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[330] The Imperfectionists – Tom Rachman

” Most of the paper’s employees have worked here for years . . . All these years, they have vilified the paper, but now it’s threatening to quit them, they’re desperately in love with it again. ” [261]

The Imperfectionists, with its brilliant and astute writing, is a conglomeration of stories so finely wrought that touches on a timely but sore theme: the demise of printed newspaper, and that gives the book its gravitas. Set in Rome, the book focuses on personal lives of the staff of an English-language newspaper founded by Ott, who left behind his family in America to seek treatment of his cancer in the 1950s. The unvarnished humanity of these journalists (and a reader), who are neither romantic figures nor dashing heroes, but constantly battle with deadlines because all that mattered a minute before no longer does as news loses steam, touches me.

A Paris correspondent is willing to play his son for a byline. An obituary writer who sits on the laurel of his father, a renowned journalist, is transformed by a tragic loss and promoted to be the culture editor. A business reporter who dreads lonely weekends chances to meet and date a victim of burglary. A correction editor, or rather, grammarian, writes vehement, generally ignored memos about impermissible breaches of the English language.

He glances at the sorry trio of copy editors before him: Dave Belling, a simpleton far too cheerful to compose a decent headline; Ed Rance, who wears a white ponytail—what more need one say?; and Ruby Zaga, who is sure that the entire staff is plotting against her, and is correct. What is the value in remonstrating with such a feckless triumvirate? [80]

There’s the editor-in-chief, the mention of whose name is like “hoisting a club”, who just discovers her ne’er-do-well husband is having an affair, that which frees her from any infidelity to which she is obligated, as she considers to rekindle a relationship with a former lover. A copy editor, the very Zaga as quoted, hates her job and is terrified that she will be fired. She drunk-dials the Italian flack with whom her boss tries to reconnect. This same guy’s mother is a religious reader of the paper who reads every article and refuses to move on until she is done—thus she is a decade behind.

When they returned to Rome in the 1980s, she remained stranded in the late 1970s. When it was the 1990s outside, she was just getting to know President Reagan. When planes struck the Twin Towers, she was watching the Soviet Union collapse. [207]

There’s also the news editor whose girlfriend cheats on him. A naive Cairo stringer who is manipulated by his rival. A chief financial officer who finds herself seated next to an editor whom she has canned on the plane—but wants to get up close and personal with her in an unexpected manner.

The Imperfectionists, in capturing the vicissitude of the diminishing industry, also affords a myopic, but authentic view of human foibles. The paper’s staff reminds us that imperfection is what makes us human beings. Although they have fears, regrets, secrets, unhappiness, resentment, disappointment, and hurts, life still goes on.

269 pp. [Read/Skim/Toss] [Buy/Borrow]

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17 Responses

  1. Matthew, thank you for this review. It’s my “book of the year”.

  2. Hi Matthew, Thanks for the review; I have a sample of this on my Kindle and will move it to the top of my “next to read ” list. Also enjoyed you post on your trip to China.

  3. This is one of my favorite reads this year and not only because it takes up the engaging topic of disappearing print but mostly because of Rachman’s keen observations of human nature. Full of details so vivid I felt the I knew the characters. And very funny too!

  4. […] [330] The Imperfectionists – Tom Rachman […]

  5. […] [330] The Imperfectionists – Tom Rachman […]

  6. Ok, just seeing your blog for the first time and love the read/skim/toss, buy/borrow scale. Wonderful idea!

  7. This one seems to have ended up on a lot of the Best of 2010 lists so I know I have to read it!

  8. […] [330] The Imperfectionists – Tom Rachman […]

  9. Matt – Downloaded “The Imperfectionists” to my Kindle and loving it. I’m also loving reading on the Kindle, which I didn’t expect! So easy and readable! Thanks for the suggestion of this book!

  10. […] A Guy’s Moleskine Notebook – “The Imperfectionists, in capturing the vicissitude of the diminishing industry, also affords a myopic, but authentic view of human foibles.” […]

  11. […] check out Softdrink’s link in the first paragraph or click on any or all of the links here, here, here, here for terrific analysis, insights and plot descriptions.   Or click HERE for the grand […]

  12. […] Beth Fish Reads, The Captive Reader,  Care’s Online Book Club, The Mookse and the Gripes, A Guy’s Moleskin Notebook, Literary License, When Pen Meets Paper,  with hidden noise, A Good Stopping Point, Fizzy […]

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