Thursday, June 13, 2024

Table for Two by Amor Towles

Table for Two 
by Amor Towles
464 pages
Published April 2024 by Penguin Publishing Group

Publisher's Summary: 
Millions of Amor Towles fans are in for a treat as he shares some of his shorter fiction: six stories based in New York City and a novella set in Golden Age Hollywood.

The New York stories, most of which take place around the year 2000, consider the fateful consequences that can spring from brief encounters and the delicate mechanics of compromise that operate at the heart of modern marriages.

In Towles’s novel Rules of Civility, the indomitable Evelyn Ross leaves New York City in September 1938 with the intention of returning home to Indiana. But as her train pulls into Chicago, where her parents are waiting, she instead extends her ticket to Los Angeles. Told from seven points of view, “Eve in Hollywood” describes how Eve crafts a new future for herself—and others—in a noirish tale that takes us through the movie sets, bungalows, and dive bars of Los Angeles.

Written with his signature wit, humor, and sophistication, Table for Two is another glittering addition to Towles’s canon of stylish and transporting fiction.

My Thoughts: 
You've long heard me say of short story collections that there are always some stories that are better than others, some that don't work for me. Not so with this collection and the novella that brings Towles back to where it all began. That last sentence of the publisher's summary? Spot on. 

I was enchanted with the characters and the circumstances of every story, from the first about a Russian man who finds his place in Bolshevik Russia as someone who will stand in line for others and eventually found himself doing the same thing in the United States:
"Though the peasant Pushkin did not share his namesake's facility with words, he was something of a poet in his sod - and when he witnessed the leaves sprouting on the birch trees, or the thunderstorms of summer, or the golden hues of autumn, he would feel in his heart that theirs was a satisfactory life."
To the woman who discovers the secret life of her stepfather only to have it cost her mother the marriage:
"But before she'd walked a hundred feet, the opening riff of The Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive," suddenly started playing from a boom box to Nell's left, and that's where she saw him. If it weren't for his silver hairs, she would have missed him altogether. For the minutes that her stepfather had been out of her sight, he had experienced something of a transformation. Gone were the tan pants, white Oxford, and blue blazer. In their place, John now wore silky red jogging shorts, a blue T-shirt emblazoned with the figure of Mr. Met, a white headband a la Bjorn Borg circa 1975, and on his feet a pair of roller skates."
Every story was unique with a touch of philosophy, morality, and humor. None of the endings was predictable. I would have happily read more short stories. But, of course, the reason I was most excited to get to this book was to pick back up with Eve Ross who disappeared from NYC in Rules of Civility but not from readers' memories. Clearly not from Towle's, either. Expectations were high and I was not disappointed. Eve was exactly as I remembered her and the story is filled with all the glitter and seediness of 1938 Hollywood. Eve befriends a former police detective on the train ride across the country who, along with a portly former movie star, assists her when her new friend, Olivia de Havilland, is blackmailed. It give off the noir air of the films of an era that absolutely comes alive in Towle's hands. 

I checked this one out from the library. I might find myself buying a copy so that I can reread it (as much as I want others to read it, I might even loan it out if I own it). 

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