Monday, May 27, 2013

The Position Review

Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings is one of the hot releases of the spring (along with Reconstructing Amelia and The Woman Upstairs). I've been seeing it everywhere and started looking into Wolitzer's other books. Three of them were available for the kindle for under $4 and since all the plots sounded interesting, I grabbed all three. Wolitzer, like Jonathan Franzen and Jeffrey Eugenides, writes literature, although as a woman she sometimes get unfairly categorized as a "chick lit" writer when her focus is on sprawling family epics much like Franzen and Eugenides.

This also means that the writing can be a bit heavy handed. Sometimes I think "literary" authors lose the joy in their writing for the sake of crafting a novel that gets glowing reviews. If the author is trying too hard to make an impression, I lose interest in the story, which is why I often find YA books more entertaining (less of a challenge to read but infinitely more fun). I remember slogging through The Marriage Plot - finding it a bit boring in all honesty. And frankly, I could tell from the first chapter of The Position that I might have the same reaction.

The basic plot concerns the four Mellow children - Holly, Michael, Dashiell and Claudia - and their discovery of Pleasuring, a sex book that their parents Paul and Roz wrote. After Michael's initial reveal of the book to his siblings, the book moves forward to the now adult children and how their lives were impacted from the book.

Michael works for a computer company and is involved in an relationship with an actress but struggles with depression, which effects his sex life. Holly has completely removed herself from the family, living across the country with her husband and infant son. Dashiell is a gay Republican working for the campaign of a senator with his long term boyfriend. Claudia, the youngest, is adrift at 34, with no real career or long lasting relationship.

Turns out that not long after Pleasuring came out, the Mellow parents separated. The reason why is filled in during flashbacks told from Roz's perspective. Not much happens in this novel, really, although the action is driven behind a proposed thirtieth anniversary release of Pleasuring, which Roz really wants and Paul does not. Each chapter is narrated from a different member of the family. During those chapters we learn more about each child's youth and how they grew up to be the person they are during the present time. We also learn about how Paul and Roz first met and how they decided to write their book.

And really, despite me saying that not much happens, at the end of the novel when all of the characters (except one) are in one place, there is definite growth. Wolitzer pulled me along through the book and without even realizing it, I became invested in the characters and where they would end up. The ending is bittersweet but really well written, which reflects the novel as a whole.

This is literature at its finest. While I don't think I'll dive into the other Wolitzer books I bought right away, I'm glad I have them. She's a talented writer who definitely deserves a spot among the best novelists out there now. Even though The Position isn't her newest book, I do recommend it.

Buy it at amazon and Barnes & Noble

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