by Gavi W. '21 (reprinted from The Flyer)
Amor Towles was highlighted as the speaker at this year's John Hutson Memorial Guest Lecture series on March 10 at Brentwood. This year, Amor Towles took the stage at the general lecture open to the community and spoke about his books Rules of Civility and A Gentleman in Moscow, and his talk focused on the background for his book A Gentleman in Moscow.
The lecture continued as he was interviewed by Upper School English teacher Judith O'Hanlon and Upper School history teacher Hank Koransky. During this part, Towles talked a lot about how he creates characters in his books.
"You create this character who you are not and with a very different personality," Towles said. "You put her or him in a circumstance you've never been in."
Juniors Elle Nicoletti and Andrew Shimanovsky introduced Towles at the general lecture, and before this they led the Brentwood student and faculty discussion with Towles where people in the Brentwood community asked Towles questions and he answered them.
For Shimanovsky, this was his first year that he participated in the lecture. "I wanted to experience the speech because it's a very different experience from the normal Brentwood curriculum that I experience every day," Shimanovsky said.
Nicoletti has been a part of the lectures since her freshman year when she spoke at the student and faculty discussion. She was drawn to the lecture series because she loves reading fiction with a historical element to it.
"I think that the importance is getting the message across on the importance of reading, and also I think it's a great opportunity for Brentwood kids to be up close and personal with famous authors," Nicoletti said.
Towles published his first novel, "Rules of Civility", in 2011, and his second book called "A Gentleman in Moscow" in 2016.
The first John Hutson Memorial Guest Lecture took place in 1996, and has been happening biannually since then. The lecture series is named after the late John Hutson, a past Chair of the History and Political Science departments at Brentwood.
O'Hanlon has helped with the lectures since 1996, and Koransky joined this year. Both O'Hanlon and Koransky moderated the general lecture with Amor Towles.
O'Hanlon believes that these lectures are important for Brentwood to have.
"I think this impressive lecture series is a gift to our school community and the community at large," O'Hanlon said.
After this, the crowd asked Towles questions about his books, writing in general, and his inspiration for different aspects of his stories.
After this year's lecture series, Koransky reflected on his experience interviewing the speaker for the first time.
"What I enjoyed about the lecture was how easy it was to ask Mr. Towles questions," Koransky said. "He was forthright, thorough, and had a sense of humor about every question."