Newspaper Blues When reading The Imperfectionists , I couldn’t help but be reminded of Joshua Ferris’ sublime Then We Came to the End , and this re Newspaper Blues When reading The Imperfectionists , I couldn’t help but be reminded of Joshua Ferris’ sublime Then We Came to the End , and this review is going to reflect that a great deal. I tried not to compare them too much, since each book deserves a chance to stand on its own merits, but in the end I just couldn’t stop myself. Why? Because I couldn’t shake the thought that everything The Imperfectionists does, Then We Came to the End did better.
Both novels are centered around the flawed employees of an unnamed company; here a struggling international newspaper based in Rome, there an advertising firm in Chicago. And right here the difference between Rachman’s style and Ferris’ becomes clear, for the newspaper’s lack of a name comes off as unnatural and forced in Rachman’s narrative, whereas in Ferris’ it felt organic. Clearly Rachman is going for the same quality of universality – the idea that this newspaper could be any newspaper – but it just feels contrived.
The employees of the paper are given their own chapters to tell their stories, making The Imperfectionists feel like a collection of interlocked short stories more than a novel. It’s a unique approach, and it serves the story well. The problem is more in the characters themselves. Their problems are usually shallow and all too frequently deal with issues of codependency in their love lives. By the time a third character allows themself to be trampled on by their partner one must, rightly I think, wonder if Rachman has any other tricks up his sleeve when it comes to writing about relationships. Surely the characters in Ferris’ novel are petty and shallow, full of jealousies and silly squabbling, but in that novel you can see how their behavior is part of a larger story: that the soulless corporate world they live among is slowly bleaching away their humanity. There is no such bigger picture in The Imperfectionists . Rachman gets some points for subtly hinting at how his characters are adrift in an era of globalization that is swallowing them up (most of the staffers are Americans living in Rome, where they have failed to learn the native language or enjoy any of their surroundings), but the overwhelming impression he seems to be going for is that traditional newspapers are in trouble. Sadly, he doesn’t do much with this idea in the end, since this unnamed newspaper has stubbornly refused to adapt to the times. It doesn’t even have a website.
Finally, while The Imperfectionists has some amusing moments it lacks the acid wit of Then We Came to the End . It occurred to me after I finished this book that I might have liked it better had I not read Ferris’ novel, but I don’t think that that is true. To me, The Imperfectionists is one of those books that is strictly OK but, for one reason or another, garnered a lot of attention from critics (who probably appreciate the stabs at meaning regarding the state of modern journalism). I’d advise you to pick up Then We Came to the End instead.
And if you like that one (I'm sure you will), pick up some of Tom Perrotta's books as well....more
“This was love for us, or the best that love could do.” Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned is a short story collection that truly lives up to it “This was love for us, or the best that love could do.” Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned is a short story collection that truly lives up to its title. The happenings that populate its pages are bleak indeed, its characters a who’s who of damaged lives and bad decisions. And while parts of it can be a touch too Grand Guignol it is remarkable how Wells Tower manages to make most of it profound and affecting rather than irksome.
It starts with some fine turns of phrase that make depression into something witty (“My hangover was calamitous,” “for quite a while, we’d been nothing but an argument looking for different ways to happen,” etc.). The crosses these characters bear have weight, but they feel less burdensome under Towers’ deft guidance. But what really makes this collection poignant is its author’s ability to empathize with his sad sack subjects – one can almost feel that he has affection for their unique abilities to make messes of their lives, and when he writes about their failures it is with a knowing wink to the reader. It is almost as though Tower takes pride in giving lives of desperation (both quiet and explosively loud) a spotlight – a chance to shine for one brief moment and be understood.
The element of too-muchness does ultimately keep Everything Ravaged from being a great collection, but it remains a very readable work from someone who is definitely a talent to watch. I for one am intrigued to see what he comes up with next....more
Ladies and gentlemen, this was the very first Tess Gerritsen book I ever read. My husband loaned it to me shortly after I first met him. It will alwayLadies and gentlemen, this was the very first Tess Gerritsen book I ever read. My husband loaned it to me shortly after I first met him. It will always have a special place in my heart for that.
It also has a pretty grisly premise. Boston's Crispin Museum has just discovered a mummy lurking forgotten in their storage basement. Dubbed "Madam X," the mummy has become the talk of the scientific community, which is eager to learn more about this artifact. Dr. Isles is invited to lead the forensic examination of the mummy because reasons. During the exam, they are shocked to discover that Madam X isn't an ancient Egyptian artifact at all but the modern day victim of a murder. And when a second body is uncovered in the museum it becomes clear that a madman is on the loose.
Maura and Jane must work with archaeologist Josephine Pulcillo, who appears to have been targeted by the killer, to uncover the secrets buried in the Crispin Museum. Not to mention the dark secret from Josephine's past that may hold the key to the mystery (of course).
As compelling as the mystery is, this installment turns out to be one of the most predictable R&I books to date. I managed to figure out the bad guy roughly halfway through. The premise was rock solid, though, and Gerritsen made the characters interesting enough that I went back to the beginning to catch up on the series. So clearly it wasn't all bad.