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Table for Two: Fictions by Amor Towles
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Table for Two: Fictions (edition 2024)

by Amor Towles (Author)

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2771696,201 (4.47)19
"The millions of readers of Amor Towles are in for a treat as he shares some of his shorter fiction: six stories set in New York City and a novella in Los Angeles. The New York stories, most of which are set around the turn of the millennium, take up everything from the death-defying acrobatics of the male ego, to the fateful consequences of brief encounters, and the delicate mechanics of comprise which 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 the midst of Hollywood's golden age. Throughout the stories, two characters often find themselves sitting across a table for two where the direction of their futures may hinge upon what they say to each other next. Written with his signature wit, humor, and sophistication, Table for Two is another glittering addition to Towles's canon of stylish and transporting historical fiction"--… (more)
Member:kimberlyklett
Title:Table for Two: Fictions
Authors:Amor Towles (Author)
Info:Viking (2024), 464 pages
Collections:Your library
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Table for Two: Fictions by Amor Towles

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Another great book by Amor Towles which consists of 6 short stories and a novella, Eve in Hollywood. Eve in Hollywood is based on the character in Rules of Civility which I read many years ago so I didn’t remember all of the details. But it wasn’t necessary.

Amor Towles is an amazing writer. He effortlessly weaves in great thoughts or observations in his story telling that often ring true. My favorite of the short stories was The Bootlegger which is about an elderly man who tapes the symphony at Carnegie Hall much to the dismay of the man sitting next to him. The unfolding of the story was excellent but, what most impressed me was Towles writing about what it’s like to listen to classical music. So true and so relatable. ( )
  kayanelson | May 20, 2024 |
I'm addicted to reading Amor Towles. I grabbed this book as soon as it was available. I was surprised to see Fictions on the cover. I immediately thought of Borges' Ficciones, which I had recently read. That's when I realized this was not a novel but a collection of short stories. Not being a short story fan, I was disappointed, but at least it was Amor Towles.

Towles' stories, like his novels, are about people of wealth. Often its generational wealth, growing up with money and attending exclusive schools and clubs. Often it's those aspiring to be one of them by hanging around them, partying with them, working for them or at least running with them. For some, it's marrying them. Often celebrities appear with them. Money is everywhere. Fancy cars appear. Much centers around New York City. Not just New York, Upper West Side Manhattan. As someone who at least grew up in Brooklyn, I recognize the places, the museums, the attitude. These novels and stories shift us back in time, more like the Fitzgerald era. This is a world about to disappear, for many, the reality of the depression. They don't accept that their world has disappeared, they just need to get back to the party. Some were silly and acted without a safety net. Some had their own safety net or figured out they needed to adjust. That did not change what they wanted to be doing, just their ability to do it.

It's only a week or more since I read this book, but I'm disappointed to report I've already forgotten most of the stories. Yes, I'm getting older and sad to say, memory is occasionally an issue. But that's not what's going on here. These short stories are the real issue. They are well-written, interesting, pure Towles, but like chocolate, they're a quick dopamine hit, making you smile but you barely remember having eaten them. I'm glad I did, but they just don't register for the long haul. It's part of the reason I'm not a fan of short stories. With one exception – Eve in Hollywood. I've been anticipating this since I read Towles' first novel, The Rules of Civility. I had sought out The Rules of Civility after getting addicted to Towles by reading both A Gentleman in Moscow and The Lincoln Highway. Once I get addicted to an author, I search out their earlier work.

Eve is a major character in Rules of Civility. In that book, she takes a dramatic exit stage left, leaving readers wondering what's up with that. It didn't make sense in the arc of the story and left a big hole in the story. At the end of my 2011 paperback edition, there was an ad for an audio only story, Eve in Hollywood. Last year I tried to get a copy from Amazon only to be told it was no longer in circulation. Who takes an audio book out of circulation? Made no sense. Now I know why. Eve in Hollywood is the last story in this book. It's much longer than any of the others, taking almost half the pages of the book. It stretches the definition of a short story, closer to a novelette. It's the only story which I clearly remember. The story would have been a major subplot in Rules of Civility and would have been a distraction as it did not fit with the rest of that book's narrative. Eve in Hollywood is more a detective story, eventually a murder mystery. Beyond the major character, it shares one theme with Rules of Civility, life with the upper crust. Eve sets herself up at the famous Beverly Hills Hotel and is soon rubbing shoulders with celebrities everyone would recognize, such as Olivia de Havilland. Someone is blackmailing her with nude photos of questionable origin. Eve is determined to get to the bottom of the issue and protect her friend. Once again, her personality is her strength. I won't spill the beans. You'll have to read it to learn how she does it. It's worth your time. ( )
1 vote Ed_Schneider | May 12, 2024 |
In his latest work, Amor Towles presents us with six short stories and a novella. I have not read Towles before (yes, I know I am late to the party, but better late than never, right?), so this was a great introduction for me to his work. I so much enjoyed this book that I plan on going back and reading all of his previous work.

