Monday, July 18, 2011

Amor Towles

From a Q & A with Amor Towles, author of Rules of Civility:

Why did you decide to write a book set in the late 1930s, and how did you research the period?

I've always had a great interest in the period between 1900 and 1940—because it was a time of such incredible creative combustion.

In retrospect, the pace of change in the arts and industry in the nineteenth century seems pretty glacial. Painting, music, the novel, architecture were all evolving, but at a pretty observable pace. Then in the span of a few decades you have James Joyce, Cubism, Surrealism, jazz, Nijinsky, Henry Ford, the skyscraper, Sigmund Freud, the Russian Revolution, movies, airplanes, and the general upending of received forms in almost every area of human endeavor.

Over the years, I listened to the music, saw the movies, read the novels and manifestos, lingered in front of the paintings. So I really didn't do any applied research for the book. Rather, I tried to rely on my secondhand familiarity with the period to orient my imagination.

Why did you decide to write a book from the perspective of a young woman?

Some writers such as John Cheever and Raymond Carver, seem to draw artistic energy from analyzing the realm of their own experiences—their social circles and memories and mores. I'm one of those who draw creative energy from the opposite. I prefer to put myself in an environment that's further afield and look through the eyes of someone who differs from me in age, ethnicity, gender, and/or social class. I think a little displacement makes me a sharper observer. It's that challenge of trying to imagine what's on...[read on]
Visit Amor Towles's website.

--Marshal Zeringue