Introductions: Amor Towles
November 22, 2019
By Ruth Dickey, SAL Executive Director
A few years ago, everyone I knew began telling me about a book they absolutely adored and that I simply must read. But when I learned the book was about a Count who spends 30 years in a hotel in Moscow, I was first skeptical, and then outright resistant. It would take an extraordinary writer to make this premise not just successful but worthy of such widespread devotion.
I quickly learned that Amor Towles is indeed such an extraordinary writer. As the ever-charming Count Rostov says in A Gentleman in Moscow, “By their very nature, human beings are so capricious, so complex, so delightfully contradictory, that they deserve not only our consideration, but our reconsideration—and our unwavering determination to withhold our opinion until we have engaged with them in every possible setting at every possible hour.”
It’s exactly this consideration that pushes out the walls of the Metropole Hotel to hold an expansive world where I would happily have stayed for 60 years.
Amor Towles writes books worth considering and reconsidering, that delight in every possible setting at every possible hour. Whether he is exploring late-1930s New York or thirty years of Russian history, Towles creates rich and nuanced worlds filled with both daily joys and fascinating characters—worlds and characters worth considering and reconsidering. Towles is the author of the New York Times bestseller Rules of Civility, which was named a Best Book of 2011 by the Wall Street Journal, and A Gentleman in Moscow, which spent over a year on the New York Times bestseller list and was named a Best Book of 2016 by NPR, the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, and the San Francisco Chronicle.
What I love about these books is their sheer delight—in a perfect soup, a hint of mint, a layer of lilac in honey. And more, their illumination of lives both well-considered and well-lived, of what gives meaning and connection. Of fabulous parties, yes, but also of betrayals and political absurdities, and of the quiet moments and inconveniences that make life meaningful, whether that’s reading in a chair perfectly balanced on two legs, or savoring Dickens in a read-past-your-stop sort of way.
The author Amor Towles gave a reading at Benaroya Hall on November 12, 2019, as part of our 2019/20 Literary Arts Series; SAL Executive Director Ruth Dickey gave this introduction.