The Imperfectionists


I’ve just finished reading The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman, a tragicomic novel about eleven lives connected to one newspaper as print journalism enters its death-throes. Rachman, a former journalist himself, deservedly won rave reviews for this first work of fiction, which stirred in me emotions not commonly associated with the media: compassion, affection, gentle humour.
It also made me quite nostalgic for my years on the staff of the Scotsman, which is suffering plungeing circulation figures like (almost) all the others. It’s good to be reminded that behind every headline, good, bad or plain ridiculous, is a fallible human being whose life is every bit as complex and threaded with private hopes and griefs as those laid out in print.
Rachman conjures up brilliantly the real-life angst and soul-searching as advertising migrates online, on-the-ground reporting disappears, and users expecting cost-free news are rewarded with the recycled press releases they deserve. But he also makes it a powerful metaphor for that instinctive human fear we all share: of letting go of what we know and striking out into an unknown future.
I really have no idea what the role of a journalist will look like in ten years’ time (though Nick Davies’ Flat Earth News provides some horribly believable pointers) or whether freelancing will even still be financially viable. But the warmth and humanity of this novel reminds me that whatever happens, we’re in it together.


Posted on: 09 May 2011 in Books, Journalism


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