I’m in the middle of the kind of book that has me calling all my friends who read to say: Now. Bookstore, Amazon, iPad, Kindle, whatever. Call in sick to work/ family dinner/the gym/ life and read this now.
Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists is also the kind of book that has me calling all my book-writing friends for conversations that go something like this:
“Are you reading it?”
“Did you get to the part where . . . ”
“Did you die over that line in Chapter . . . ”
“Do you hate Tom Rachman as much as I do?”
Rachman (above) is 35, a former journalist, lives in Rome, and wrote the book in Paris. Yes, I know. He’s hard to like already. Also: this is his first novel, and it landed on the cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review, where a twitterpated Christopher Buckley wrote Rachman a love letter so passionate that it barely made sense.
I hate Rachman because I love him, and would like to be him immediatement. His book is about a newspaper in Rome, and oh, he’s nailed weird newspaper people. It’s witty and observed and filled with genius little twists and moments that make me set the book down and pant for a minute.
This, for example, is a description of Paris that rivals our best Anglophone Paris scribes (Hemingway and Adam Gopnik, I think):
“The grandeur of Paris — its tallness and broadness and hardness and softness, its perfect symmetry, human will imposed on stone, on razored lawns, on the disobedient rosebushes — that Paris resides elsewhere. His own is smaller, containing himself, this window, the floorboards that creak across the hall.”
My head is spinning with Tom Rachman’s brilliance, and his own universe is a lovely place to spend time, filled with snatches of Rome, cups of Italian coffee, vintage typewriters, Parisian shirts, and a Roman mansion “painted orange and brown, with long yellow shutters, giving the impression of habitable marzipan.”