Somewhere toward the end in this book, Tom Rachman, tells the tale of a newspaper reader that had decided to read a newspaper like a book. She would start from the first column on page 1 and end up with the last column on the last page, which happened to be page 12 for the paper in question. So this woman soon falls a bit behind on her reading. "She read about the collapse of the Soviet Union when the Trade Center towers fell", says Rachman. I was quite intrigued by this idea of how stale news can dislocate us to our core and make us a different person than who we are.
This woman is just one of the many odd, generally depressing yet ultimately funny characters that make up Tom Rachman's debut novel The Imprefectionists. The novel, set in Rome has an interesting premise. It is the story of characters affiliated with an International English newspaper published from Rome. Mr. Rachman, who worked with AP and International Herald Tribune certainly has experience in the subject. However, Mr. Rachman spends way too much time on the characters and way too little on the business of the newspaper itself. And for the characters, it is mostly their emotional poverty and social emptiness, their generally anxious and little lives. While all these characters are people that are mildly non-conformists, they are all eventually utter failures, not monetarily (and some that way as well) but because of their utter lack of any sort of contentment from their lives. They all feel a part of something that was supposed to make them better somehow and they all realize that it didn't and it isn't going to and yet they are somehow tied to it for the rest of their lives -- unless of course "it" sets them free. So they all wait knowing well in advance what the end is going to be but somehow unwilling to let go of yet another abusive relationship plaguing their lives.
Mr. Rachman's style is episodic. He takes each character and tells their story one at a time. Their lives somewhat intertwining and running around the newspaper. Not all character work out (the quintessential, buffoonish character of a deranged white guy in the middle-east is as boring as it can get) but the style of the book keeps you going because you know you will be over this guy and move on to the next one.
Mr. Rachman also has good timing. The tale of a dysfunctional newspaper, losing money, audience and the people who make it, fits perfectly in our time. Any earlier and it would have been sacrilegious and any later and it would have been irrelevant. Ultimately an entertaining and interesting book despite its flaws.
This is another book that I read on the Kindle app for the iPhone. I've read so many books on the tiny screen now that it seems to make sense and works wonderfully for me. I am reading far more than I've ever done in my life. Not everything I am reading is great but the fact that I am reading more is certainly very comforting.