Syracuse University Magazine


Q & A: Meredith Goldstein '99

Plight of the Single Wedding Guest

Guests in a Boston Ritz-Carlton ballroom delighted in cake pops, raised champagne flutes, and shimmied on the dance floor on April 26 to celebrate a special couple: Meredith Goldstein and her new novel, The Singles (Plume). The Boston Globe reporter and advice columnist’s story of five solo guests at a wedding has deep Syracuse roots. Several characters were based on  college friends, and the book is peppered with references to such familiar locations as Alto Cinco, Syracuse Stage, and Ostrom Avenue.

Goldstein’s journalism career began at SU, where she majored in newspaper and served as editor-in-chief of The Daily Orange. After working at the Providence Journal for two years after college, Goldstein reported on Massachusetts coastal towns from the North Shore bureau of the Globe. She moved to feature reporting in 2005 and in 2008 began covering the Boston society beat and writing a daily online advice column called “Love Letters.” The column, which also appears in the paper weekly, draws about a million pageviews a month. Goldstein spoke recently with contributing writer Aileen Gallagher ’99, a Newhouse magazine professor and former classmate and Daily Orange colleague of Goldstein’s. 

You’re a newspaper reporter. How did that inform your experience writing a novel?

When you’re a newspaper writer, you’re trained to notice details and to describe them. When I started writing these characters, my instinct was to really know them and provide a lot of detail. The trouble was, when you’re a newspaper reporter you don’t make things up. It took me about six months to allow myself to make up dialogue, to change people’s jobs, and make up a character who didn’t exist in real life. I got used to wearing two hats in the same day. I would go to work and write facts, and then come home and go to an imaginary place. 

Why did the plight of the single wedding guest appeal to you?

I had been one so many times. I was at a specific wedding where the dateless wedding guests, including myself, were the biggest personalities at the wedding. Whenever I told people the story of that wedding, they would say, “That could be a book.” 

I came up with these five characters who represent the archetypes that you find at the wedding—the crying bridesmaid in the bathroom, the funny guy. Some of the characters were based on people I know and others were an amalgam of a number of personalities you might meet at a wedding like this. 

SU plays a big role in the book. Did you plan that initially or did that part of the characters’ lives evolve?

The wedding in this book is based on the real-life wedding of a Syracuse friend. In the first draft, I set these characters at a school in Vermont because I thought it would be cheesy if I set it in Syracuse—everyone would know that the author was basing it on her own experience. 

But after I got the book deal, it seemed that everybody wanted me to set it where it happened. Syracuse had a specific reputation and character and weather patterns that made the whole plot understandable. When you talk about characters meeting at a place where it’s too cold to go outside, that means something when you know the place is Syracuse.

I was excited to set these characters at Syracuse for something that wasn’t sports related. I pictured them hanging out with VPA [College of Visual and Performing Arts] kids. They go to Syracuse Stage. They represent a part of Syracuse culture that isn’t often seen. I was excited to use my Syracuse experience, not the one I always see on TV.  

The main character in the book works as a casting director, and The Singles has been optioned for a movie. Who do you see appearing in the film?

I change my mind every day. Let’s hope there’s a young Syracuse up-and-comer from the drama department who just moved to Hollywood and her first big role is playing one of the Singles. That’s the dream. 

How did your Syracuse experience influence your career?

Within Newhouse you’re required to have a minor outside of communications. It exposed me to a fantastic women’s studies department. I took film classes where I got to meet people in VPA. So many of these characters are inspired by Syracuse letting me see so many different things at once. Even though I spent most of my time in Newhouse and at The Daily Orange, Syracuse wouldn’t let me stop there. I had to learn about the rest of the world. And that made me a better journalist, and a better novelist. 

You return to campus regularly to speak to Newhouse classes. What’s changed since the late nineties?

I just remember rolling out of bed and getting to class in pajamas and eating a donut while I was there. Students are not only dressed better, but they eat better. In 1999, there would not have been a sushi restaurant on campus. The students today are much more sophisticated.

Singles cover