Tom Rachman's debut novel about a European newspaper is delightful

  • Article by: LAURIE HERTZEL
  • Updated: June 19, 2010 - 3:00 PM

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

"The Imperfectionists," Tom Rachman's novel about the birth and death of a newspaper, is terrific. It's funny, poignant and generous, a love letter to the deeply flawed people who toil away in crumbling newsrooms, and a sharp look at their disappearing world.

His characters are so true to life you'll feel like he's been peering over your shoulder, no matter where you work: There's the guy who stalls because he doesn't want to ride the elevator with anyone else. The paranoid copy editor who starts each shift hunting down her chair, which is always stolen overnight, and decontaminating her keyboard with antibacterial wipes. The corrections editor, who pounds out pompous, scolding memos about arcane mistakes in grammar and usage.

The interconnected stories are interspersed with italicized sketches of how the newspaper began -- and, eventually, why.

Movie rights were obtained a couple of weeks ago by Brad Pitt. It'll probably make a fine film, but do read the book. Otherwise you'll miss Rachman's lovely writing and sharp observations like this: "Once at the boarding gate, Abbey falls into her customary travel coma, a torpor that infuses her brain like pickling fluid during long trips. In this state, she nibbles any snack in reach, grows mesmerized by strangers' footwear, turns philosophical, ends up weepy." Don't you feel like you're already on the plane?

 

  • THE IMPERFECTIONISTS

    By: Tom Rachman.

    Publisher: Dial Press, 272 pages, $25

    Review: Funny, poignant and affectionate, "The Imperfectionists" is about the staff of a dying newspaper, but its characters will be familiar to anyone.

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