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The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman — Italy

January 23, 2011

Sometimes I like going into a book knowing NOTHING about it. This book wasn’t recommended to me. I didn’t know how it was structured, I didn’t know about the characters; I only knew that a few people found it worthy enough to put on some “Best of 2010” lists.

For people who like well plotted books — okay, people who like plot in general — might be disappointed. This isn’t a book about an event; it’s a book solely about character. Specifically, a collection of people whose common thread is a newspaper in Rome.  The title is The Imperfectionists after all, and so each person’s chapter highlights a moment in their life that seems to put a spotlight on their imperfections. This book might be an easy sell to me because I have a journalist living in my home — I teach journalism — and every day our conversations somehow end up on media, the failing newspaper industry, and the reality of the press vs. the Hollywood’s romanticized version of newspapers and journalists. (Well, when they’re not lampooning them, they’re celebrating them; but I suppose that pretty much sums up how Hollywood handles all issues.)

So, the newspaper aspect was particularly engaging to me.

And Rachman’s writing is impeccable. I really loved it. He created a world for me that I could see, taste, smell, and experience. He created characters I loved and hated. And he made me cry. His final chapter made me sit on my couch and sob. And yes, because of a dog. I thought I was choosing wisely during my little bookstore excursion. No such luck. I found tragedy anyway. Rachman writes the way I want to write; and since I’m not insanely jealous of his youth and success and talent, I’m going to count this as a rare moment in my life. I have deep respect for the book. I finished it Friday and there are moments in the book that are still with me. I’ve already dog-eared passages and chapters to photocopy for my creative writing class. It was just a great little find! I loved it. Maybe the rest of the world won’t, but it’s a book I will read again. Guaranteed.

I started The Passage on Saturday. No money spent. I bought it at Costco sometime last year and never got around to sneaking it into my reading schedule. I’m 100 pages in and the rest of the 600+ pages look a little daunting — mixed reviews on this one, but I’m willing to give it a shot. And between that and Feed, maybe dystopian end-of-the-world literature is to 2011 what cannibalism was to 2010.

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