A real man shuns idolatry until he meets a gentle man

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A real man shuns idolatry until he meets a gentle man

I was a lonely boy who didn’t know how to become a man, so I looked for father figures in books

There is nothing quite so annoying as a person who has recently read a book and loved it. “Have you read A Gentleman in Moscow?” he will say to you. “You haven’t read A Gentleman in Moscow? Oh, you must read A Gentleman in Moscow. You’ll love it. I defy anyone not to love A Gentleman in Moscow. To hell with that person.”

He’ll say this even though you have never previously shown any sign of liking any book involving a gentleman or indeed Moscow. He will witter and nag, and say, “Oh, I envy you for not having read it yet. The riches of the Indies lie before you! If you find it slow in the beginning, just persevere because it gets better and better. Here, you can borrow my copy. Where are you going? You haven’t taken the book!”

This person is a pest and nuisance. This person is me. I read A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles a few months ago while staying in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow, opposite the Bolshoi and around the corner from Red Square. These were perfect reading conditions, because it’s about a gentleman, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, who is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol. The whole novel, covering fifty years, takes place inside the hotel, which may sound claustrophobic, but in fact it is vast and spacious and opens like a flower unfolding. Like a grain of sand, the hotel contains all the world, all joy and sorrow, all life itself. The hotel is like a good book: it’s bigger on the inside than on the outside...

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