Book of the Week: The Imperfectionists

The Imperfectionists, Tom Rachman
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: The Dial Press; First Edition (April 6, 2010)

According to the guys over at the Book Collecting Tips Web site, "[t]his will be a very collectible book." It's Rachman's first book, and even though there were bidding wars over the rights to publish, it had a surprisingly low first print run. Be on the lookout for new and used firsts of this book.

In his zinger of a debut, Rachman deftly applies his experience as foreign correspondent and editor to chart the goings-on at a scrappy English-language newspaper in Rome. Chapters read like exquisite short stories, turning out the intersecting lives of the men and women who produce the paper—and one woman who reads it religiously, if belatedly. In the opening chapter, aging, dissolute Paris correspondent Lloyd Burko pressures his estranged son to leak information from the French Foreign Ministry, and in the process unearths startling family fare that won't sell a single edition. Obit writer Arthur Gopal, whose overarching goal at the paper is indolence, encounters personal tragedy and, with it, unexpected career ambition. Late in the book, as the paper buckles, recently laid-off copyeditor Dave Belling seduces the CFO who fired him. Throughout, the founding publisher's progeny stagger under a heritage they don't understand. As the ragtag staff faces down the implications of the paper's tilt into oblivion, there are more than enough sublime moments, unexpected turns and sheer inky wretchedness to warrant putting this on the shelf next to other great newspaper novels. [PW, starred review]

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