Amor Towles Sets New Book of Six Short Stories and One Novella in Modern Day NYC

His bestselling debut novel, “Rules of Civility” (2011) was set in New York around the end of the Great Depression and sold enough copies that the author could abandon his career as an investment banker. In his latest effort, the transplanted Bostonian who now lives with his in Gramercy Park, is anchored in present day New York City.

| 07 May 2024 | 07:10

“Our lives can often change materially due to a single conversation at a table for two,” says Amor Towles (“The Lincoln Highway,” “A Gentleman in Moscow,” “Rules of Civility”) so “Table for Two” is what he named his new book, a collection of six short stories set in New York City, and one novella set in Los Angeles but told through the eyes of a former Manhattanite.

His latest offering has a story for everyone: the New Yorker with immigrant roots, the recent grad who’ll do whatever it takes to make it here, the Upper East Side mother and downtown daughter with a challenging relationship, the businessperson passing through, those who can’t mind their own business in a city that prides itself on doing just that, and, last but not least, the aging denizen who wants to prove he’s still got it and takes the bait whenever the opportunity presents itself.

The novella is the continuing story of “Rules of Civility” character, Evelyn Ross, who left Manhattan without a word to her jazz club crowd. On the train ride home to Indiana, she has second thoughts about her destination. By the time she reaches Chicago, Eve extends her ticket for Hollywood.

According to the famed novelist, who honed his skills on the short story, his new book took a decade to create but, “Unlike my novels, [the stories] represent a time and place that I have witnessed firsthand, albeit through the eyes of a fabulist.”

The Boston native who now lives with his wife, daughter and son in Gramercy Park, has degrees from both Yale and Stanford and left a 20-year investment career to devote himself full-time to writing after the runaway success of his debut novel, “Rules of Civility.” Lucky for us. (FYI: “Rules of Civility,” which takes place in 1938 Manhattan, is not just my favorite of his books, but an all-time fave in general. I’m not alone, the bestseller published in 2011 sold over 1.5 million copies in hardcover and paperback.)

Although his aforementioned works of fiction have sprung from his vivid imagination, the New York stories in “Table for Two” began “with some small encounter I witnessed first-hand,” and then, he says, he ran with it.

The premises may have sprung from some personal event, but the characters and their experiences are all invented. That having been said, “Inevitably, as I’m writing a story, I may make use of some detail from my life or from the realm of my interests,” wrote Towles, who is a collector of fine art and antiques.

He cites one personl detail incorporated into his tale of the “Bootlegger.” The author has his friend, the great British cellist Steven Isserlis, make an appearance as one of the four virtuosos performing at Carnegie Hall.

“I knew I wanted the culminating moment of the story to be the narrator hearing Steven play the prelude to the first of Bach’s Suites for Cello (in G Major), as that piece has long been a favorite of mine,” Towles explains on his web site. And so, we do too.

As far as the novella goes, Eve Ross, the spirited and somewhat willful best friend of “Rules of Civility” narrator Katey Kontent, survives a car crash but not the friendship.

In the novel’s Epilog, Katey tells us that the next she heard of Eve was via a gossip magazine with a photo of her old friend exiting the Tropicana Club with new BFF, “Gone With The Wind” actress Olivia de Havilland.

“When I finished writing “Rules of Civility,” I did find myself wondering ‘What happened to Eve?’ I checked into the Beverly Hills Hotel and finally gave Eve the story she deserved.” (I can attest that he did her justice.)

The audiobook is narrated by Edoardo Ballerini, the accomplished actor who narrated the majority of “The Lincoln Highway,” and Emmy-nominated actress J. Smith Cameron who played lawyer Gerri Kellman on HBO’s lauded series, “Succession.” Towles’ 2016 bestseller “A Gentleman in Moscow” was adapted into an eight part British tv series starring Ewan McGregor.

Back in 2011 when I literally closed the book on “Rules of Civility,” I couldn’t wait for more of Towles’ insights on New York. I finally got what I wanted and it was worth the wait.

Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of three novels, most recently, “The Last Single Woman in New York City.”