Other five-star reviewers have said most everything I might say. I did not want A Gentleman in Moscow to end and will make the rare move (for me) of reading it again, this time for the Kindle so that I can save my favorite references and passages. I was almost entirely taken in by the twists and turns, wholly willingly, and thoroughly enjoyed Towles’s prose, settings, and characterizations. Spying on Russian history unfolding from the 20s through to the 50s was an entertainment; I kept expecting Ninotchka to appear as a character. The references to Montaigne and other thinkers gave me pauses to think for myself. Some authors might have set their essays on the strength and endurance of the human will in a more conventional prison or gulag. Many thanks to Towles for his choices and reminder that classic virtues and manners do not need to be casualties of cultural and political upheavals.
A word as we embark on the good ship Joe. It’s been a long time since I’ve looked forward to any single event more than I do the January 20, 2021 presidential inauguration. There’s just so much that needs doing. After dealing a death blow to the COVID-19 pandemic, there aren’t any policy areas more important than job creation and educational reform. This is no time to look backward, except when absolutely necessary to undo destructive actions taken by the Trump administration. We should only be looking forward to the better lives we can create for people who are unemployed, under-employed, soon-to-be-employed, and preparing-to-be-employed.
Let’s learn from the lessons of the 70s and 80s, when jobs and whole industries were exported to the developing world: the countries which now make nearly all our clothing, much of our food, our light-manufactured goods, and much more. We used our ingenuity, our technology, and our productivity increases to help launch the fastest growing economies of the past twenty years, raising the quality of living for many millions. Good for us. Now, let’s haul away the debris we created, clean up the regulatory environment, get people working on our decrepit infrastructure, and clear the paths for students and immigrants to reach their potentials and contribute to America’s next chapter in greatness.
The former greatness we’ve been told over and over again to make again had its problems. Now is when we can finally put the Civil War behind us. It will ultimately take a demographic flood tide to sweep away racial inequity, and it’s now upon us. Note Georgia. It’s taken half-a dozen generations to add non-property-owning white men, former slaves, women, 18-20 year-olds, and ex-felons to the voting rolls. It’s looking like the presidential election is Georgia was the image of things to come. We’ll find out soon if the old resistance will maintain its strangle hold on the South or the momentum caused by new peoples and population statistics will take the day. The story of all the years it took to make a democracy where all the people can vote does not bode well for making fundamental changes in the racism and anti-Semitism that has blemished the bright, eager face of America. But now is the best chance we’ll have in our lifetimes to make those changes stick.
Join the parade. Get on the bandwagon, help push it down the road, make the rest of us proud. This is a very special time in our history.