Tuesday, January 16, 2018

My Reading Life: A Gentleman in Moscow (Towles)

I'm glad that I read this book (once I got into it, which took a while) because the writing is way above the average on the market today. That in itself was a treat. Yet, I don't feel like I would have missed much, if anything, by not having read this.
 Many times throughout the book, I found myself wishing I could have the Count's  modus operandi  ingrained in my speech and habits.
 Interestingly, I found  this Q and A with the author  which offers several interesting perspectives. If you have read the book, be sure to read this article, especially "The Two Most Frequently Asked Questions" at the end.
 Several quotes I marked:
“The principle here is that a new generation owes a measure of thanks to every member of the previous generation. Our elders planted fields and fought wars; they advanced the arts and sciences, and generally made sacrifices on our behalf. So by their efforts, however humble, they have earned a measure of our gratitude and respect.”
 “By broadening your horizons, what I meant is that education will give you a sense of the world’s scope, of its wonders, of its many and varied ways of life.”
 “Taking a sip, the Count reviewed the menu in reverse order as was his habit, having learned from experience that giving consideration to appetizers before entrees can only lead to regrets.”  Agreed!
 “If patience wasn’t so easily tested, then it would hardly be a virtue.”
 “Surely, the span of time between the placing of an order and the arrival of appetizers is one of the most perilous in all human interaction. What young lovers have not found themselves at this juncture in a silence so sudden, so seemingly insurmountable that it threatens to cast doubt upon their chemistry as a couple? What husband and wife have not found themselves suddenly unnerved by the fear that they might not ever have something urgent, impassioned, or surprising to say to each other again. So it is with good reason that most of us meet this dangerous interstice with a sense of foreboding.” How true!   . . . So to circumvent any unease, the Count and Sofia invented a game, “Zut”, where one player chooses a “category encompassing a specialized subset of phenomena – such as stringed instruments, or famous islands, or winged creatures other than birds. The two players then go back and forth until one of them fails to come up with a fitting example in a suitable interval of time (say, two and a half minutes). Victory goes to the first player who wins two out of three rounds.”  What a great game idea! Maybe the game is "out there" and I'm unaware, but what a great thing this would be in compact form -- a booklet that could easily be carried and tucked away but able to be produced quickly -- containing suggested categories. I can think of many other times of use besides waiting on food to be brought to the table. And what a great tool to bring children up on.
 “ . . . [L]ife does not proceed by leaps and bounds. It unfolds. At any given moment, it is the manifestation of a thousand transitions. Our faculties wax and wane, our experiences accumulate, and our opinions evolve – if not glacially, then at least gradually.” 


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