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Sleepwalking, p.1
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       Sleepwalking, p.1

           Meg Wolitzer
 
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Sleepwalking


  Praise for The Interestings

  “The Interestings is warm, all-American, and acutely perceptive about the feelings and motivations of its characters, male and female, young and old, gay and straight; but it’s also stealthily, unassumingly, and undeniably a novel of ideas.”

  —The New York Times Book Review

  “A victory . . . The Interestings secures Wolitzer’s place among the best novelists of her generation. . . . She’s every bit as literary as Franzen or Eugenides. But the very human moments in her work hit you harder than the big ideas. This isn’t women’s fiction. It’s everyone’s.”

  —Entertainment Weekly (A)

  “I don’t want to insult Meg Wolitzer by calling her sprawling, engrossing new novel, The Interestings, her most ambitious, because throughout her thirty-year career of turning out well-observed, often very funny books at a steady pace, I have no doubt she has always been ambitious. . . . But The Interestings is exactly the kind of book that literary sorts who talk about ambitious works . . . are talking about. . . . Wolitzer is almost crushingly insightful; she doesn’t just mine the contemporary mind, she seems to invade it.”

  —San Francisco Chronicle

  “A supremely engrossing, deeply knowing, genius-level enterprise . . . The novel is thick and thickly populated. And yet Wolitzer is brilliant at keeping the reader close by her side as she takes her story back and forth across time, in and out of multiple lives, and into the tangle of countless continuing, sometimes compromising, conversations.”

  —Chicago Tribune

  “Masterful, sweeping . . . frequently funny and always engaging . . . A story that feels real and true and more than fulfills the promise of the title. It is interesting, yes, but also moving, compelling, fascinating, and rewarding.”

  —The Miami Herald

  “It’s a ritual of childhood—that solemn vow never to lose touch, no matter what. And for six artsy teenagers whose lives unfold in Wolitzer’s bighearted, ambitious new novel, the vow holds for almost four decades.”

  —People

  “In probing the unpredictable relationship between early promise and success and the more dependable one between self-acceptance and happiness, Wolitzer’s novel is not just a big book but a shrewd one.”

  —The Christian Science Monitor

  “[The Interestings] soars, primarily because Wolitzer insists on taking our teenage selves seriously and, rather than coldly satirizing them, comes at them with warm humor and adult wisdom.”

  —Elle

  “In Meg Wolitzer’s lovely, wise The Interestings, Julie Jacobson begins the summer of ’74 as an outsider at arts camp until she is accepted into a clique of teenagers with whom she forms a lifelong bond. Through well-tuned drama and compassionate humor, Wolitzer chronicles the living organism that is friendship, and arcs it over the course of more than thirty years.”

  —O, The Oprah Magazine

  “Wonderful.”

  —Vanity Fair

  “Juicy, perceptive and vividly written.”

  —NPR.org

  “A sprawling, ambitious and often wistful novel.”

  —USA Today

  “Smart, nuanced, and fun to read, in part because of the effervescent evocation of New York City from Watergate to today, in part because of the idiosyncratic authenticity of her characters.”

  —The Daily Beast

  “You’ll want to be friends with these characters long after you put down the book.”

  —Marie Claire

  “A page-turner.”

  —Cosmopolitan

  “[A] big, juicy novel . . . Wolitzer’s finger is unerringly on the pulse of our social culture.”

  —Reader’s Digest

  Praise for The Uncoupling

  “Enchanting from start to finish . . . Thoughtful and touching, The Uncoupling is also very funny.”

  —The New York Times Book Review

  “Keenly observant.”

  —Los Angeles Times

  “Wolitzer writes with wit and barbed insight . . . a master of modern fiction.”

  —Entertainment Weekly

  “Wonderfully funny . . . reveals a wry understanding of modern relationships.”

  —The Seattle Times

  “At this point in her career, Meg Wolitzer deserves to be a household name.”

  —San Francisco Chronicle

  “[Wolitzer’s] wittiest and most incisive work yet.”

  —People

  “[A] sly homage to the Aristophanes classic Lysistrata.”

  —O, The Oprah Magazine

  “A sage exploration of the role of sex in both sustaining and wrecking relationships.”

  —The Wall Street Journal

  “Wolitzer expertly teases out the socio-sexual power dynamics between men and women.”

  —Vanity Fair

  “Meg Wolitzer, like Tom Perrotta, is an author who makes you wonder why more people don’t write perceptive, entertaining, unassuming novels about how and why ordinary people choose to make decisions about their lives. . . . The Uncoupling is a novel that can’t help but make you think about your own relationship.”

  —Nick Hornby in The Believer

  “Every few years [Wolitzer] turns out a sparkling novel that manages to bring the shine back to big, tarnished issues of gender politics, such as women’s pull between work and family, or the role of sexuality in family dynamics.”

