Tag Archives: Book of the Month

Book of the Month: The Imperfectionists

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Loved, loved, loved this book! British-Canadian-Man-o’-the-World author Tom Rachman really hit it out of the park with his debut novel, The Imperfectionists (2010). One of the Golden Rules of Writing – as opposed to the “26 Golden Rules for Writing Well” – is to write what you know, and Mr. Rachman(inoff), like a skilled pianist tickling a set of ivories with nimble fingertips that are a natural extension of his hands, did exactly that with a motley crew of characters who were mostly holed up in Rome, Italy.

As with Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Good Squad and Kent Haruf’s Plainsong, the numerous “short stories” which make up the novel are very much interconnected. Our job as readers is to connect the dots; Mr. Rachman’s job, as the puppet master, was to spin a series of (in this case journalistic-related) yarns, one after the other, and have each one be strong enough to stand on its own.

Mission accomplished.

Just like the title of the novel suggests, the story is rife with flawed, imperfect, screwed-up misfits – and that recipe for literary deliciousness comes across as nothing short of thoroughly engaging and believable.  Set around a fictional International Herald Tribune-esque newspaper established in Rome by an eccentric millionaire named Cyrus Ott in the 1950s, right up until its demise half a century later, we’re taken on an unforgettable journey through newsrooms and bedrooms, bylines and deadlines, all the while nodding our collective heads up and down and thinking, That’s so true!

Even though Mr. Rachman was only in his early 30s when he penned this book, he manages to come up with some astute, humourous and memorable lines along the way:

“You know, there’s that silly saying ‘We’re born alone and we die alone’ – it’s nonsense. We’re surrounded at birth and surrounded at death. It is in between that we’re alone.”

“If history has taught us anything, Arthur muses, it is that men with mustaches must never achieve positions of power.”

Summer, as some believe, may be the season for light, fluff-driven literature, but if you’re looking for a quick read that is sure to keep you turning the page with its countless nuggets of insight into the human condition, go and get yourself a copy of The Imperfectionists right now.

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Quote of the Day (Book of the Month)

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“We throw our parties; we abandon our families to live alone in Canada; we struggle to write books that do not change the world, despite our gifts and our unstinting efforts, our most extravagant hopes. We live our lives, do whatever we do, and then we sleep. It’s as simple and ordinary as that. A few jump out windows, or drown themselves, or take pills; more die by accident; and most of us are slowly devoured by some disease, or, if we’re very fortunate, by time itself. There’s just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we’ve ever imagined, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) know these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult. Still, we cherish the city, the morning; we hope, more than anything, for more. Heaven only knows why we love it so…”  

I’m reading Michael Cunningham‘s The Hours right now for my book club and absolutely love this quote. Winner of both the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction (along with a slew of other awards…gulp!), more people will probably be familiar with the movie of the same name, which starred three nobodies (Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman) and a weak-to-quite-weak supporting cast (Ed Harris, John C. Reilly, Stephen Dillane, Jeff Daniels, Miranda Richardson, Allison Janney, Toni Collette and Claire Danes).

What I love about this Quote of the Day is that – aside from being bang-on – it’s depressingly uplifting; it’s both sad and encouraging somehow.  Agents, publishers and editors always stress that less is more, how the simple will always triumph over the convoluted. And guess what? Okay, okay, okay. I’ll give you three guesses, but the first two don’t count.

The answer is that they’re all correct.

While the strength of the passage obviously (obviously!) lies in the fact that Mr. Cunningham recognizes Canada as a superior country to the United States of Donnie T., it’s his simple prose tying so much of our greatest fears and hopes together that makes it sing off the page.

Good on Mikey C., eh? Maybe next time he be go and write good about ‘nother country fulla awesomeness, like that wicked hot place southa’ them there New Great Wall. That’d be somethin’, huh?

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