Jul 14 2010
For an author to be properly crushable, he must possess not only a pretty face, but impressive talent. Handsome hacks are not welcome on the Author Crush List. That said, Tom Rachman is pretty damn crushable.
Behind those dreamy eyes is a mind I’d love to get into. I’d like to know, for instance, how Rachman manages to slip so skillfully into the lives of eleven very different people. How does he know eleven different kinds of aspiration? Eleven different kinds of desperation? Eleven different kinds of loneliness? And how does he whip these stories into the portrait of a modern-day newsroom while also delivering the history of the paper from inception to present day? How does he write The Imperfectionists so perfectly?
The publisher uses the term “novel” loosely with Rachman’s book, really a collection of eleven linked stories with a thread of their history woven between them. The author jumps around the masthead of this nameless foreign news paper, based in Rome, telling the story of everyone from the obituary writer to the editor-in-chief. Between characters’ stories are snippets of the paper’s former life, following the publisher’s family. Every character pops up somewhere in another story or two, maintaining continuity and furthering the arc of every life.
The stories themselves are quite disparate–from the tragedy of losing a child to the fight to fool oneself into loving foolishly. But each one is painfully everyday and painfully familiar. Every thread could be your own.
Like any great writer, Rachman connects each character to the others with their similar humanity and, with equal ease, connects them to the reader. In successfully written characters, readers find pieces of themselves, both good and bad. Reading The Imperfectionists is like looking into a broken mirror and seeing so many reflections of yourself.
In Kathleen I recognized my petty, vengeful side, as she pretends not to care about her husband’s affair while ardently determined to have one of her own. In Winston I found the familiar feeling of exhaustion when trying to prove oneself. In Ruby, the ability to inwardly hate everything around me until I realize it might all disappear. To have the reader relate to virtually every character in the book is an astounding feat of writing. The question will remain: how does Rachman get into all their heads as well as my own?
The Imperfectionists is the first book in years that I’ve wanted to reread as soon as I hit the last page. I remember the characters, too, as though they were my own coworkers. And, quite possibly, they are. So welcome, Tom Rachman, to the Author Crush List. You have proven yourself more than worthy.Read more: Author Crush, Book Reviews, Fiction, The Imperfectionists, Tom Rachman
Llalan specializes in all things Ohio, but has funny stories from all over the US and Canada, plus a few snort-inducing ones from Thailand. And not only does she read books from around the world, she also samples beers in as many languages as possible. Favorite style: the multi-national American Double IPA.