  —San Francisco Chronicle

  “Superbly written, wry yet compassionate.”

  —ABC News

  Praise for The Ten-Year Nap

  “About as real as it gets. A beautifully precise description of modern family life: the compromises, the peculiarities, the questions, the reconciliations to fate and necessity . . . written with the author’s trademark blend of tenderness and bite.”

  —Chicago Tribune

  “Vividly, satisfyingly real.”

  —Entertainment Weekly

  “Very entertaining. The tartly funny Wolitzer is a miniaturist who can nail a contemporary type, scene or artifact with deadeye accuracy.”

  —The New York Times

  “The ultimate peril is motherhood, loving someone more than you love yourself. Meg Wolitzer nails it with tenderness and wit.”

  —O, The Oprah Magazine

  “Everyone has an opinion about stay-at-home mothers. With her new novel, Meg Wolitzer has just one agenda—to tell the truth about their lives. An engrossing, juicy read.”

  —Salon

  “Wolitzer perfectly captures her women’s resolve in the face of a dizzying array of conflicting loyalties. To whom does a woman owe her primary allegiance? Her children? Her mother? Her friends, spouse, community? God forbid, herself?”

  —The Washington Post

  “Provocative . . . Wolitzer’s intimate look into these women’s subsequent quests for validation is both liberating and poignant, as she deftly explores the relationships among family, friends, husbands, and lovers that shape her heroine’s views of their pasts and the uncertainties of the future.”

  —Elle

  “[Wolitzer’s] smart, funny, and deeply provocative novel takes the lives of its women very seriously. . . . She follows the inner workings of the minds of a group of friends in hilarious detail without condescending or judging. . . . It’s a marvelous jungle in there, especially when written with Meg Wolitzer’s unsentimental compassion and wit.”

  —Minneapolis Star Tribune

  Also by Meg Wolitzer

  THE INTERESTINGS

  THE UNCOUPLING

  THE TEN
-YEAR NAP

  THE POSITION

  THE WIFE

  SURRENDER, DOROTHY

  THIS IS MY LIFE

  HIDDEN PICTURES

  RIVERHEAD BOOKS

  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) LLC

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

  USA • Canada • UK • Ireland • Australia • New Zealand • India • South Africa • China

  penguin.com

  A Penguin Random House Company

  SLEEPWALKING

  Copyright © 1982, 2014 by Meg Wolitzer

  Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with all copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

  Avon Books mass market edition: April 1984

  Riverhead trade paperback edition: April 2014

  Riverhead trade paperback ISBN: 978-1-59463-313-3

  eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-15926-6

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

  Version_1

  for my mother

  contents

  Praise for Meg Wolitzer

  Also by Meg Wolitzer

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Dedication

  Epigraph

  Preface

  Part 1

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Part 2

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Part 3

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  About the Author

  They have blossomed from the lands of death,

  These flowers which a long-wrought dream has poured.

  ANTONIN ARTAUD, “Black Garden”

  preface

  When I was twenty-one years old and had just sold my first novel, Sleepwalking, I took the train down from college to New York City in order to have my first meeting with my editor. After I stepped onto the elevator at the publishing house, anxiously clutching the little cardboard box that contained my manuscript, a priest got on carrying an enormous manuscript, a huge thing of many hundreds of pages, all tied up with twine. He looked at me and said, “Do they know you’re coming?” I said yes, they did. Then he said, proudly, “They don’t know I’m coming!”

  I sometimes think about this moment, which dates back not only to the start of my life as a writer, but also to a different era in publishing. Back then, in the early 1980s, fiction was experiencing a golden moment. Novels anchored by all kinds of voices were being celebrated, even ones that, if they were published today, would certainly be considered “small.” I’m not entirely sure what “small” means, exactly, or its related adjective, “quiet,” but I know enough to have a feeling that Sleepwalking could be aptly described using those two words. And yet I don’t mean this as criticism. I feel a real tenderness and protectiveness toward this book, in part because it was my first, but also because of its hushed awareness and its lack of showiness. I wrote the book I wanted to write, and I wasn’t particularly concerned with whether it would find an audience, or whether it would be “relatable,” which is a concept that all writers have heard a lot about in the intervening years. I suppose it was written in a state of innocence and mild grandiosity. I am fortunate to have a mother who was supportive of my endeavors from the start. Hilma Wolitzer, herself a novelist and the dedicatee of this novel, always pointed me toward good books and encouraged me deeply. We both loved the same kind of writing, and though I couldn’t say exactly why I loved what I loved, I started to be able to recognize when a line of prose was good, and when one was a lot less good. I wrote Sleepwalking in the same way I’d written short stories for my creative writing workshops in college—with an eye toward language and observation much more than toward the overarching “thing” itself.

