Five years ago, three friends and I set out to read some of the “great books” – or those works of literature which would merit re-reading several times over the. With its sparkling depiction of New York’s social strata, its intricate imagery and themes, and its immensely appealing characters, Rules of Civility won the hearts . Set in New York City in , Rules of Civility tells the story of a watershed year in the life of an uncompromising twenty-five-year-old named.
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As someone who has written quietly zmor twenty years, the notion that a group might gather to discuss a book of mine seems something so fantastic it must be a mirage.
What follows are some questions for discussion that might have surfaced in my reading group. If you are interested, there is additional content regarding Rules of Civility at amortowles.
You may also submit your thoughts or questions there. And if your reading group is meeting for dinner in New York somewhere between Canal and 34th streets, please let me know.
If my schedule allows, I will try to stop by. Amor Towles was civikity and raised just outside Boston, Massachusetts.
He is a principal at an investment firm in Manhattan, where he lives with his wife and two children. This is his first novel. Why did you decide to write a book set in the late s, and how did you research the period?
In retrospect, the pace of change in the arts and industry in the nineteenth century seems pretty glacial.
Painting, music, the novel, architecture were all evolving, but at a pretty observable pace. Then in the span of a few decades you have James Joyce, Cubism, Surrealism, jazz, Nijinsky, Henry Ford, the skyscraper, Sigmund Freud, the Russian Revolution, movies, airplanes, and the general upending of received forms in almost every area of human endeavor.
Over the years, I listened to the music, saw the movies, read the novels and manifestos, lingered in front of the paintings. Rather, I tried to rely on my secondhand familiarity with the period to orient my imagination. Some writers such as John Cheever and Raymond Carver, seem to draw artistic energy from analyzing the realm of their own experiences—their social circles and memories and mores.
I think a little displacement makes me a sharper observer. None of the characters in the book are based on anyone in particular. But three civiliity my grandparents and a great-grandmother lived into their late 90s or early s. Over lunch when I was in my twenties, it was great fun to talk with them about their lives between the wars—when they were young adults. My grandmother, who was simultaneously a woman of manners and verve, fended off marriage proposals until she was thirty because she was having too much fun to settle down.
Rules of Civility Reader’s Guide
I think the s and s had a certain openness that was countered by the conformity of the s. I think there is something universal about this dynamic; but it was certainly my experience.
InI had a fellowship to teach for Yale in China for two years. I came back from California to New Haven to spend the summer learning Chinese, but because of Tiananmen Square, Yale cancelled the program. They gave us each a few thousand dollars and sent us on our way. I had all my belongings in my car and had no idea what to do with myself.
As it turned out, an old friend needed a roommate in New York to split the rent, od I moved here. My first night in the city, I got invited to a party at the home of an acquaintance. There, I met a few people who ultimately became close friends. Rjles were just meeting for drinks, making haphazard alliances and cursory decisions, shaping our futures unwittingly.
I certainly hope so. But one interesting aspect of New York is xivility it is a leading capital for advertising, art, broadcasting, fashion, finance, food, journalism, music, publishing, theater, and so on. This means that every year, young people from all over the world with very different backgrounds, interests, and ambitions descend on the city.
They are all civikity to establish connections in the E. Forster sense as well as the Dale Carnegie sense. This just increases the odds that the person you sit next to at a diner could change your life in very unexpected ways.
Throughout history there rule to be these brief periods when a group of varied talents come together and advance a whole art form by leaps and bounds. In some semi-competitive or cooperative dialogue, the players bring out the best in each other by spurring inspiration and risk taking, while defining new towlse and frontiers.
When I find a period like this I like to delve. One of those periods towlew me is the revolutionary period in America. Jefferson, Adams, Washington, Hamilton, Madison, Franklin were all men of such sweeping talent and character. In an incredibly short period, they formulated a system of ideals and practical applications, which has served us well for centuries.
Initially, I imagined Tinker as an avid student of the period. The book investigates the nuances of social strata in the s.
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles – Reading Guide – : Books
The Second World War and the GI Bill were great leveling influences, in which many working class individuals migrated from their ethnic communities toward a more homogenous middle class. At the same time, the aristocratic families of the s began xivility abandon the outward pomp of cotillions and tails.
This convergence has had weird byproducts: We clearly still live in an aspirational society. We have just exited half a decade when virtually every tier of the American economy has borrowed money in order to buy bigger cars and bigger houses with better fixtures. And we still have American youth in pursuit of mobility, though mobility today may mean getting to wear sneakers at a start-up, rather than being accepted rulez a country club.
In my late ciivility and early forties, I wrote a novel set in the farmlands of Stalinist Russia, which I ultimately stuck in a drawer. That book had five points of view and a series of complex events that had been roughly outlined. As an investment professional with two young children, this structure proved hellish. Ciivility time I sat down to work on the book, I needed two hours just to figure out where I was.
Worst of all, in rereading later drafts, I often found that the material from the first year was the best. So in launching a new book, I decided it would be a distinctive first person narrative; all events and characters would be carefully imagined in advance; and it would be written in one year. After a few weeks of preparation, I started Rules of Civility on Rulees 1,and wrapped it up days later. The book was designed with twenty-six chapters, because there are fifty-two weeks in the year and I allotted myself two weeks to draft, revise and bank each chapter.
I revised the book thoroughly three times over the next three years mostly making it shorter ; but the original constraint of a twelve-month draft proved a much more effective artistic process for me than an open-ended one. I figured I was lucky if I could read one book deeply per month. If I lived to 80, that was more books.
With that shocking consideration as a backdrop, three friends and I formed a group to read extraordinary works of literature. The acid test for books of inclusion has been that they have been proven by history to merit multiple readings in a lifetime.
Literary Fiction Historical Fiction print. Why did you decide to write a book from the perspective of a young woman? Were there any personal influences from the s that informed the book? Talk about the role of chance encounters in the book. Tell us about George Washington and his Rules of Civility. Could you describe how the book was written?
What have you been reading? If so, what role do you think each plays in fashioning the Katey of the future? What sort of things is Katey slow to reveal, and what drives her reticence? Where does your judgment fall on Tinker?
Rules of Civility – Amor Towles
Where does simulation end and character begin? Do you think this is true to life? Were there casual encounters or decisions that you made, which in retrospect were watershed events? When I told my seven-year-old son that I had written a book that was going to be published, he said: But who is going to do the pictures? Why is the medium of photography a fitting motif for the book? How do the various photographs serve its themes? One of the pleasures of writing fiction is discovering upon completion of a project that some thread of imagery has run through the work without your being aware—forming, in essence, an unintentional motif.
While I was very conscious of photography as a motif in the book, and the imagery of fairy tales, here are two motifs that I only recognized after the fact: What role do these motifs play in the thematic composition of the book?
And if you see me in an airport, can you please explain them to me? Upon completion of this book, one of my guilty pleasures has been imagining how Eve was doing in Hollywood.
And why is the life Tinker offers her so contrary to the new life she intends to pursue? Learn More About Rules of Civility print. LitFlash The eBooks you want at the lowest prices. Read it Forward Read it first. Stay in Touch Sign up. We rupes experiencing technical difficulties. Please try again later.