Amor Towles Has A New Book and Recommendations for Reading

One of my favorite authors, Amor Towles, has a new book coming in October – The Lincoln Highway. Today in the New York Times Book Review, editors have included him in their ask an author section. He responds to questions with a list of books he has read, books he recommends, and more – a wealth of good ideas for individuals as well as book groups.

Towles meets with a small group of friends monthly to discuss a novel:

“One spring we read Henry James’s “The Portrait of a Lady,” Gustave Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary,” George Eliot’s “Middlemarch” and Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina,” a project we referred to as “19th-Century Wives Under Pressure.” Often, we’ll read five or six works by a single writer chronologically. We’re about to launch into a survey of the Australian Nobel laureate, Patrick White. So, his “The Tree of Man” is at the top of my pile.”

He remembers a list of authors from his college days, you might want to discover:

“The list included an array of inventive writers and stylists, most of whom I had never heard of, including Donald Barthelme, Italo Calvino, Evan S. Connell, Julio Cortázar, Jean Genet, Elizabeth Hardwick, Knut Hamsun, Milan Kundera, Grace Paley and Alain Robbe-Grillet. With the list fraying in my pocket, I began tracking down these novels whenever I was in a used bookstore.”

And for guilty pleasures, he includes:

“…the Lew Archer novels by Ross Macdonald, the George Smiley novels by John le Carré and the Parker novels by Richard Stark, {and} the Bosch books Michael Connelly}.”

In preparations for his new novel, The Lincoln Highway, Amor Towles mentions a few books he read:

“My new novel, “The Lincoln Highway,” takes place over 10 days in June of 1954, so in anticipation I read a number of American works from the mid-50s including James Baldwin’s “Go Tell It on the Mountain” (1953); Raymond Chandler’s “The Long Goodbye” (1953); Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” (1955); and Sloan Wilson’s “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” (1955)… In aggregate they provide a snapshot of America’s socioeconomic, regional and racial diversity.”

Lots of good ideas for reading, and if you have not yet read Rules of Civility and Gentleman from Moscow, now is the time.

Related Reviews:

https://thenochargebookbunch.com/2016/10/06/a-gentleman-in-moscow/

https://thenochargebookbunch.com/2011/10/09/rules-of-civility/

Tepper Revisited

Sometimes sitting alone in my car, I feel luxuriosly safe when all around me is too chaotic to bear. The car is parked, of course, and no one else is around. I listen to the classical radio station, close my eyes, and just drift. Sometimes I read old New Yorker magazines. Calvin Trillin’s Tepper comes to mind (from “Tepper Isn’t Going Out”); maybe it’s time to reread the book. But it’s on a shelf somewhere else, not here in my car.

I reviewed the book over ten years ago but I can still use it’s lesson in patience, especially now. Here’s my review:

A lesson in patience – that’s what the nurse said about her elderly patient. She will do what she wants, when she wants to – so time would be better spent accepting that idea and just being patient. The patient was teaching everyone around her to be patient – a recent lesson from my personal experience.

Patience in characters is hard to find. Often impatience is the character flaw that moves the story, but one of my favorite characters is Murray Tepper, the personification of patience. Tepper is the invention of Calvin Trillin, satirist who writes for The New Yorker. Trillin once noted that “…Marriage is not merely sharing the fettucini, but sharing the burden of finding the fettucini restaurant in the first place.”

In his book, Tepper Isn’t Going Out, Trillin gives Tepper patience and wisdom, mixed with lots of humor. For anyone who has lived or spent time in New York City, the complementary characters in the book, and the descriptions of New York neighborhoods and politics will make you smile.

Tepper sits in his car, patiently reading his morning paper in the evening, seemingly not bothering anyone. But, sitting patiently in a car becomes a red flag – and not only for those seeking a parking spot. Tepper becomes “the psychiatrist is in” Lucy from Peanuts to some, the guru on the mountaintop to a few, and a source of annoyance to others – as he sits patiently in his car. Even if the innuendo and satire passes over your head, the journey you will take in reading this book is hilarious.

Throughout all the hysterics of others, Tepper stays calm and Trillin brings the book to a calm and logical end. Patience is a virtue hard to acquire, and there are many who are willing to teach us a lesson in forbearance – we meet them everyday through bureaucratic jumbles and personal interactions – and Tepper is one of them.

Books Coming Soon

It’s been hard to focus on anything but survival lately. Even Krueger’s new book “Lightning Strike” has been wallowing at page 14, waiting for me to get back to it. But I need to shape up; I’ve preordered 5 books to be delivered soon and they all promise to be good reads:

  • “Cloud Cuckoo Land” by Anthony Doer
  • “The Book of Form and Emptyness” by Ruth Ozeki
  • “The Lincoln Highway” by Amor Towles
  • “Apples Never Fall” by Lianne Moriarty
  • “Small Pleasures” by Clare Chambers

Friday the 13th

I always look forward to reading the Washington Post Book Club essays by Ron Charles, but I don’t always get to it until later than posted. Today Charles explains “Paraskevidekatriaphobia, the fear of Friday the 13th.” The Urban Dictionary says once you pronounce it, you are cured.

Editor Vanessa Cronin suggests a few books to read today, including a Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child – Bad Luck and Trouble, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s hilarious Good Omens, and the book that might have started it all – Friday the Thirteenth written in 1907 by Thomas William Lawson.

I am currently reading Mrs. March by Virginia Feito, about a New York Upper East side wealthy socialite who suspects her author husband has mimicked her (not favorably) as the main character in his latest bestseller. Although starting out as a mild narrative, it is morphing into a Patricia Highsmith type of slow-boiling thriller. In her review for the New York Times, Christine Mangan says:

“By the time we approach the end, there is little doubt as to the fate of Mrs. March. And yet the final pages are shocking nonetheless, and readers may find themselves tempted to return to the beginning in order to understand just what Feito has so convincingly managed to achieve within her accomplished debut.”

I can’t wait – seems like a good page turner for Friday the Thirteenth.

What are you reading today?

A Liitle Magic Always Helps

Moving on from murderous tales and creepy characters, I’ve been watching “The Adventures of Merlin” on Netflix with flashing swords and mythic magic.

The impish young Merlin honing his magical skills in secret in the days when Arthur was a prince of Camelot and Merlin was an apprentice to the court physican, is a treat to watch. Taking more than poetic license with White’s Once and Future King (referenced by the Dragon to Merlin), the plot barely resembles either White’s post World War II tales or the original fifteenth century telling in Malory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur.”

This BBC version changes many pieces of the well known legend but keeps enough of a foundation to make the stories exciting and somewhat predictable. For example, Guinevere is the lowly serving girl to Morgana (still the villain and Arthur’s half/sister). Arthur loves Gwen, promising to break with tradition and marry her. Whenever Merlin’s eyes glow and he mutters a pseudo Latin or Gaelic phrase, he is the superhero we all love and wish we were.

Raluca Radulescu of Bangor University writes “…our modern appetite for fantasy {is} a reflection of our need to reinvent the past, and bring hope into our present. Moral integrity, loyalty to one’s friends and kin, abiding by the law and defending the weak, form the cornerstone of Arthurian {legend}. They offer the reassurance that doing the morally right thing is valuable, even if it may bring about temporary defeat. In the end, virtues and values prevail…”

We could all use a little hope and some moral integrity in our world these days. Watching the series has inspired me to reread or listen to some old favorites: The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Mary Stewart’s The Last Enchantment. Have you read them?