Tag Archives: Amor Towles

Review: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

30th January 2013

Via Goodreads

Via Goodreads

…America had picked up the globe by the heels and shaken the change from its pockets….So all of us were drunk to some degree. We launched ourselves into the evening like satellites and orbited the city two miles above the Earth, powered by failing foreign currencies and finely filtered spirits. We shouted over the dinner tables and slipped away into empty rooms with each other’s spouses, carousing with all the enthusiasm and indiscretion of Greek gods. And in the morning, we woke at 6:30 on the dot, clearheaded and optimistic, ready to resume our places behind the stainless steel desks at the helm of the world.

Though this quote opens the novel in the 1960s, it’s apt for just about any generation, and it’s so lovely, so absolutely sad and lovely, that I had to include it, though it’s a bit long.

At a Walker Evans photography show in the 60s, Katey Kontent sees two photographs of Tinker Grey, one where he’s gaunt and very obviously broke and another where he’s dressed to the nines, handsome and smiling. Katey tells her husband she once knew him, and he points out that Tinker must have done well for himself when Katey corrects him and tells him the latter picture was in 1938, the former in 1939.

Katey then recalls the fateful night she met Tinker Grey in a Greenwich Village jazz bar, New Year’s Eve, 1937. One night of fun and champagne, and both Katey and her best friend Eve are smitten with Tinker’s charm and his obvious affluence. There is a desperation, particularly in Eve, that makes each scene with her feel electrified. When the three are together in a horrible accident, they are separated, unable to relate to one another, Eve’s electricity pitch high. On her own and a bit in love with Tinker, Katey thrives without Eve, meeting new people and slowly coming into her own.

This is the kind of New York City tale I love. Poor girl tries hard, and with a bit of grit, gains a whole lot of glamour. The descriptions of the girls and their rooms reminded me of the 1937 RKO film Stage Door, in which Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, and Lucille Ball all make appearances as aspiring actresses. Here, as in that film, Katey and Eve are young and flippant, full of sharp dialogue and sharper dreams.

And if you couldn’t already tell, I adored this book.

Add this to your Goodreads shelf.