Thursday, October 11, 2012


The Imperfectionists, Tom Rachman, The Dial Press, 2010, 269 pp

This did not turn out to be the book I expected. It's form is short stories connected by their setting: an English-language newspaper in Rome. Each story features a reporter, columnist, editor, or staff person at the paper. Throughout the book, a history of the paper becomes clear.

Some of these individuals turn up more than once, along with details about their personal lives, so the reader gets to know them in a sketchy, scattered way. Because The Imperfectionists traces the death of a particular newspaper, it is timely but not particularly dramatic.

It just did not come together in a satisfying way. Probably for readers who have worked as journalists, it would be an emotionally relevant story, the way fiction about bookstores is for booksellers.

I have never been a journalist nor have I been a reader of newspapers. I haven't a sentimental bone in my body for young writers whose passion is to report the truth and I don't really care that they become disillusioned. How could they not know going in that newspapers are mostly in the business of selling sensation and that their owners must please the advertisers if they want to stay in business?

Finally, I am weary of collections of short stories presented as novels. I am not a fan of short stories so with few exceptions, I end up feeling tricked. Rachman is a good writer and if he wrote an actual novel, I would read him again.

(The Imperfectionists is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

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