Saturday, June 26, 2010
The Imperfectionists Lied To Me
Short story collections equal small sales. If I could explain the whys and wherefores of this I would be a hugely well paid executive who takes Fridays off. Having worked in the retail end of the book business for 20+ years I can tell you that it is a go-tell-it-on-the-mountain-carved-in-stone-cold fact. Perhaps this is why the author and publisher of The Imperfections claim it is a novel. To let the world know right on the cover of the book that it is a short story collection would be the croak of death to sales. However as you cannot be sort of pregnant so a novel cannot be short stories. A work of fiction can be a novel or it can be short stories. There is no such thing as a novel in stories because that isn't a novel it's a short story collection. Got it? Good. Now on to my reading of The Imperfectionists a short story collection by Tom Rachman. I have not read what the cover of this book proclaims it's self to be; The Imperfections a novel by Tom Rachman.
After this lie can I rebuild my trust, move on and like The Imperfectionists? Why yes I can. How very big of Me.
There is a great deal of charm in The Imperfectionists. The stories are about very likable people living in a glamorous and exotic (to me the outsider) city who all in some way, for good or bad get shaken out of the limbo land in which they have been living. They have to face up to how they wound up with these lives and that their lives are changing. The characters work for an American owned, English language newspaper in Rome. If there were days of heady success for this paper they ended a while ago. Now the newspaper is struggling to survive for the obvious reasons: the internet and money. The history of the newspaper is given away bit by bit in the stories.
Once the pattern of the stories is set it's easy to anticipate what is going to happen to the characters. It's a testament to Rachman's writing that it doesn't matter. He is a fine writer and has no trouble keeping a reader interested. Rachman's straight forward style of writing might be a play on newspaper reporting it's self. It certainly adds a level of authority and realism to the storytelling and to the foibles of his characters. It's a sort of marriage between the delightful, heartfelt adventure of Roman Holiday and the bullet point facts of a resume. How could that be easy to capture?
I have to assume that since this book is labeled as a novel (Yes, I am continuing to beat that horse.) that the stories are meant to come together as a convincing whole, that doesn't happen. The characters make special guest star appearances in each others tales and they all seem to have their epiphany moments but you could start this book on any "chapter" or read it in any order because it doesn't matter. You don't glean any new insight by reading the book from page 1 to page 269 either. Does that make the book innovative? No it makes it a short story collection--that is both available and worth buying at any independent bookstore.
P.S. The Brit cover? It's not working for me. It makes the book look like a mod, cafe society novel. Why look young Gertrude Stein spotted a tourist.
Although I am forced to say that this cover makes no written claims either way about what is inside.