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The Imperfectionists (2010)
by Tom Rachman
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Mixed feelings about the novel. It was well-written and held my interest all the way through, and was very funny in places. All the main characters had major problems, reasonable given the title. But I kept feeling that the author had a real streak of cruelty; every time I started feeling sympathetic to a character they were either shown as being worse than you realized, or something awful happened to them. I felt like the author was being heartless to his own creations.
Listened to the audiobook, the reading was ok but nothing special.
Absolutely incredible, I didn't think I would like it as much as I did. So brutally honest. Makes me really hurt for the publishing industry, especially newspapers. I wonder what The Imperfectionists would look like now?
This book is about a Rome based English newspaper and the many characters that have worked there over the decades. The chapters are little vignettes of each character and their imperfections. It skips back and forth time-wise, but it is not at all distracting. I did not really like any of the characters, and only two of them were interesting enough that I wished more was written about them.
I was in Rome in 2007, and I'm from Atlanta-ish, two facts which made me love this book even more than the format, the choppy perspectives. It's almost a book of short stories, but the first-person chapters of people struggling through life - fairly depressing, in some ways - interwoven with the vignettes about the owner and his successors swirls into life, sucking you into their network and their relationships. I loved it. I love short stories, I love varying perspectives, I love Rome, I love/hate Atlanta (which doesn't exactly play much of a part in this book), I loved this.
The novel is alternately hilarious and heart-wrenching, and it's assembled like a Rubik's Cube. I almost feel sorry for Rachman, because a debut of this order sets the bar so high.
Enjoy "The Imperfectionists" for the gem that it is.
"The Imperfectionists" is about what happens when professionals realize that their craft no longer has meaning in the world's eyes (think of all those hardworking monk-scribes idled by Gutenberg) and that the only people who really understand them are on the same foundering ship, and that, come to think of it, they really loved that damn ship for all it made their lives hell.
He's both testing and tender towards his people - their loneliness and purposelessness, moments of cleaving awareness ("one day, his son will die"), capabilities for love and commitment, devotion to kids, awareness of the fading future of a faded friend. It's convincing and compassionate; amusing and affectionate. In fact, it's a bit of a jewel.
Anyone who has ever spent time in newspaperland will recognise The Imperfectionists' high degree of authenticity. So – you hope – will quite a few people beyond it. The citadel may be crumbling, but the righteousness of the defenders, miraculously, endures.
An "imperfect" crew of reporters and editors working for an international English language newspaper stumble toward an uncertain future as the era of print news gives way to the Internet age. The story is set against the gorgeous backdrop of Rome.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.6 — Literature English (North America) American fiction 21st Century
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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.
An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.
It isn't a pretty picture of humanity, but the flaws are ones that we see all around us. Who doesn't know a person who tries to avoid all their responsibilities? Or a person who is terribly lonely? Or a person whose choice of a mate seems both insane and yet somehow understandable?
In the end, I just felt that Rachman is incredibly talented. I admired what he did while also being engaged by it. ( )