Sunday, March 6, 2011

Book #11: The Imperfectionists

Tom Rachman's The Imperfectionists is billed as a novel, but it reads more like a collections of interconnected short stories. The setting for the whole book is an English-language international newspaper based in Rome; all of the characters are somehow associated with that paper. Each chapter focuses on one character and delves into some seemingly-mundane and ordinary aspect of everyday life--reading the paper, going on a business trip, the spillover from work to home life. Separating the chapters are short vignettes of various moments from the newspaper's inception to its demise, documenting the ambitions of the paper and the less lofty reality of its accomplishments.

This book is incredibly well written; I even got occasional whiffs of Hemingway in the tone and in the descriptions of things that remain unwritten. What struck me most about The Imperfectionists, however, is just how imperfect all of the characters are. Perhaps "imperfect" isn't even the most precise word--these people are sad or angry, and they largely keep themselves from ever being really happy. For me only one of the chapters seemed to be uplifting; the rest left their characters with a sense of doom, a sense that they had just created for themselves a really unpleasant reality.

It almost seems that Rachman's theme is that while humans are capable of being happy, we tend to ruin all prospects for achieving our own happiness through some means or another. Maybe it's just that I don't see life that way, but I found that overall theme rather depressing. The book was very enjoyable in terms of its strong and elegant style, but overall it was quite a downer. I'd suggest this title for readers who are looking for a more forlorn cast of characters, for readers of short stories, and for anyone looking to read very well-written fiction regardless of content.

1 comment:

  1. I'm hoping to get to this book sometime in the next few months, but I'm disappointed to hear you found it depressing. I think I'll try it anyway, though. Hopefully, the good writing will outweigh the characters' crippling issues.