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Tom Rachman was born in London and raised in Vancouver. A graduate of the University of Toronto and the Columbia School of Journalism, he has been a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press, stationed in Rome. From 2006 to 2008, he worked as an editor at the International Herald Tribune in Paris. He lives in Rome.
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“What I really fear is time. That’s the devil: whipping us on when we’d rather loll, so the present sprints by, impossible to grasp, and all is suddenly past, a past that won’t hold still, that slides into these inauthentic tales. My past – it doesn’t feel real in the slightest. The person who inhabited it is not me. It’s as if the present me is constantly dissolving.”
The Imperfectionists is the first novel by British-born journalist and author, Tom Rachman. Set in late 2006 and early 2007, each of eleven chapters is like a vignette of the lives of particular characters who are, in some way, associated with the Rome-based International English-Language newspaper that was founded in 1953 by successful Atlanta businessman, Cyrus Ott. The alternate chapters detail significant events in the newspaper’s history.
While the main plot is straightforward: the creation and eventual demise of the publication; there is a myriad of sub-plots involving the various characters, so that each of those chapters is almost a short story itself, involving some characters from the other chapters. This is reminiscent of Rohinton Mistry’s Swimming Lessons (Tales from Firosha Baag).
Rachman gives the reader a cast of quirky characters: a mild-mannered obituary writer whose superior shows such a lack of compassion at his personal tragedy that it elicits a vengeful response; a business editor who finds herself forsaking friends, family and her own values so as not to be single; a young stringer stranded in Cairo with no idea of how to report; a corrections editor who finally learns the truth about an idolised friend; a dying writer resigned to her fate; a jaded Paris correspondent reaching desperation point; a reluctant young heir whose closest relationship is with his basset hound; a faithful reader who lives in the past, avoiding a certain fateful day; a publisher who founds a paper for the sake of unrequited love; a dreary news editor who forces his own worst fear to eventuate; an editor-in-chief who looks for a lover and finds a much-needed friend; a copy editor who feels excluded, persecuted and on the brink of redundancy; and a financial officer whose unwise decision sees her humiliated.
Rachman involves his characters in the petty politics, conflicts and occasional charitable acts that make up a busy workplace and comprise everyday life. He gives them words of wisdom: “We enjoy this illusion of continuity and we call it memory. Which explains, perhaps, why our worst fear isn’t the end of life, but the end of memories” and ‘Nothing in all civilisation has been as productive as ludicrous ambition. Whatever its ills, nothing has created more. Cathedrals, sonatas, encyclopedias: love of God was not behind them, nor love of life. But the love of man to be worshipped by man.” He gives them throw away lines: “Journalism is a bunch of dorks pretending to be alpha males” and “I suspect that revenge is one of those things that’s better in principle than in practice…there’s no real satisfaction in making someone else suffer because you have”
This novel is often funny, sometimes sad, and the reader will be moved to reflect on the ultimate fate of print newspapers in today’s world. A brilliant debut. 4.5★s
- Better World Books (US)
- Bookseller Inventory #
- Rachman, Tom
- Book condition
- Used - Very Good
- Quantity available
- ISBN 10
- ISBN 13
- Place of Publication
- London, Uk
- This edition first published
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