Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Imperfectionists / by Tom Rachman

In 1953, visionary Atlanta businessman Cyrus Ott has a seemingly crazy idea: establish an English-language newspaper in Rome. The risky though potentially rewarding endeavour is eventually agreed upon as Cyrus partners with his hand-selected editors, Betty, a former girlfriend, and her current husband Leo, to begin the life of the International Herald Tribune. Soon the paper grows from scrappy independent publication into one of Europe's most tastefully subjective independent news sources. Over the next five decades, the Tribune informs and entertains a growing number of subscribers, confronts fluctuating international issues faced by Americans abroad and becomes as recognized for its quirky employees as its provocatively off-the-wall content.

Now in the waining days of news print, as the internet threatens to bring about the end, the staff must face down the inevitable while dealing with their own individual concerns and problems. Editor-in-chief Kathleen, still dealing with her husband's recent infidelity, handles the task of managing her dwindling cast of employees who include Arthur, a lazy obituary writer dealing with his own very recent. personal loss. Meanwhile staff HR head and chief financial officer Abby discovers that some of the people she's having to fire include her secret lover and field correspondent Douglas still seeks more earth-shattering headlines, going to some pretty desperate lengths to get story. As the day of the print news coming to an end, this 'imperfect' crew of drifters and ex-pats, exiles and misfits, faces an uncertain future. As the paper's rich history is revealed, including the surprising truth about its founder's intentions, so to are its future plans inevitably played out as the successors of the Mr. Ott's once unique idea now caretake on his crumbling vision. Released to critical and public acclaim in 2010, The Imperfectionists is a really, really good book. (FIC RACHMAN)

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