When it comes to the books we LOVE, we just can't stop talking about them. And this summer the buzz around the office has been about Amor Towles' Rules of Civility, performed by Rebecca Lowman. An ode to the Gatsby-like era of gin and jazz, rise and fall in 1930s New York City, Towles' debut particularly struck a chord with our editors Emily and Tyler, who took to the studio to share more about their favorite new novel with you. Listen in on their conversation below.
After you’ve heard what Emily and Tyler have to say, check out author Amor Towles’ introduction to Rules' book-loving ingenue Katey Kontent, plus Katey’s take on the authors who have inspired her.
And whether or not Rules is for you, we’d love to hear about your book of the summer. Tell us about the book – or books! – you can’t stop talking about, and we'll soon share your picks with your fellow listeners.
Katey Kontent, a twenty-five year-old secretary in Manhattan in 1938, has little to rely upon other than a bracing wit, her own brand of cool nerve and an insatiable love of reading. According to her boarding house roommate, Eve: "Katey's the hottest bookworm you'll ever meet. If you took all the books that she's read and piled them in a stack, you could climb to the Milky Way."
You can make what claims you will about the psychological nuance of Proust or the narrative scope of Tolstoy, but you can't argue that Mrs...Show More »
Christie fails to please. Her books are tremendously satisfying.
Yes, they're formulaic. But that's one of the reasons they are so satisfying. With every character, every room, every murder weapon feeling at once newly crafted and familiar as rote (the role of the postimperialist uncle from India here being played by the spinster from South Wales, and the mismatched bookends standing in for the jar of fox poison on the upper shelf of the gardener's shed), Mrs. Christie doles out her little surprises at the carefully calibrated pace of a nanny dispensing sweets to the children in her care.
But I think there is another reason they please-a reason that is at least as important, if not more so-and that is that in Agatha Christie's universe everyone eventually gets what they deserve.
Inheritance or penury, love or loss, a blow to the head or the hangman's noose, in the pages of Agatha Christie's books men and women, whatever their ages, whatever their caste, are ultimately brought face-to-face with a destiny that suits them. Poirot and Marple are not really central characters in the traditional sense. They are simply the agencies of an intricate moral equilibrium that was established by the Primary Mover at the dawn of time.
For the most part, in the course of our daily lives we abide the abundant evidence that no such universal justice exists. Like a cart horse, we plod along the cobblestones dragging our masters' wares with our heads down and our blinders in place, waiting patiently for the next cube of sugar. But there are certain times when chance suddenly provides the justice that Agatha Christies promise. We look around at the characters cast in our own lives-our heiresses and gardeners, our vicars and nannies, our late-arriving guests who are not exactly what they seem-and discover that before the end of the weekend all assembled will
get their just deserts.
But when we do so, we rarely remember to count ourselves among their company."
"My father was never much one for whining. In the nineteen years I knew him, he hardly spoke of his turn in the Russian army, or of making ends meet with my mother, or of the day that she walked out on us. He certainly didn't complain about his health as it failed.
But one night near the end, as I was sitting at his bedside trying to entertain him with an anecdote about some nincompoop with whom I worked, out of the blue he shared a reflection which seemed such a non sequitur that I attributed it to delirium. Whatever setbacks he had faced in his life, he said, however daunting or dispiriting the unfolding of events, he always knew that he would make it through, as long as when he woke in the morning he was looking forward to his first cup of coffee...Show More »
Only decades later would I realize that he had been giving me a piece of advice.
Uncompromising purpose and the search for eternal truth have an unquestionable sex appeal for the young and high-minded; but when a person loses the ability to take pleasure in the mundane-in the cigarette on the stoop or the gingersnap in the bath-she has probably put herself in unnecessary danger. What my father was trying to tell me, as he neared the conclusion of his own course, was that this risk should not be treated lightly: 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.
In retrospect, my cup of coffee has been the works of Charles Dickens. Admittedly, there's something a little annoying about all those plucky underprivileged kids and the aptly named agents of villainy. But I've come to realize that however blue my circumstances, if after finishing a chapter of a Dickens novel I feel a miss-my-stop-on-the-train sort of compulsion to read on, then everything is probably going to be just fine.
Well, maybe I had read this particular fable one too many times. Or maybe I was just annoyed by the fact that even Pip was on his way to London. Whatever the cause, after reading two pages I closed the book and climbed into bed."