The language was beautiful without being overly flowery and the prose flowed effortlessly. I would read several pages and it read so smoothly that I felt like I had only read a couple of pages, when it fact it was half of the story. Towles’ language sold me. But, more than that, the stories were wonderful tales.

Most of the stories are set in New York, except for the first one, which begins in Russia and ends up in New York. I will say all of the stories have somewhat of a sad ending, but a pleasant ending, nonetheless. Justice is served and wrongdoers are punished, even when we have closely identified with those characters.

Briefly, here is a summary of each story. The first story, “The Line,” tells the story of a man in Russia who is so inept that he even loses his job as a janitor. He cannot sweep flour up from the floor without filling the air with the flour. However, he eventually finds his calling. He is a patient man who has a knack for standing in line. He enjoys the mindless task so much, and is so good at it he volunteers to stand in line for others. And, in Russia, there are many lines in which to stand. Finally, he ends up in New York with disastrous results.

The second story is “The Ballad of Timothy Touchett.” This story is about a failed author who finds his calling as a forger of famous author’s signatures. Unfortunately, his scheme ends tragically.

In “Hasta Luego,” our protagonist meets a man at the airport waiting in line, and unfortunately gets more involved in the stranger’s life than he intends to. This was a great story with lots of emotional tugs, but with a tragic ending.

“I Will Survive” was probably the most enjoyable story, but had the most craft issues, which I will explain shortly. A woman who suspects her husband is cheating on her asks her daughter to follow him and see where he is going. At the last minute, she changes her mind and tells her daughter not to follow her husband, but her daughter is so curious now, that she follows him anyway. What she learns about her father is strange and has disastrous results for him and his wife.

This issue has many craft issues. There are multiple POV shifts from the first person to the third person which are jarring to the reader. The first person sections are told from the perspective of Jeremy, the daughter’s husband. But in the third person sections, Jeremy is still telling us of things that happen even when he is not present, which is not possible. This took me out of the story and was distracting. Also, toward the end of the story, the author inserts a section containing his personal views about abortion. This stuck out like a sore thumb and had no relevance to the story. Why Towles felt the need to insert his personal views about abortion in the midst of the story is beyond me and was distracting to what was a very enjoyable story.

“The Bootlegger” was another very enjoyable story as well. A man and his wife have season tickets to performances at Carnegie Hall. They are seated each week next to an old man who is recording the performance on a tape recorder, which is strictly prohibited. After several weeks, the man decides to report the elderly man who is recording the performances, with disastrous results. He later learns a secret about the elderly man and comes to regret reporting him. This may be the most emotional story in the book.

The final short story, “The DiDomenico Fragment” tells the story of a man who has inherited a fragment of a famous painting, but sold it years ago. When an opportunity arises for someone looking to buy his fragment, he tries to broker the sale of another relative’s fragment of the painting. And, like all the other stories, this one also ends with his failure.

The final piece in the book is a novella, “Eve in Hollywood.” It is a sequel to Towles previous book, Rules of Civility. As previously stated, I have not read Rules of Civility, and am told that it is best to read Rules prior to reading this story, but I read the novella in this story anyway and plan to go back and read Rules of Civility soon.

This story picks up where Rules of Civility ends with Eve extending her train ticket and ending up in Hollywood where she meets Olivia de Havilland. I won’t go into the plot here as it is rather involved. This novella, about 200 pages long starts out strong, lags a little in the middle, then picks up strongly at the end. It contains many twists and turns and is a great story. I am anxious to now read Rules of Civility to learn more about Eve.

