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I grew up in peaceful Vancouver with two psychologists for parents, a sister with whom I squabbled in the obligatory ways, and an adorably dim-witted spaniel whose leg waggled when I tickled his belly. Not the stuff of literature, it seemed to me.
During university, I had developed a passion for reading: essays by George Orwell, short stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer, novels by Tolstoy. By graduation, books had shoved aside all other contenders. A writer--perhaps I could become one of those.
There was a slight problem: my life to date.
By 22, I hadn't engaged in a bullfight. I'd not kept a mistress or been kept by one. I'd never been stabbed in a street brawl. I'd not been mistreated by my parents, or addicted to anything sordid. I'd never fought a duel to the death with anyone.
It was time to remedy this. Or parts of it, anyway. I would see the world, read, write, and pay my bills in the process. My plan was to join the press corps, to become a foreign correspondent, to emerge on the other side with handsome scars, mussed hair, and a novel.
Years passed. I worked as an editor at the Associated Press in New York, venturing briefly to South Asia to report on war (from a very safe distance; I was never brave). Next, I was dispatched to Rome, where I wrote about the Italian government, the Mafia, the Vatican, and other reliable sources of scandal.
Suddenly--too soon for my liking--I was turning thirty. My research, I realized, had become alarmingly similar to a career. To imagine a future in journalism, a trade that I had never loved, terrified me.
So, with a fluttery stomach, I handed in my resignation, exchanging a promising job for an improbable hope. I took my life savings and moved to Paris, where I knew not a soul and whose language I spoke only haltingly. Solitude was what I sought: a cozy apartment, a cup of tea, my laptop. I switched it on. One year later, I had a novel.
And it was terrible.
My plan – all those years in journalism--had been a blunder, it seemed. The writing I had aspired to do was beyond me. I lacked talent. And I was broke.
Dejected, I nursed myself with a little white wine, goat cheese and baguette, then took the subway to the International Herald Tribune on the outskirts of Paris to apply for a job. Weeks later, I was seated at the copy desk, composing headlines and photo captions, aching over my failure. I had bungled my twenties. I was abroad, lonely, stuck.
But after many dark months, I found myself imagining again. I strolled through Parisian streets, and characters strolled through my mind, sat themselves down, folded their arms before me, declaring, "So, do you have a story for me?"
I switched on my computer and tried once more.
This time, it was different. My previous attempt hadn't produced a book, but it had honed my technique. And I stopped fretting about whether I possessed the skill to become a writer, and focused instead on the hard work of writing. Before, I had winced at every flawed passage. Now, I toiled with my head down, rarely peeking at the words flowing across the screen.
I revised, I refined, I tweaked, I polished. Not until exhaustion--not until the novel that I had aspired to write was very nearly the one I had produced--did I allow myself to assess it.
To my amazement, a book emerged. I remain nearly incredulous that my plan, hatched over a decade ago, came together. At times, I walk to the bookshelf at my home in Italy, take down a copy of The Imperfectionists, double-check the name on the spine: Tom Rachman. Yes, I think that's me.
In the end, my travels included neither bullfights nor duels. And the book doesn't, either. Instead, it contains views over Paris, cocktails in Rome, street markets in Cairo; the ruckus of an old-style newsroom and the shuddering rise of technology; a foreign correspondent faking a news story, a media executive falling for the man she just fired. And did I mention a rather adorable if slobbery dog?
Loved this book from the first page. Having lived in Europe, I relied on the Herald Tribune as my lifeline to America. Read morePublished 3 days ago by Helveticus
Irritating, presumptuous, wannabe glamorous. So Paree. Couldn't even finish the first chapter.Published 15 days ago by A. Fitzgerald
There is no more fitting title for this gem of a debut by Tom Rachman. The characters that populate this taut, compelling novel--from an opportunistic editor and a candy-gorging... Read morePublished 19 days ago by Ms. Russell
The author did a nice job of letting us get to know each character, and the plot but the entire story line was just sort of Ho hum... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Tweedle Dee
I enjoyed this book, it was a quick read. Characters were interesting and I would definitely recommend it.Published 1 month ago by Susan Clancy
Once I got into it, I could hardly put it down. I still can't get those characters out of my mind. Beautiful work.Published 1 month ago by Micah Major
great collection. for anyone with a collection of "interconnected" stories looking to call them a novel: this is how you do it.Published 1 month ago by M. Dodson
Great book! It was amazing how Rachman tied all the characters together from the paper's beginnings to the end.Published 2 months ago by Robert Keleghan
After a really slow start (I had to prod myself to keep reading), this turned out to be a excellent book, full of the study of human nature. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Sue J