Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Imperfectionists: A Review

OK, so remember that time I wrote about how some things are quality, but some quality things can also be depressing? That is the case with Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists.
You see, I lovelovelove books (I would have to, or I wouldn’t be writing about them here), but, as with movies, I do not love to be depressed by my media choices. Some people do, and that’s their prerogative. My mother, for example, once brought Atonement and The Pianist on the same beach trip. UGH. Not beach movies by any means. But, I mean, whatever. If she wants to make her daughter cry a bucket of tears while on vacation, well…
Anyway, I was initially excited to read this book. I had read a lot of wonderful things about it—
"Marvelous… A rich, thrilling book that is both a love letter to and epitaph for the newspaper world…”
Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“…The novel is alternately hilarious and heart-wrenching."
Christopher Buckley, The New York Times Book Review (Front-Page Review)
—so when it came up as a possibility for my book club (yeah, so?), I was totally on board.
The book itself is a collection of interrelated short stories, each chapter starring a different staff member of an English-language newspaper in Rome. From the copy desk to the family of publishers, each character was fully realized and each had his/her individual story to tell. I also enjoyed how the stories were so subtly woven together.
I think my problem came when I realized how good Rachman actually was at telling these stories. His assessment of man and his failings was a little too spot on. Some people may find that amazing, but I, though wowed by his talent, was disheartened by his representation of a world in which the majority of people were jerks and those that weren’t were inevitably ‘f’ed over by the end. It was a world that felt a little too familiar and a lot too depressing.
So, if you were to ask me “would you recommend this book to someone else,” I would have to say “yes”. It’s very well written; I was engrossed from the first. However, when choosing something to read in my (very) limited spare time, in the future I’ll opt for something a little less true-to-life and a little more based in fiction.
I’d love to have my former newsroom buddies read it because I’d be interested to hear their perspectives on this one.
Also, has any else read this? What did you think?

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