Perfectly Imperfect: The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

May 24, 2013 Contemporary Fiction, Family, Friendship 39

Happy Friday, Bookworms!

Let’s do some math, shall we? Assuming that you sleep 8 hours a night (which you should, if at all possible, because sleep is awesome) you spend a third of your life in bed. Let’s say you work full time… An 8 hour shift. That’s another third (approximately, because weekends, but whatever I swear a have a point) of your life at work. A third of your life! You spend just as much of your time with your co-workers as you do with your family, and with Mr. Sandman. Now, now. Don’t go getting all depressed about how mean math is. A lot of life happens in the workplace. Imagine what the walls of your place of employment would say if they could talk (I happen to know what my walls are thinking because I converse with them regularly. I’m obviously NOT talking to myself all day. THAT would be ridiculous.)


The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman takes a look a the lives of a newspaper staff over the course of the paper’s lifespan. The newspaper was started to provide an English language news source to expatriates living abroad. While the central office is based in Rome, foreign correspondents are stationed strategically around the globe to offer the inside scoop from the ground level. The newspaper is full of idealistic journalists, fancying themselves muckraking newsmen in the golden age of print journalism. Even though the bulk of this story takes place during the dramatic decline of the industry, you get the feeling that each staff member is trying in their own way to recapture that magic. It calls to mind images of men in suits with press passes tucked into their hatbands and the sounds of typewriters clacking and clanging.

The inner workings of a newspaper can be pretty stressful. Deadlines loom, tempers flare, egos inflate. Inside this pressure cooker, each employee has their own set of issues, traumas, tragedies, and baggage to handle. The Imperfectionists is a novel, but it reads almost like a collection of short stories, each employee getting their own tale. The stories are woven together with vignettes on the history of the newspaper itself and its evolution over the decades. The overly passionate copy editor and the unassuming reporter and the douchebag war correspondent all contribute to this odd little microcosm.

Generate your own nonsense HERE

Generate your own nonsense HERE

The characters all were flawed, but were ultimately pretty likeable in spite of themselves. Rachman performed a delicate balancing act when describing romantic entanglements… He managed to portray all the excitement, passion, and heartbreak the characters experienced without crossing the line into melodrama. I found this book to be a quick read, and I enjoyed the slice of life aspect of each character’s short story. I am solidly in “like” with this book. It didn’t grab my soul and make mincemeat of it, but if it were a person? I’d give it a hearty handshake and buy it a drink. Like an old school news reporter might do.

Bookworms, my dears. I hesitate to ask you this question, but… One of the most entertaining characters in The Imperfectionists is a copy editor who is the ULTIMATE grammar and style Nazi. I shudder to think that I may have committed one of your personal grammatical pet peeves, but what are they? Do abbreviations drive you batty? Do you notice when people use homonyms incorrectly? Do you ever want to reach through your computer screen and edit someone’s Facebook status? Tell me about it!

39 Responses to “Perfectly Imperfect: The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman”

  1. Charleen

    I *notice* all sorts of offenses, but I’d say my biggest pet peeve is not using capitalization and punctuation. Even using it wrong is better than not using it at all! I can’t be bothered to decipher a string of words when they all blend together.

    • Words for Worms

      Agreed. Sometimes I’ll try to compose a twitter hashtag and it makes absolutely no sense thanks to lack of spacing. Punctuation and capitalization are every bit as important!

      • Charleen

        Another that just popped into my head because I just saw it… homonyms in general, but specifically when someone writes, “your welcome,” I always want to respond with, “What about my welcome?”

  2. Ellie

    The Imperfectionists is one of my favorite books. I may have to go re-read it now.
    To answer your question, though, incorrect apostrophe use causes my eye to twitch. And yes, I had to learn to ignore my inner copy editor when I joined Facebook.

  3. therelentlessreader

    First, that newspaper clipping thingy is going to bring me endless hours of fun so thanks!

    I liked this book a lot. The characters slayed me.

    I can be a grammar bitch. Someone saying I SEEN HER THE OTHER DAY (or some such nonsense) makes me want to pull my hair out. Argh.

    • Words for Worms

      Oh, oh! I think it’s a Midwestern thing to say something “needs done.” Like “the driveway needs shoveled.” IRRITATING! The driveway needs TO BE shoveled or it needs shoveling. I try not to be a jerk when I hear it in polite conversation, but I’m afraid my snarky eyebrows usually give me away…

      • PinotNinja

        It is definitely a midwestern thing. My husband is from the Midwest and he and his entire family consistently drop the “to be” out of sentences. It drives me batty! After over a decade, I can no longer hide my snark and just indignantly correct them. It’s good thing they love me (and vice versa), because it totally brings out my inner jerk.

