Sunday, December 25, 2011

Book twenty-nine: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles.

As regular readers of the Art Lobster know, I love reading books by first-time novelists.  That's one of the reason I decided to read Amor Towles, Rules of Civility.  However, Towles was even more intriguing than most first-time novelists.  He's a Manhattan investment banker who really hasn't written anything other than a few short stories before this book.  And he was born just a year after I was, proving that publishing novels isn't just for the young.  It gives us "writers of a certain age" a bit of hope.

Rules of Civility is a clever story about a whip smart young lady named Katey Kontent trying to make it in late 1930s New York City.  Katey is our guide through the story; it's stunning how convincing a character she is, particularly considering that the writer is a 47-year-old man.

Katey takes on a series of secretarial and writing jobs allowing her to explore the social society and brilliance of New York. This book embraces the culture clash of Charles Dickens.  It captures the glitz and glamour of F. Scott Fitzgerald.  And it delivers the excitement of a Busby Berkley night on the town.

Then there's the dialogue.  The quick, smart, and witty conversations  would be right at home in the most classic of Hollywood films.  The only person I know who writes dialogue this delightful is Armistead Maupin, and you know how I feel about Mr. Maupin.

I loved this book.  The writing is snappy.  The characters are intoxicating.  And the plot is nearly perfect.  Sure, I might like this book because I spent much of junior high and high school wishing I'd been born several decades earlier so I could spend an afternoon in Busby Berkeley's New York or hanging out in Manhattan with Fred and Ginger.  This well-written book offers a literary vibe that helped me live out those dreams. And I had a damn good time! That's why, Rules of Civility is getting the highest honor the Art Lobster can bestow: Five Jeffies.  It's only the second book to achieve such greatness.  This may not be the absolute best book I've read this year, but it is my absolute favorite.

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