  My novel predates the Brat Pack era that would follow it in a couple of years; this book does not feature a college world or postcollege world of careless debauchery, but instead one of bookish, brooding self-consciousness. I don’t think the publisher quite knew what to do with it; the reviews were excellent, and yet when it was time to put out the paperback, it was decided that it would be published as if it were Young Adult, with a sort of lurid dark illustration on the cover of a pale girl holding blood-red roses. People have asked me, smirking, about that cover over the years, and I’ve always hated to talk about it. The kind of book that cover seemed to suggest was contained within is not the kind of book I wrote.

  I was struck by the YA/adult book distinction and overlap recently, when I published my newest novel, The Interestings, a full thirty years after Sleepwalking. Like my first novel, this recent book has a group of adolescents at its core, and it takes their lives seriously and hasn’t been considered YA. I suspect that some of the ideas about teenagers in Sleepwalking, and coming into one’s own, and being awfully self-conscious in the way that people can be when they’re young, are still being worked through in my writing. For all I know, I’ve blithely plagiarized myself, and certain images appear in Sleepwalking that I later recycled. My recent work may be much bigger, literally as well as figuratively, with many more characters showing up, multiple points of view, a huge sweep of time passing, and certainly more plot to speak of, and yet, even taking a quick peek at the prose in the pages that follow, it’s obvious to me that the person who wrote Sleepwalking is the person who went on to write her later novels. Although this person, in her current incarnation, would never let a publisher put a depressed-looking girl holding roses on the cover of this novel.

  —MEG WOLITZER, OCTOBER 2013

  Part 1

  They talked about death as if it were a country in Europe. They made it seem that, after a brief vacation there, you could simply fly home bearing rolls of color film and tourist anecdotes. The three of them stayed up every night, usually until five o’clock, with the shade up and the window propped wide open, partly so the constant rush of air would keep them awake, and partly so they could observe the first paling of the sky, and pride themselves on how Spartan they were for requiring so little sleep.

  Anyone who passed by the room very late on the way to the toilet would notice the slit of light under the door, would hear the thrum of voices from inside, sounding like a long, elaborate incantation, and would think, The death girls are still at it.

  They had not always been thought of as the death girls, but no one could seem to remember who had initially made up the term. They were famous on the Swarthmore campus, and any one of them could easily be identified from several yards away by the clash of a winter-white face with a perennial black turtleneck. As freshmen they had banded together, apparently drawn to each other by the lure of some secret signal as unintelligible to everyone else as the pitch of a dog whistle is to human beings.

  They themselves thought it odd that three people with such similar sensibilities could meet at one college. They became friends during Orientation week. Naomi was in the library early one morning, browsing through the modern poetry section. Laura showed up a
few minutes later. The two of them just stood in the aisle and looked at each other, startled. They were dressed exactly alike. Both of them were reading volumes of criticism and taking notes. Finally Laura said, “Wow, you’re really hardcore.”

  Naomi answered, “So are you.”

  Claire joined them the next day. She lived in Naomi’s dormitory, but they had not yet spoken. At breakfast Naomi heard a few people talking about Claire—how her shelf was crammed with books of depressing women’s poetry and how she spent all her time by herself, off in some dream world. One boy made a tasteless joke about dead women poets, but Naomi ignored him.

  She met Claire later that afternoon in the bathroom. They were washing their faces at adjacent sinks, and they began to talk over the rushing of water. They spoke about how they liked to write and about how lonely they had felt the last few days. Laura sat with them at dinner that evening, and the three of them got along exceptionally well. There was an immediate rhythm to their conversation, a natural fast pace. They talked about poetry and suicide, each a little bewildered to see that other people shared her deepest feelings.

  Soon they were spending all of their time together. At meals in the cafeteria they huddled over one of the round, sticky tables in the corner. If some aerial footage had been taken of the three of them at breakfast, the result would have been starfish-symmetrical, like the June Taylor Dancers in top form. They appeared to function only as a unit, completely inseparable, but that, it turned out, was not the case.

  Each of the three death girls had her own special poet. Laura’s was Anne Sexton, and Naomi’s was Sylvia Plath. Each girl actually looked like her chosen poet, or at least tried to. There was Naomi, that tall, lean girl with bleached blond hair and charm bracelets and a green leather-bound journal that she carried with her everywhere. She was of average height, but it seemed as though she liked to pretend she was taller, as tall as Plath had been. She always looked down at a person during a conversation, as if she were towering above. And Laura, graceful, cool Laura with her whiskey voice and decidedly suburban air, she looked like Anne Sexton in the photograph on the flap of one of her books—Sexton lounging gracefully in a chair in someone’s backyard, lightly holding a cigarette between two fingers.

 
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