Nothing in all civilization has been as productive as ludicrous ambition. Whatever its ills, nothing has created more. Cathedrals, sonatas, encyclopedias: love of God was not behind them, nor love of life. But the love of man to be worshiped by man.
The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman is flawless. Its subject matter – a sinking English-language international newspaper based in Rome – evokes simple nostalgia that is echoed in Rachman’s simple yet elegant prose.
Each chapter focuses on the experiences and perspectives of varying staff members and one faithful reader, from the obituary
writer to the has-been foreign correspondent. Their lives intersect, but each character is eccentrically distinct, at times clashing with one other, but all bound by the fact that they cling to the endangered newspaper as passengers aboard the Titanic must’ve clung to one another.
There is humor in Rachman’s writing, but he has also written multi-faceted humanity into his characters and the newspaper, which is like a character itself.
You will most likely find yourself empathizing with these characters and their well-intentioned efforts as well as their failures. You will feel for them what you feel for your grandmother who still uses a typewriter because she refuses to learn how to use a computer. I wasn’t sure that this was the type of novel I’d enjoy when I first picked it up and read the back cover at Costco, but I’m so glad that I did read it!
If history has taught us anything, Arthur muses, it is that men with mustaches must never achieve positions of power.