Overall, this is one of the best books I have read in ages. A FULL 5-star rating. ( )
1 vote dwcofer | May 7, 2024 |
BIBLIOGRAPHIC DETAILS:
-Print: COPYRIGHT ©: April 2, 2024; ISBN 978-0593296370; PUBLISHER: Viking; PAGES: 464; UNABRIDGED (Hardcover Info from Amazon)
-Digital: COPYRIGHT ©: April 2, 2024; ISBN: 980593296387; PUBLISHER: Penguin Books; PAGES: 458; UNABRIDGED (Kindle Info from Amazon)
*Audio: COPYRIGHT ©: April 2, 2024; PUBLISHER: Penguin Audio; DURATION: 13 hours, 23 minutes; Unabridged; (Audible Info from Amazon/Audible)
-Feature Film or tv: No.

SUMMARY/ EVALUATION:
-SELECTED:
I learned in 2023, that this book would be coming out in April 2024, from the author himself when he was doing an interview-style presentation at the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa, California. I put a hold on the audio the moment it was available for a hold in my Libby app, but I knew even then I would probably be using one of our credits for it at Audible.

-ABOUT:
No, sorry. I’m not giving even the tiniest bit away. (Well, I guess I do later in the excerpt.)

-OVERALL OPINION:
Splendid!
As a child, I’d have to say my favorite author was E. B. White (“Charlotte’s Web”) and then when I got a little older, it was the many authors who wrote under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene (“Nancy Drew” series). In my 20’s I read a lot of science fiction, but my favorite author was Richard Bach (“Illusions”). It wasn’t until my 40’s that I finally listened to “David Copperfield” who won me over to calling Charles Dickens my favorite. Now? I’m sure you can guess, or I wouldn’t be writing all this here. Amor Towles. His characters are every bit as charming and huge-hearted as David (Copperfield), but rather than intolerably evil villains, he, so far anyway, fills that spot with circumstances. There are unkind people representing those circumstances, but no dwelling on, say, the schoolmaster of my worst nightmares.
And Mr. Towles writes with great patience. He takes the time to work out where a story will end early on, rather than fall into the George RR Martin trap of being led by the story and never finding a fitting end. And the nuances and jewels one discovers along the way, like references back to previous stories make discoveries all the richer for our familiarity with a person, an item, or an image’s past.
Every story in this book is . . . I’ll say it again, SPLENDID!

AUTHOR:
Amor Towles (From Wikipedia)
“Amor Towles (born October 24,1964) is an American novelist. He is best known for his bestselling novels Rules of Civility (2011),[1] A Gentleman in Moscow (2016),[2] and The Lincoln Highway (2021).[3] Towles began writing following a career in investment banking.”
Towles was born and raised in Boston, to Stokley Porter Towles, an investment banker at Brown Brothers Harriman and a philanthropist, and Holly Hollingsworth. His parents later divorced. He has a brother, Stokley Jr.; a sister, Kimbrough; and two stepbrothers.[4] When Towles was 10 years old, he threw a bottle with a message into the Atlantic Ocean. Several weeks later, he received a letter from Harrison Salisbury, who was then the managing editor of The New York Times. Towles and Salisbury corresponded for many years afterward.[5]
He graduated from Yale College and received a Master of Arts degree in English from Stanford University, where he was a Scowcroft Fellow. The thesis for his M.A. titled Temptations of Pleasure was published in the The Paris Review in 1989.[6]”

NARRATORS:
Edoardo Ballerini (From Wikipedia)
“Edoardo Ballerini (born March 20, 1970) is an American actor, narrator, writer, and film director. On screen he is best known for his work as junkie Corky Caporale in The Sopranos and the hotheaded chef in the indie film Dinner Rush (2001). Ballerini is a two-time winner of the Audio Publishers Association's Best Male Narrator Audie Award (2013), Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter; 2019 Watchers by Dean Koontz) and the co-author of the 2021 collection of stories The Angel of Rome, with Jess Walter. His directorial debut, Good Night Valentino, premiered at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival.[1]”

J. Smith-Cameron (From Wikipedia)
“Jean Isabel Smith (born September 7, 1957), credited professionally as J. Smith-Cameron, is an American actress. She gained prominence for her roles in the television series Rectify (2013–2016) and Succession (2018–2023), the latter of which earned her two Primetime Emmy Award nominations.”

*Both Narrators were pitch perfect!!!

