forever associate with it, and that’s completely unfair, I know.
Reading The Interestings by Meg Woolitzer elicits a similar unfair reaction from me. In a few years from now, I may have forgotten all of the characters’ names, or the fact that they all met at summer camp and stayed friends throughout the rest of the lives, but I will remember that everyone in this book is unattractive. Except for their one beautiful friend, whose name I have literally already forgotten, and whose attractiveness is one of his character’s most notable personality traits. Graphic descriptions of one character’s eczema covers almost an entire page in this book. A whole page! Like the raw, reddened eczema crawling across his limbs, the description of his condition spreads across the page, eliciting sympathy itching from the reader (or just me? Anyone? Anyone? No one.).
Other characters are noted for their frizzy hair, or flat noses, or broad, hairy backs, or protruding bellies, among other less than flattering descriptors. I like to think my friends from childhood summer camp [note: I never went to summer camp] would remember my friendly smile or expressive eyes or sunny disposition and not focus on my weird Poison Ivy rash or whatever. I mean, these people must have had something mildly pleasant about their appearances, right? And even if there wasn’t, society has come to accept the Little White Lie as an appropriate fiblet you’re allowed to tell in the interest of preserving harmony and decency in the world. Something along the lines of, “Ethan, his kind eyes glancing toward his wife, picked up his briefcase and walked out the front door,” rather than, “Ethan, his scaly arm skin protruding from his work shirt, picked up his briefcase and walked out the front door.” You’re welcome, readers.
Wishing every day were Book Club Sunday,