Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (how cool is the author’s name, btw?!) was the last book I hunted down at the library before my “Books to Read” list disappeared into thin air. Or thin cyberspace, I guess. I suppose that’s what I get for keeping several years-worth of book titles in a note on my iPhone. When I realized it was suddenly missing from my phone, I could’ve cried. But instead, I’m going to take it as an opportunity to start a new “To Read” list from a clean slate.
Anyway, like I said, Rules of Civility was B.D. – Before Deletion. I’m not sure where I had initially heard of it, because this list I speak of was quite long and not very detailed.
It took me a while to get into the book at first, honestly. Not much seemed to be ‘happening,’ especially when compared to the psychological thrillers that have seemed to permeate the shelves the last couple of years. However, I don’t like to give up on a book after I’ve put my time into it. So I kept at it.
Then one morning, I gave the novel my full attention from the warmth and isolation of my bed. I realized that this was not the type of novel you could appreciate from an uncomfortable chair in a noisy waiting room. That’s because Rules of Civility isn’t so much about what happens. It’s all about the writing. It had been a long while since I had read a novel with such beautiful prose. Which is why, instead of giving you a plot summary as I usually would, I’m going to share my favorite quotes from the novel instead. Hopefully you will appreciate Towles’ words as much as I did!
- “Old times: if you’re not careful, they’ll gut you like a fish.”
- “One must be prepared to fight for one’s simple pleasures and to defend them against elegance and erudition and all manner of glamorous enticements.”
- “If we only fell in love with people who were perfect for us, he said, then there wouldn’t be so much fuss about love in the first place.”
- “For however inhospitable the wind, from this vantage point Manhattan was simply so improbable, so wonderful, so obviously full of promise – that you wanted to approach it for the rest of your life without ever quite arriving.”
- “And transporting was the right word. For the Bergdorf’s windows weren’t advertising unsold inventory at 30% off. They were designed to change the lives of women up and down the avenue – offering envy to some, self-satisfaction to others, but a glimpse of possibility to all.”
- “It’s a bit of a cliché to refer to someone as a chameleon: a person who can change his colors from environment to environment. In fact, not one in a million can do that. But there are tens of thousands of butterflies: men and women like Eve with two dramatically different colorings – one which serves to attract and the other which serves to camouflage – and which can be switched at the instant with a flit of the wings.”