GENRE:
Fiction; Short Stories; Novellas

LOCATIONS:
New York; and Los Angeles; Moscow

DEDICATION:
“In Memory of My Father Stokley Porter Towles.”

SAMPLE QUOTATION: From “The Line"
“During the last days of the last Tsar, there lived a peasant named Pushkin in a small village one hundred miles from Moscow. Though Pushkin and his wife, Irina, had not been blessed with children, they had been blessed with a cozy two-room cottage and a few square acres that they farmed with the patience and persistence appropriate to their lot. Row by row they would till their soil, sow their seeds, and harvest their crops—moving back and forth across the land like a shuttle through a loom. And when their workday was done, they would journey home to dine on cabbage soup at their little wooden table, then succumb to the holy sleep of the countryside.

Though the peasant Pushkin did not share his namesake’s facility with words, he was something of a poet in his soul—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. In fact, so satisfactory was their life, had Pushkin uncovered an old bronze lantern while tilling the fields and unleashed from it an ancient genie with three wishes to grant, Pushkin wouldn’t have known what to wish for.

And we all know exactly where that sort of happiness leads.

2. Like many of Russia’s peasants, Pushkin and his wife belonged to a mir—a cooperative that leased the land, allocated the acres, and shared expenses at the mill. On occasion, the members of the mir would gather to discuss some matter of mutual concern. At one such meeting in the spring of 1916, a young man who had traveled all the way from Moscow took to the podium in order to explain the injustice of a country in which 10 percent of the people owned 90 percent of the land. In some detail, he described the means by which Capital had sweetened its own tea and feathered its own nest. In conclusion, he encouraged all assembled to wake from their slumbers and join him in the march toward the inevitable victory of the international proletariat over the forces of repression.

Pushkin was not a political man, or even a particularly educated man. So, he did not grasp the significance of everything this Muscovite had to say. But the visitor spoke with such enthusiasm and made use of so many colorful expressions that Pushkin took pleasure in watching the young man’s words float past as one would the banners of an Easter Day procession.

That night, as Pushkin and his wife walked home, they were both quiet. This struck Pushkin as perfectly appropriate given the hour and the delicate breeze and the chorus of crickets singing in the grass. But if Irina was quiet, she was quiet the way a heated skillet is quiet—in the moments before you drop in the fat. For while Pushkin had enjoyed watching the young man’s words float past, Irina’s consciousness had closed upon them like the jaws of a trap. With an audible snap, she had taken hold and had no intention of letting go. In fact, so tight was her grip on the young man’s arguments, should he ever want them back, he would have to gnaw through his own phrases the way a wolf in a trap gnaws through its ankle.”

RATING:.
5

STARTED READING – FINISHED READING
4-12-2024 to 4-20-2024 ( )
  TraSea | May 2, 2024 |
"But nothing is ever as simple as it seems. At least not if you're overeducated, overpaid, and living in New York."

I believe this collection of short stories, anchored by a novella (a noirish crime caper that really is a bit too long to qualify as a novella) is the finest writing Amor Towles has ever done. I count myself a superfan, so this is very high praise. This is stunning. Funny, poignant, elegant, brilliantly observant, old-fashioned in the best way, and filled with the sort of prose that is the reason I read. This is the writing I am chasing after all the time, and here I caught it. Maybe the best part is that, without being saccharine, and while revealing many of the characters' choices that are less than noble, Towles leaves me liking humans more than I usually do. Everyone is so complex and somehow relatable, even the people barely on the page. I could not stop from empathizing all over the place. I loved everyone as they were, with all their realness, in part for, rather than in spite of their selfishness, defensiveness, snobbery, and greed. Beautiful. ( )
  Narshkite | May 1, 2024 |
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"The millions of readers of Amor Towles are in for a treat as he shares some of his shorter fiction: six stories set in New York City and a novella in Los Angeles. The New York stories, most of which are set around the turn of the millennium, take up everything from the death-defying acrobatics of the male ego, to the fateful consequences of brief encounters, and the delicate mechanics of comprise which 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 the midst of Hollywood's golden age. Throughout the stories, two characters often find themselves sitting across a table for two where the direction of their futures may hinge upon what they say to each other next. Written with his signature wit, humor, and sophistication, Table for Two is another glittering addition to Towles's canon of stylish and transporting historical fiction"--

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