Every Friday, we choose an alum who has been making headlines—for better or for worse.
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8/12/11: Amor Towles ’87

Amor Towles ’87 “arrived in New York in 1989 with diplomas from Yale and Stanford and dreams of becoming a writer,” we learn from the New York Times. “But he quickly noticed that all his friends who were waiting tables and pursuing art on the side looked just as tired as the office drones they were serving. So he joined an investment firm instead.”

Surprising, perhaps, that 22 years later such a pragmatist would produce an “unabashedly romantic novel”—his first—that is also an NYT bestseller. Rules of Civility, which tells the story of a savvy, lovable, and upwardly mobile legal secretary in Depression-era New York City, is gathering glowing reviews from publications as varied as the Wall Street Journal, People, and O, the Oprah Magazine.

Shelving a previous novel after five years’ toil, Towles—who still works at an investment firm—took a businesslike approach to this book. “I started Rules of Civility on January 1, 2006, and wrapped it up 365 days later,” he told one interviewer. “The book was designed with 26 chapters because over 52 weeks I could allot myself two weeks to draft, revise and bank each chapter. Not coincidentally, the book opens on New Year’s Eve and ends a year later.”

But his inner romantic surfaced in talking with the Times: “I would’ve sold it for a penny, just to be able to say ‘O.K., I did it. … I always thought I was a writer on the inside, but after a few years of not writing you can’t make that claim anymore.”

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