I am never without a book, I read every day, though more often than not propped up in bed after 11:00 PM. A great book can last until two in the morning. Recently, I needed a quote for the other blog I write, Mainstreetrockymount.com – a two part series about The Rocky Mount Telegram newspaper. Some research led me to a quote I liked, but who was Tom Rachman and what was this novel, The Imperfectionists? I certainly didn’t want to quote someone who turned out to be an embarrassment to my literary sensibilities. The blurb was intriguing, so much so that I bought the book…free shipping Amazon Prime!
Upon arrival, it had to wait while I finished a Peter Robinson mystery, one of his many that always deliver. Robinson can teach a writer a thing or two about describing a character as they arrive on the scene. Never borrowing a stereotype, like she had nice brown eyes, he writes fresh descriptions that tell you something up front about the character you are going to spend time with. Coming to the end of Robinson, I took up with Tom Rachman who was born in London and raised in Vancouver. He graduated from the Columbia School of Journalism and has been a foreign correspondent for the AP, stationed in Rome and worked as an editor at the International Herald Tribune in Paris. He lives in Rome. And can he write…..
The Imperfectionists (2010) is Rachman’s debut novel that follows the private lives of the reporters, editors, and executives of an international English-language newspaper in Rome as they struggle to keep it and themselves going. Each chapter reads like a short story as the characters are brought forward. Fifty years and many changes later, the paper founded by a millionaire from Atlanta resides in a dingy office with stains on the carpet. Nothing about the editor, the lazy obituary writer, the financial officer, a freelance writer that makes up news in order to get noticed, disappoint for they are but a few of the compelling, interesting, funny, pathetic, brilliant people I wouldn’t have missed for the world. I can’t say enough positive things about this story, this writer, this experience of entering Rachman’s world of journalism fictionalized by an author with credentials that make this a delightful, authentic read. I’ll leave you with a quote that particularly amused me.
“Nigel, an attorney-at-rest since they left D.C. more than two years earlier, thrives on this life: reading nonsense on the Internet, buying high-end groceries, decrying the Bush administration at dinner, wearing his role of househusband as a badge of progressive politics. By this hour, he’s normally fulminating: that the CIA invented crack cocaine; that Cheney is a war criminal; that the September 11 attacks were conceived by agents of Big Oil. (He talks a lot of shit about politics. She has to smack him down intellectually once a week or he becomes unbearable.) This evening, however, Nigel is restrained, “Good day?” he asks.” I can’t resist adding one more quote…
“For many, especially those in remote locales, the paper is their only link to the greater world, to the big cities they left, or the big cities they have never seen, only built in their minds. The readers constitute a sort of fellowship that never meets, united by loved and loathed bylines, by screwed-up photo captions, by the glorious corrections box.”