Friday, February 10, 2017

The Pathway to a Great Story is Paved with Hints of Letters

February Ten, Twenty-seventeen

Dear Book Readers and Letter Writers,

I set out to write an e-mail in which I'd share photos with someone . . . I set out to send photos to a pen friend, and while telling them about three books I bought yesterday, I paused to visit the author's blog because I'd written, "I decided to save Hope’s book for last, and started A Gentleman in Moscow in the book store parking lot. I sincerely believe you and Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov would be great friends in real life. :)" I paused to see if there were reviews of the author's other book, Rules of Civility, in case I needed to back up my claim. Now, here I sit . . . Words failed me for real this time, so I sat here in awe, watching the cleverness of it all until I could catch my breath long enough to type again! I had to tell you!!! I must share with you, this . . . this magic! Go. See for yourself here:  A Gentleman in Moscow

Did you see it? Did you watch? Tell me my way out yonder mind did not make it up. I can't seem to make it play itself again, and I'm too . . . What's another word for afraid? That's what I am now. I am too ____________ to leave this page in case I cannot get back, or I might realize that it was just a dream after all. Did you like it? Maybe I won't read the other book but sentences such as this make me wonder:

“Put on some Billie Holiday, pour a dry martini and immerse yourself in the eventful life of Katey Kontent…[Towles] clearly knows the privileged world he’s writing about, as well as the vivid, sometimes reckless characters who inhabit it.”

I almost love this:  " . . . if a man does not master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them. 

The count ran his hand across the desk's dimpled surface.

How many of the Grand Duke's words did those faint indentations reflect? Here over forty years had been written concise instructions to caretakers; persuasive arguments to statesmen; exquisite counsel  to friends. In other words, it was a desk to be reckoned with."

The story takes place in 1922 Russia. A count is placed under house arrest in the grand Metropol Hotel for the simple crime of being an aristocrat. My sympathy wraps the count from hair to sole as he is stripped of well . . . almost everything, and escorted up three flights of stairs to an ignoble abode where a decade of dust lays claims to every inch of available space. His one window went from being the size of a chessboard on page eleven to the size of a postage stamp a few pages later. Alas, poor  Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov! But only an aristocrat can go from a third floor suite with an "interconnected bedroom, bath, dining room, and grand salon with eight-foot windows overlooking the lindens of Theatre Square," to a room in an "attic originally built to house the butlers and ladies' maids of the Metropol's guests;" until traveling with servants fell out of fashion. *sigh*  No, no, no! I cannot further describe the count's new accommodations. It hurts me too much. 

Having trouble imagining such a life? "Conde Nast" to the rescue provides us with this: Metropol Hotel. This web designer deserves five gold stars. At least! Such a web site! Check every link, possible link! Have fun before you read the book. And let me say, I bought the book without second thought to the missing lure:  20% off. I could not find a copy on my own, and so I had to ask a book seller for help. There's always someone who knows everything in that place. It was on the special table for new books. *wink* And after he found it, he gave me a coupon! And, he gave me an excellent review in a single sentence. He knew the book I wanted the moment he overheard me ask another book seller if he could help me find it! I was willing to pay whatever the publisher asked. Silly me? See? I am still so excited to tell you all this that I'm stumbling up my own heels in haste. Sorry. Sorry. I wrote a letter last night. And then I read until lights-out. Ahem. Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov writes notes and letters too. But I'd bet you knew correspondence has a role in this story from the very beginning, didn't you? But, I really must get back to that e-mail.  

And so . . . I am off! 

Read on! And let us write to each other!

Sincerely sincere,

your friend in prose and correspondence,
this Limner

P.S.  Such a desk the count inherited, yes? 

PPS. "Reasonably intelligent individuals are never hoodwinked individually. But they possess another, equally harmful form of this human frailty: they are subject to mass delusion. A swindler will never be able to lead a single individual by the nose; but as for a large group taken together, their noses are always ready and willing! Meanwhile, the swindlers, weak as individuals and each led by his own nose, when taken together can never be led by their noses. That’s the whole secret of world history. But there’s really no need to delve into world history here. We’re telling a tale, so let’s get on with it.     –Nikolai Chernyshevsky: What Is to Be Done? (1863)"


  1. I have heard that everyone who has read that loves it . But honestly I don't think I would enjoy it . Have you read the chilbury ladies choir ? it is an excellent read I got an arc of it and boy oh boy . it is told all through letters . I enjoyed it very much kudos and I hope you enjoy your man in Moscow LOL ...

  2. Reading A Gentleman in Moscow is akin to cleansing my palate between courses. I want to say the story is almost pure prose; a bigger surprise was discovering the author is an American. No, I have not read the Chilbury Ladies Choir. I'll add it to my Check Out List.

    So far, the count and I are getting to know each other; he's already revealed several common pleasures we share. :) I'd enjoy living as he did before his downfall, but I have a feeling the count knows how to live well no matter where he lands.

    1. you may very well be onto something there my dear indeed .