Sunday, December 29, 2013

Book 137: The Imperfectionists

I remember seeing this everywhere a few years back but it never quite caught my interest.  When I saw it again on one of the tables at Barnes and Noble (it may have been the "buy two get one free" display), I recalled that denesteak had liked it (she's the first Cannoballer I had the opportunity to meet!), and picked it up, though it took me a few more months to actually read it.
While I don't like short stories, I enjoy the occasional novel that is a series of vignettes and chapters told from the perspectives of related characters.  In this case, each chapter is told from the point of view of a different member of an English language newspaper headquartered in Rome, and each chapter ends with a few pages about the history of the paper itself which had its start in 1950s/1960s.
The thing is that while this has its amusing bits, it's a rather poignant and sad story.  Most of the characters are not that happy, or if they are, they become less so over the course of their chapter as they deal with rejections and upsets in their professional and/or personal lives.  Even the creation of the newspaper is sad as it is clearly an act of love on the part of a man that missed the chance to spend his life with the woman he truly loved, instead pursuing the life he should lead in favor of the one he wanted.
The characters I enjoyed the most include Arthur Gopal, the obituary writer, son of a famous reporter who is perfectly content with as a mediocre job performer because it gives him time to be with his family; Herman Cohen, the corrections editor, who realizes that he is happy and has lived his life to the fullest; Craig Menzies, news editor, a sweet and kind man who watches his personal life fall apart; Orenella, a loyal reader; and Oliver Ott, the publisher, whose family put him in this position despite knowing he did not have the proper skills, and who avoids everyone except for his bassett hound, his only friend and companion.  There were a few other characters that just made me feel uncomfortable, such as Hardy Benjamin because I wanted so much better for her, and I couldn't help but feel bad for Winston Cheung who gets used and manipulated by a journalist in Cairo.
The novel documents the struggles of the newspaper industry in the world of the internet as they face cuts after cuts.  Overall, it's definitely worth the time, and is a very engaging read about people, relationships, settling for less, the decaying newspaper industry and people's problems communicating.

No comments: