Novel Thoughts: The Imperfectionists

Media is always changing the game. We create new, inventive ways to tell the same kinds of stories we’ve always told. Tom Rachman approaches and exposes the idea of media evolution and how it effects those crucial to its livelihood in The Imperfectionists.

The book tells the history of an international newspaper from its conception to its demise. Each chapter is a short story, a vignette unveiling some crucial information about one member of the newsroom or another. Rachman’s style allows us to simultaneously chastise and sympathize with each person to whom we are introduced, revealing elements of human character both at its best and at its worst.

The characters in the book have only one thing in common: the paper. Each, in his or her own way, believes himself or herself to be absolutely crucial to the paper’s ability to function. Each has an elevated sense of self-importance when it comes to occupation. However, by the end of the novel we are able to see that inasmuch as the paper needs them, they too need the paper. It has become, for most of them, an integral part of who they are and how they see themselves in the world. Life, for both the paper and those who write it, is completely dependent.

Organization in this book is undeniable. It warrants attention because it is so structured. Rachman’s style allows readers to catch glimpses of the paper’s origins without bogging us down in unnecessary details. Each story is precisely as long as it needs to be and no longer. He leaves enough details to the reader’s imagination to alleviate the problem of the reader feeling compelled to do all the work; however, he omits enough for the reader to feel like an important part of the story’s construction.

The Imperfectionists successfully portrays people the way they truly are. We aren’t always good; we aren’t always bad. We have our moments, but in the end, we’re only human. We interact with each other. We rely on each other. We fight with each other. We make up. And in the end that’s all we can really ask for.


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