Friday, 17 August 2012

Rules of Civility.

I love books, but I am not a fast reader. As a result, I often find it difficult to really get into a novel. If the author takes too long to spark my interest, my patience for the story quickly dwindles. This being said, like most readers, I absolutely love when I simply can't wait to pick up my book. I love when I can't stop thinking about it, and when I intentionally put time aside in my day to pick up where I last left off. 

Rules of Civility did this for me. What I found interesting though, is that it wasn't plot twists and suspense that had me hooked, but rather the author, Amor Towles' incredibly colourful and descriptive writing. Within the first few pages, I was transported back to a 1938 New York City that was so vivid, I felt as though I was watching a film. Not since Atonement, has a novel been such a visual experience for me. 

The story follows twenty-five year old Katy Kontent as she starts at the bottom and climbs her way through the upper ranks of New York Society. Katy is intelligent, and constantly humouring us with her cool wit. Despite her humble start (living in a girls boarding house, and working as a secretary), Katy manages a glamourous lifestyle. With Towles' attention to detail, the reader can hear the jazz, and taste the gin, along with Katy, her free spirited train-wreck of a friend, Eve, and the handsome banker, Tinker Grey.

It is Tinker who makes a point of following George Washington's Rules of Civility, a practice aimed at refining his character. The author includes all 110 of Washington's rules at the end of the book. The following are some of the rules that stood out to me. Some were humourous, and others helpful reminders, that I think in today's society we all to often forget.

4th In the Presence of Others Sing not to yourself with a humming Noise, nor Drum with your Fingers or Feet.

6th Sleep not when others Speak, Sit not when others stand, Speak not when you Should hold your Peace, walk not on when others Stop.

18th Read no Letters, Books, or Papers in Company but when there is a Necessity for the doing of it you must ask leave: come not near the Books or Writings of Another so as to read them unless desired or give your opinion of them unask'd also look not nigh when another is writing a Letter.

25th Superfluous Complements and all Affectation of Ceremonie are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be Neglected.

45th Being to advise or reprehend any one, consider whether it ought to be in publick or in Private; presently, or at Some other time in what terms to do it & in reproving Shew no Sign of Cholar but do it with all Sweetness and Mildness.

47th Mock not nor Jest at any thing of Importance break no Jest that are Sharp Biting and if you Deliver any thing witty and Pleasent abstain from Laughing there at yourself.

53d Run not in the Streets, neither go too slowly nor with Mouth open go not Shaking yr Arms kick not the earth with yr feet, go not upon the Toes, nor in a Dancing fashion.

54th Play not the Peacock, looking every where about you, to See if you be w
ell Deck't, if your Shoes fit well if your Stokings sit neatly, and Cloths handsomely.

56th Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for 'tis better to be alone than in bad Company.

68th Go not thither, where you know not, whether you Shall be Welcome or not. Give not Advice without being Ask'd & when desired do it briefly.

70th Reprehend not the imperfections of others for that belongs to Parents Masters and Superiours.

74th When Another Speaks be attentive your Self and disturb not the Audience if any hesitate in his Words help him not nor Prompt him without desired, Interrupt him not, nor Answer him till his Speech be ended.

74th When Another Speaks be attentive your Self and disturb not the Audience if any hesitate in his Words help him not nor Prompt him without desired, Interrupt him not, nor Answer him till his Speech be ended.

103d In Company of your Betters be not longer in eating than they are lay not your Arm but only your hand upon the table.

'Place not your spoon on the wrong side of your cup and saucer'.....oops!!!

The central theme of the story revolves around the concept that a simple occurance (whether chance or not) in your twenties can shape your life forever. When looking at my own life (specifically some of the events that have taken place in the last year), I see how this could hold true.

Do you think there is truth to this theory? Has a specific event in your life shaped your current path?
Please leave a comment, I'd love to hear your stories.

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