Members of staff stagger their going-home times so they don't have to share the lift. In an opening passage that will seem only too convincing to struggling freelancers, the paper's occasional correspondent in Paris tries to interest the news editor in a feature about a French delicacy consisting of a blind finch drowned in cognac, only to receive the perennial put down of "You have anything else?
Since she refuses to miss a single copy, she remains in a s time-warp — and then she hits the bumpers with 24 April , which is missing. The most toe-curling character is an ace bullshitter of a reporter, or possibly a mere blogger, who claims to have met Osama Bin Laden: "Back in Tora Bora. Good times". He latches on to a young, would-be journo, takes over his bed, nicks his laptop, appropriates his cash, and sleeps with the hackette he fancies. Tom Rachman has worked as a foreign correspondent and his characters, although exaggerated, ring only too true.
To avoid former colleagues who might recognise themselves, he would be best advised to stick to the novel writing. They might take a dim view of the hackette's sneering verdict that "Journalism is a bunch of dorks pretending to be alpha males. You can find our Community Guidelines in full here. Want to discuss real-world problems, be involved in the most engaging discussions and hear from the journalists? Try Independent Premium free for 1 month.
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Please continue to respect all commenters and create constructive debates. Want to bookmark your favourite articles and stories to read or reference later? Try Independent Premium free for 1 month to access this feature. Find your bookmarks in your Independent Premium section, under my profile. Subscribe Now Subscribe Now. Final Say. Long reads. Lib Dems. US Politics. Theresa May. Jeremy Corbyn. Robert Fisk. Mark Steel. Janet Street-Porter. John Rentoul. Chuka Ummuna. Shappi Khorsandi. His novel is sprinkled with hard-won observations such as that " 'news' is often a polite way of saying 'editor's whim' " and "[j]urnalism is a bunch of dorks pretending to be alpha males.
The omnibus structure used by Rachman, who was born in London and raised in Vancouver, naturally invites quibbling. One is bound to pick favourite newspeople or attempt to uncrack the underlying formula the author uses. Personally, this reader preferred the bittersweet chapters to the more baldly comic ones, like the admittedly not-unfunny section in which aspiring Middle East correspondent Winston Cheung is professionally manhandled by Rich Snyder, an obnoxious, older journalist who speaks and writes in a ludicrous faux-surfer dialect: "That bombing was sweet, now let's kick ass on the Northern Alliance.
Between these chapters are italicized passages to fill us in on the paper's five-decade history. In these brief vignettes, Rachman displays a knack for telling details and economical storytelling worthy of Ernest Hemingway, a former newsman who used interchapters in his own story collection In Our Time. If forced to find fault with The Imperfectionists , one might point out Rachman's occasional tendency toward cuteness, of bow-tying every loose end in gilded ribbon, of fighting too hard against imperfection.
When one character, for instance, stumbles onto a stash of unsent letters confirming another character's unspoken love for a long-time associate, the line between emotional manipulation and artful heart-wrenching is momentarily crossed. That said, this book is filled with gorgeous writing, jolts of insight and narrative surprises that feel both unexpected and inevitable. One finishes reading The Imperfectionists with the sense that Rachman not only knows his way around a newsroom, but is also well acquainted with storytelling masters such as Anton Chekhov and William Trevor.
"The Imperfectionists": A Book Review
Rachman makes a near-flawless debut. Kevin Chong is a Vancouver-based author of a forthcoming book on horse-racing. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.
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