Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #52 – The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman


One of these days I really want to write a book. A lot of the things I read that have been written recently really bug me because I’m pretty sure I could do better. But then every now and then a book comes along that shows me just how very untalented a hack I actually am. This is one of those books. Freaking killed me, y’all.

Anyway. Newspapers are dying, and have been for a while. There’s an English-language newspaper based in Rome that is trying valiantly to survive, but is finding it impossible. The story is told from the point of view of some of the workers, interspersed with the story of how (and why) the paper was founded. They’re all beautifully written, full of humor and pathos. An aging freelancer makes up a story (possibly compromising his own son in the process) just to get one more thing published; a new stringer is totally scammed by a veteran reporter who is totally full of shite; the n’er do well obituary writer finds new purpose after something horrible happens. Now that I think about it, not one of these stories has a happy ending, which I suppose is just like life.

The end of the story, as well as the end of the paper, is doubly sad given the reason why the paper was started in the first place (small spoiler: it was for love). The founder’s family has almost nothing to do with the paper, other than to weigh the bottom line (and find it wanting. I’m part of the problem, not of the solution, sort of. I do buy the Sunday paper most weeks, but I don’t read a whole lot of it. Always the funny papers, though. But I don’t subscribe, and I do get most of my news online.

The Imperfectionists is the perfect chronicle of a dying art, a dying profession. In a few decades, it might even be assigned reading in schools, and the teacher will likely have to explain to the kids what newspapers were, and the role they played in our lives. Triply sad.