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Author Quotes: “In our twenties, when there is still so much time ahead of us, time that seems ample for a hundred indecisions, for a hundred visions and revisions—we draw a card, and we must decide right then and there whether to keep that card and discard the next, or discard the first card and keep the second. And before we know it, the deck has been played out and the decisions we have just made will shape our lives for decades to come.”
― Amor Towles, Rules of Civility
is reading Rules of Civility by Amor Towles for August 16.
The book opens on the night of October 4, 1966, husband and wife; Katey and Val attend an exhibit of the works of photographer Walker Evans. The show consisted of Evans' New York City subway photographs, which he took with a hidden camera during the late 1930s on the New York subways. As the couple make their way through the photographs looking at each subject captured unaware by the camera, each photo showing a certain naked humanity. The exhibit brings back the ghosts of youth for Katey when she spots the photograph of Tinker Grey, 28, underweight, ill shaven, in a threadbare coat. His bright eyes staring across three decades bringing all the sweet uncertainties back from the past.
The book takes us back in time to 1938 when Katey is an ambitious young woman from Brooklyn trying to make her way in New York City. Katey and her girlfriend, Eve, a Midwestern beauty, meet young banker, Tinker Grey at a smoky jazz club on New Year’s Eve. The trio becomes close companions spending time together enjoying the New York nightlife. One drunken night of partying changes everyone's life when they get into a car accident on the way home, think The Great Gatsby. Eve is severely injured and guilt leads Tinker to take care of Eve even though he is attracted to Katey.
After the Eve is released from the hospital, Katey visits Eve at the apartment shared with Tinker. When Eve and Tinker are asleep, she wanders throughout the apartment, looking for evidence of an intimate relationship between Eve and Tinker. She rummages through book shelves and drawers and discovers Tinker’s copy of Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation by George Washington given to him by his mother.
Tinker has a secret.
Katey realizes this little book isn’t a sweet memento about moral aspirations –it was a primer on social advancement. She had been taken by Tinker. She sits down and reads all 110 rules ending with “Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Celestial fire Called Conscience. Maybe Tinker hadn’t read to the end.
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Amor Towles talks about the Rules of Civility.