Do you need to jump start your new year? Do you need to find yourself a new outlook on life? Do you sometimes wish you were alive in the 20s and 30s and 40s, sipping the bubbly out of delicate coupe glasses, experiencing the budding jazz movement in a smokey bar, surrounded by gentleman who still open the doors and pick up the check for a pretty lady? Do you enjoy reading a perfectly poetic and unexpected story, one that you cannot put down until the very end and then even at the end you long for just a little more, just one more sentence. Dear friends, then run … do not walk, to the nearest book store and pick up this gem of a tale, namely the ‘Rules of Civility’.
I find, in my personal opinion, that male authors do not write women very well. But as I flipped through this tale, I became very intrigued with the author – Mr. Amor Towles – a man who seems to capture the very essence of the female mind in a way only comparable with Truman Capote a la Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Yes, yes, I am actually comparing this little-known author to authorific great, Capote, but with due cause – observe …
“As a quick aside, let me observe that in moments of high emotion – whether they’re triggered by anger or envy, humiliation or resentment – if the next thing you’re going to say makes you feel better, then it’s probably the wrong thing to say. This is one of the finer maxims in life. And you can have it, since it’s been no use to me.”
Amor Towles, a graduate of Yale and Stanford, is actually not a writer by day – however, he works for an investment firm. And I do not know if he is any good at his day job, but he is a terrific, poetic, honest and open author. His story was touching in the best way. Plus, in addition to truly ‘getting’ the female mystique, the man writes about New York like he has actually lived, loved, and experienced New York. Case in point, Amor’s spot-on analysis of the nuances of commuting:
“Anyone who has ridden the subway twice a day to earn their bread knows how it goes: When you board, you exhibit the same persona you use with your colleagues and acquaintances. You’ve carried it through the turnstile and past the sliding doors, so that your fellow passengers can tell who you are – cocky or cautious, amorous or indifferent, loaded or on the dole. But you find yourself a seat and the train gets under way; it comes to one station and then another; people get off and others get on. And under the influence of the cradlelike rocking of the train, your carefully crafted persona begins to slip away. The super-ego dissolves as your mind begins to wander aimlessly over your cares and your dreams; or better yet, it drifts into ambient hypnosis, where even cares and dreams recede and the peaceful silence of the cosmos pervades … what a relief it was, those few minutes with our guard down and our gaze inexact, finding the one true solace that human isolation allows.”
Now, I have not shared much detail of the story with you, this is true. But that is because I want you to read this tale. In fact, I urge you, plead with you, beg you. Then I would love for you to come back here and tell me about your experience with this story. Did it touch you as it did me? Did you find yourself highlighting parts of the book so that you could quickly reread certain sections later? Did you find the characters to be as real, and as fallible, and as truly unforgettable as I did? It is times like these I wish I was still a part of a book club – because novels such as ‘Rules of Civility’ can only get better after a nice hearty discussion.
And remember, “I guess there are two sides to every story. And, as usual, they were both excuses.” So tell me what your side is to this story and don’t give me any excuses.