Tag Archives: Rules of Civility

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.

The Books of BEA (And a little treat for you!)

27th June 2012

How have I not yet managed to talk about the books I got at BEA? I will tell you, though, that I am so excited about the books I had shipped home. There are only 15 of them, but wow, do they look good. These 15 represent almost all different publishers, many of them independent. They range from stories about an artist who does reproductions to a biography of a body part. Of the 15 books, 8 are by women, 7 are by men. Three are distinctly nonfiction, with Naomi Wolf’s Vagina in a category of its own. In all their, ahem, glory…

From the top:

From the top:

  • Johnson’s Life of London: The People Who Made the City Who Made the World by Boris Johnson/Riverhead Books
  • Instant by Chris Bonanos/Princeton Architectural Press (October 2012)
  • The Shadow Girls by Henning Mankell/The New Press (October 2012)
  • Inferno by Dante Alighieri, Translated by Mary Jo Bang/Graywolf Press (August 2012)
  • Vagina: A New Biography by Naomi Wolf/Ecco (September 2012)
  • Rules of Civility by Amor Towles/Penguin
  • Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See by Julianne Garey/Soho (December 2012)
  • The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón/Harper (July 2012)

Which will I be reading first? It’s almost as though I’m afraid to break the spell, as though if I choose one, the rest will disappear. That said, I think I’ll start with the slimmest volume, Beside the Sea. Lori and Tara actually told me about the book, saying: “It’s about a mother who is planning to kill her children.” Pleasant, right? Except that my Master’s thesis was about women who kill their children throughout literature. Specifically, the title is The Dialectic of Maternity: From Medea to the Moderns. Snazzy, huh? Ok, so it sounds kind of ridiculous, but it’s interesting how many many time this sort of story repeats itself in literature (and in life). So that will be my first pick.

And for those of you who weren’t able to make it, I have a BEA bag just for you. In the Random House tote bag are the BEA edition of The New York Review of Books, Anne Lamott’s newest, Some Assembly Required, in audio, Next to Love by Ellen Feldman (this one is so good!), and A Fatal Debt by John Gapper. Something for everyone! The only rules are you cannot have attended BEA, and you must leave me a comment. Which book would you most love to get your hands on? Is there any particular publisher you’re interested in? Do you think I’ve got 15 winners in these stacks? Make sure you comment by next Tuesday, July 3, at midnight!

UPDATE: Rachel won the BEA bag o’ goodies. Congrats!