Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rules of Civility

Surely the writing of legendary debut novels is not unprecedented.
[I think of Harper Lee, J.D. Salinger, or Flaubert].
Amor Towles is in that camp.
I don't know what he's smoking, but I want a few puffs.
I just finished reading Rules of Civility and recommend it to all my readers, without reservation. The blurb on the back of the dust jacket is no hyperbole -- "a voice influenced by Fitzgerald and Capote, but clearly true to itself."
The bulk of the story takes place in later 1930's New York. In this era of fortunes won and lost, 25-year old Katey Kontent finds herself tossed into the currents of poverty and extravagance that were a hallmark of the time.
The author wastes no time at all in having Katey and her flat-mate Eve meet up with the dashing and debonair banker, Tinker Grey. Through this chance encounter in a bar on New Year's Eve [1938], the girls are thrown from worrying about how far they can make their three or four dollars stretch, to having not a care in the world.
Well -- at least one of them will be afforded this new worldview.
A tragic accident causes Tinker to follow his conscience -- he devotes himself to the glamorous Eve... and kudos to her, she was really "working it" not just that first night, but thereafter, as well.
Or…. was she? Because, later, when he…. no, I won't say it -- I hate spoilers.
Where do the deepest affections of Mr. Grey really lie?
Or, for that matter, which of these women truly loves Tinker Grey?
What an engaging, thoroughly satisfying, searing and poignant story!
Albeit bittersweet.
Aren't all the best stories at least a bit of that?
Once-upon-a-time meets happily-ever-after, happily or not?
This a witty, well-crafted, wonderful book.
Whatever Mr. Towles has to smoke to top this novel -- I want some of that, too!
I close with a representative citation, from the penultimate page: is less like a journey than it is a game of honeymoon bridge. In our twenties, when there is still so much time ahead of us, time that seems ample for a hundred indecisions, for a hundred visions and revisions -- we draw a card, and we must decide right then and there whether to keep that card and discard the next, or discard the first card and keep the second. And before we know it, the deck has been played out and the decisions we have just made will shape our lives for decades to come.

Go get it. Do it, now.

1 comment:

Melwyk said...

I saw this book when it came into our library -- wondered if it would be worth reading. I guess it is! Now I have to wait my turn on the lengthy request list... :)