April 07, 2010
JC: A few weeks ago, JR posted a great review of Tom Rachman’s new novel The Imperfectionists. Now that it’s released you’re no doubt hearing quite a few good things about it. Let me jump on the bandwagon by saying that The Imperfectionists is a fine book, whether it’s his first novel or twentieth.
The Imperfectionists centers around the employees of a small international newspaper based in Rome. Using each chapter as a character sketch, Rachman carves a small history of the paper:
At the behest of his editor, obituary writer Arthur Gopal is sent on assignment to interview an obscure, dying academic as information-gathering for the inevitable. Reading her texts, he becomes enthralled by her work, and despite his personal distaste for her, writes a beautiful elegiac obit for her. Herman Cohen, corrections editor, entertains a houseguest for whom he has had a hero-like worship for forty years. CFO Abbey Pineola finds herself uncomfortably seated next to the man she fired on an overseas flights, yet finds herself unexpectedly attracted to him. The onset of the internet age and the slow but obvious deterioration of the newspaper unveil a hazy future for all.
Rachman writes these scenes and scenarios with an unexpected elegance. He gets beneath the skin of his characters and reveals poignant scars and aches, wit and playfulness. Then he combines what feel like stand-alone stories such that he leaves the reader with a bigger, equally elegant whole.
This book deserves every compliment it receives.