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The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer

Riverhead Books, April 9, 2013

Brad Seulman, astray in mid-life malaise, typed “Peter” into the Google search box, holding an inhale, as the engine’s autocomplete feature instantly displayed “Peter Dinklage” and “Peter Pan,” the top inquiries bearing the familiar forename. Brad’s fingers locked, as if in an arthritic cramp, upon the realization that his initial results—the Game of Thrones actor, whose growth was stunted by dwarfism, and a fictional boy who never ages—beseeched men trapped in affectations of youth. Perhaps Brad was hot on the trail to finding his grade school friend, after all.

So it was decided. “From this day forward, because we are clearly the most interesting people who ever fucking lived,” said Ethan, “because we are just so fucking compelling, our brains swollen with intellectual thoughts, let us be known as the Interestings. And let everyone who meets us fall down dead in our path from just how fucking interesting we are.”

Reaching for a tumbler coated with a heavy slick of golden-brown whiskey at the bottom of the glass, Brad’s fingers loosened enough to get a grip. He took an ardent nip, absorbing fermented Tennessee crude in a single tip back and straight down the gullet. Cleanup on the desolate banks of lassitude executed effortlessly by a pro.

Brad set the empty glass aside his keyboard and then typed the surname he could not spell out moments before. M-i-e-r-e-n-h-o-f-f-e-r.

Pause. Enter.

Several hits for Peter Mierenhoffer were quickly sorted out from every other Peter in the universe thanks to a unique family name; the geniuses in Silicon Valley were, however, unable to program a prediction for this particular subject in whole based on a partial entry, utilizing the same sophisticated algorithms that pinpointed Dinklage and Pan with abbreviated keystrokes.

Brad read his old chum’s obituary.

But clearly life took people and shook them around until finally they were unrecognizable even to those who had once known them well. Still, there was power in once having known someone.

Survived by a wife and two children, Peter had worked most his life in executive management at a grocery chain outside Denver. Brad recalled the days in childhood, lying on their backs in grassy vacant Midwestern fields where secret pacts took root, when they anticipated their futures, rich and wild with ambition. Peter saw himself as a news anchor in New York, worldly and on the pulse of all that mattered. Brad nurtured fantastical artistic endeavors out West. Life, and lastly death, put a conclusion to Peter's aspirations.

“I always thought it was the saddest and most devastating ending. How you could have these enormous dreams that never get met. How without knowing it you could just make yourself smaller over time.”

The friendship withered in the manner that so many do; each kid went his separate, impressive way.

Regret soon swamped Brad over his failure to reach out when re-connection could have been possible. At one time, it was Brad and Peter against the world. Their bond cinched a prominence reserved for people as gifted as they. Everything really had changed. Now, lived one, who, proven by a lack of loyalty alone, amounted to lesser person than he and his now deceased friend, supposing it was still okay to call Peter a friend, ever imagined. Brad reassessed.

You didn’t always need to be the dazzler, the firecracker, the one who cracked everyone up, or made everyone want to sleep with you, or be the one who wrote and starred in the play that got the standing ovation. You could cease to be obsessed with the idea of being interesting.

Years of pretense, excuses, laziness, delay, and idealism called to an end. Like it or not, Brad was the adult into which he evolved. Whether any talent he exhibited at an early age lead to a conventional definition of success mattered little. So be it if his pursuits were nothing more than being the guy who was good at, and no more than just good, swilling shots of George Dickel to keep his grinding parts inside well-oiled. Owning fallibility was something. Seeking reassurance, though, Brad googled his own name to see what someone looking might find.