  4. June

    Oh man, I have so many! I should probably refrain from listing them so that I don’t seem like a complete grammar snob. I think my biggest pet peeve is incorrect comma usage, especially if it’s over-usage. People just throw one in wherever there seems like there should be a pause in the sentence. So annoying!

  5. Heather

    I could write an entire blog post about my grammatical pet peeves. I have many. I have learned to let them slide when they come from other people online. I just bitch about them in private. Haha!

    • Words for Worms

      Agreed :). I do my best, but I know my grammar isn’t perfect. I also don’t know how to add punctuation marks to foreign words while typing, so I just ignore them. I’m sure that drives someone out there bananas :).

  6. Samantha

    I have a bad habit of correcting people I know well when they say something incorrectly. I also tend to quietly correct spelling and grammar on our Google Docs at work if someone mistypes something. I’ve also been feeling a teeny bit pretentious because I’ve started responding to the “how are you” question appropriately with “I’m doing well” rather than “I’m doing good”, and now I can’t stop because I know it’s correct but I feel like people are thinking “Well aren’t YOU so smart”. /sarcasm. :p But I can’t stop. It’s correct. 😛

    • Words for Worms

      LOL! For a while I would always say “how can I help you” instead of “how may I help you” because I was afraid that even though the “may” was correct, I sounded pretentious. I’ve since decided that I do not care, and when I answer the phone and someone asks for me, I respond with “this is SHE.” Grammar fun!

      • Megan M.

        Yes! I say “this is she” and I always get an awkward pause in response, like the person’s trying not to laugh or something. What gives?!

  7. Chanin

    Oh my goodness the grammar. My number one pet peeve is people that type/write a lot as one word, I seriously want to reach through their screens and poke them with sharp things. I used to edit papers for my roommates; in one particualr instance crumpled the paper into a ball and threw it back at her. But on the flip side I totally abuse elipses…

    • Words for Worms

      Oh yes, I am a terrible abuser of ellipses, parentheses, run on sentences, and made up words. Oh, and EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!! All over the place. I can’t help myself. Luckily I know better than to make “a lot” one word, so save your poking :).

  8. Megan M.

    Spelling is a big one. I mean it takes two seconds to type a word in a search box and let Google correct you. I do that thing where if I see a typo, I look at the keyboard and try to decide if it was a case of too-close keys or if the person is an idiot. I literally JUST SAW one of my friends misspell “Chewbacca” in a FB status and I had to talk myself out of correcting it. I know I don’t know everything, so I usually don’t correct people. I just judge. Silently and harshly.

    • Words for Worms

      I’m not the best with spelling, I rely on auto correct more than I care to admit. Doesn’t keep me from silently judging others, of course. 🙂

  9. Lyssapants

    I can’t STAND IT when people use apostrophes incorrectly. Like “its” and “it’s.” And ESPECIALLY when they add an apostrophe where there should not be one!!!! Like “80’s”…..if you spell it out, there is no apostrophe: eighties. There. SEE?! It’s just plural. No possession. No contraction. Yarg.

  10. Lisa G

    In print the one that bugs me is “should of” or “could of” It’s SHOULD HAVE people!!

  11. Shannon

    This book is always recommended to me by the internet computer gods, but I still haven’t read it, though I’m always tempted by used copies. Sounds like it would be worth a quick read!

  12. Sarah Says Read

    Ooooo fun weird newspaper thingy! Where in the world do you find these things?

    Sadly I spend more time at work than the average person b/c of my stupid 12-hour shifts and overtime. Aaaand the most exciting thing that happens is me reading, watching, dvd’s, and blogging in between calls and actual work stuff. But no one works with me, so it’s not even like I get to socialize or anything. And the people I do interact with are annoying, gross, stinky drivers and I don’t encourage conversation with them. Le sigh. I need a new job.

    Pet peeves! I can’t stand that “your / you’re” thing, or “their / there / they’re”. Drives me nuts when people mix those up.

      • Sarah Says Read

        It’s a HUGE perk, but I think it was more fun when I first started this job. It’s been 3 years now and I think that I’m finally out-growing it, lol. I miss interacting with fellow employees just a little, teeny bit! This book sounds like it would remind me of that 🙂

  13. Lillian Connelly

    This book sounds really good. I don’t mind grammar mistakes so much. I know most of the people writing are major multi-tasker types and have crazy schedules. Mistakes happen. On the other hand if the writing is terrible and has no other redeeming value (like amazing stories/content) I usually just stop reading.

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