This first novel by Tom Rachman, a London-born journalist who has lived and worked all over the world, is so good I had to read it twice simply to figure out how he pulled it off. I almost feel sorry for Rachman, because a debut of this order sets the bar so high. By , his grandson, Oliver, will be in charge of the fates of the staff members whose stories make up the novel. The stories interlock, or interlace or inter-something. Each chapter could stand alone as a short story.

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The proprietor talks only to his dog. The obituary writer is only slightly more alive than those he writes about. The female sub-editor is torn between her need to hang on to the job and her desperate desire to be sacked.

The original proprietor started up the paper so that he could employ an old flame, even though he had to have her husband on the payroll too. However bad things are for them, journalists can take some consolation from the fact that their situation cannot be quite as disastrous as at the fictional newspaper portrayed in The Imperfectionists: a funny novel of the sweet-and-sour variety, its humour leavened with real sadness.

Although it is never given a name, The Daily Loser would do as a working title for this international newspaper written in English by Americans based in Rome, with a dwindling band of stringers in Europe and an even faster dwindling band of readers. It doesn't have a website. Members of staff stagger their going-home times so they don't have to share the lift. In an opening passage that will seem only too convincing to struggling freelancers, the paper's occasional correspondent in Paris tries to interest the news editor in a feature about a French delicacy consisting of a blind finch drowned in cognac, only to receive the perennial put down of "You have anything else?

Since she refuses to miss a single copy, she remains in a s time-warp — and then she hits the bumpers with 24 April , which is missing. The most toe-curling character is an ace bullshitter of a reporter, or possibly a mere blogger, who claims to have met Osama Bin Laden: "Back in Tora Bora. Good times". He latches on to a young, would-be journo, takes over his bed, nicks his laptop, appropriates his cash, and sleeps with the hackette he fancies.

Tom Rachman has worked as a foreign correspondent and his characters, although exaggerated, ring only too true. To avoid former colleagues who might recognise themselves, he would be best advised to stick to the novel writing. They might take a dim view of the hackette's sneering verdict that "Journalism is a bunch of dorks pretending to be alpha males.

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The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

July is Readers' Choice Month. You can also submit questions for Tom in advance. Work is often hard, and office work—with its elements of monotony, anxiety, and anguish—presents a particular kind of hardship. Rachman—who has worked as a reporter and editor in Rome and around the world—has created an exhilarating portrait of contemporary journalism, at once loving and scornful. The whole enterprise is kept alive by the whims of a large, inattentive holding company in Atlanta. The novel is a great insider read about an industry furiously, though haplessly, treading water.


Review: The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman

Look Inside Reading Guide. Reading Guide. Kathleen, the imperious editor in chief, is smarting from a betrayal in her open marriage; Arthur, the lazy obituary writer, is transformed by a personal tragedy; Abby, the embattled financial officer, discovers that her job cuts and her love life are intertwined in a most unexpected way. Out in the field, a veteran Paris freelancer goes to desperate lengths for his next byline, while the new Cairo stringer is mercilessly manipulated by an outrageous war correspondent with an outsize ego. Spirited, moving, and highly original, The Imperfectionists will establish Tom Rachman as one of our most perceptive, assured literary talents. Tom Rachman was born in London in and raised in Vancouver. The other half comes from his sparkling descriptions not only of newspaper office denizens but of the tricks of their trade, presented in language that is smartly satirical yet brimming with affection.

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