four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
47-July-Aug-2010
By: 
Tom Rachman
user_rating: 
0

A-The Imperfectionists.epsTom Rachman's distinguished journalism background includes a degree from the Columbia School of Journalism and a stint as a Rome-based correspondent for the Associated Press. The London-born author is also a former editor for the International Herald Tribune in Paris. The Imperfectionists, a series of interlocking stories, is his debut novel.

The Story: In Rome, comedy and tragedy surround the staff of a struggling English-language newspaper. Among them is spinster Ruby Zaga, a universally disliked copy editor who dreams of quitting her job even as she worries about being fired. Obituary writer Arthur Gopal deals calmly with death until, one day, it strikes too close to home. Corrections editor Herman Cohen has the thankless job of catching errors like "Sadism Hussein" and various other crimes against the style manual. And sneaky foreign correspondent Rich Snyder has ambitions that far outweigh his sense of fair play.
Dial. 272 pages. $25. ISBN: 9780385343664

NY Times Book Review 4.5 of 5 Stars
"[S]o good I had to read it twice simply to figure out how he pulled it off. I still haven't answered that question, nor do I know how someone so young--Rachman turns out to be 35, though he looks even younger in his author photo--could have acquired such a precocious grasp of human foibles." Christopher Buckley

Onion AV Club 4 of 5 Stars
"He cuts to scenes like a screenwriter, with paragraphs leaping forward in time without a page-break to prepare readers for the jolt. The reportage style gives the novel a clickety-clack newsroom buzz befitting its subject." Gregg LaGambina

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Rachman is a fine observer and a funny writer--and a writer who knows how to be funny in character. ... And if a certain soft-focus sentimentality clings to Rachman's elegy for old-school journalism and its practitioners, it nevertheless embodies its own principle--namely, that craft can be its own reward." Louis Bayard

Boston Globe 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Rachman has created a series of vividly memorable characters. His writing is usually sharp, controlled, and absorbing." Matthew Peters

Dallas Morning News 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The book's biggest predicament is out of Rachman's control, and it's the same problem that plagues those serious articles about the decline of newspapers: Does anyone outside the industry care? Rachman does his best to make readers care, delivering in the final paragraphs a moving tribute to his ink-stained wretches and their imperfect, ephemeral work." Shawna Seed

Critical Summary

In this "alternately hilarious and heart-wrenching" (New York Times Book Review) debut, Rachman chronicles the slow but steady demise of the newspaper industry with humility and compassion. His writing shows great empathy for this motley group of newspaper men and women, even the ones who behave quite badly. The book's structure did elicit mixed reactions: its short, episodic chapters proved distracting to several critics. Overall, however, critics described the novel as "a lovingly rendered tribute to an increasingly bygone era, and a page-turner for those still in thrall to turning them" (Onion AV Club).