Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What is the internet??

The February pick for the Idlewild bookclub was Tom Rachman's best-seller, The Imperfectionists—a welcome change of pace from last month's philosophical textbook.

This was an interesting book club choice. At first, I didn't think there would be much to discuss, but it turned out to be a good one. The story is about an English-language newspaper in Rome that, after fifty years of publication, is struggling to stay afloat in the changing landscape of news media. While this is the overarching plot, this book is really a collection of vignettes, each focusing on a different employee of the newspaper, in which their personal lives and work lives are interwoven.

The thing about the characters is...none of them are likable and each is flawed. (The one exception, in my opinion, is the lady who collected the newspapers, the one character not an employee.) I felt sympathy for some characters, was disgusted by others, but each of them were journalists, or exhibited what we decided could be described as typical "journalistic behavior"—somewhat cold, ambitious to the point of conniving. The women all seemed horrible, and I'm fully convinced Rachman has some serious woman issues that he was projecting. Despite disliking most of the characters, I was hungry to read each story, and they each deserved to be dissected. However, Rachman has this tendency to write an interesting character study and then slam a sentence onto the very end to indicate complete hopelessness for these characters. I found this trait very obvious, but I'm not sure anyone else at book club found it to be as poignant as I did!

Naturally our discussion led to technology and media and how the newspaper is nearly obsolete. How many people under the age of 30 currently subscribe to the daily print version of a newspaper? Not very many. I'm a lover of print, but realistically, technology allows a faster, easier look at the news. It's not difficult to see where the newspaper world is heading, but it's fascinating to see where it and technology have gone in just the past ten years.

To illustrate my point, watch the video below from 1994.


Reeder Reads said...

I've read a lot about this book and I think it's about time I get my hands on a copy! And I gotta say, that video is unbelievable! Can you imagine that that's what we were all like (not too long ago) - craziness!!!

softdrink said...

I think the lady who collected the newspapers was a bit flawed, too. In the beginning of her story, she was rude and unfeeling. However, she's the one character that grew, and she was more likable at the end. I thought Abbie's (sp?) story was going to turn out to be the exception, but wow, didn't see that one coming!

Kari said...

You're absolutely right about the crazy newspaper lady. She was flawed, but I guess the exception I saw in her was the fact that she was the only one who developed in a positive way by the end of her story. Abby's story, on the other hand, made me cringe!!

Kari said...

I know! It's hard enough remembering communication before text messaging!

Colleen(Books in the City) said...

I downloaded this book just before Christmas - your review really makes me want to get to it!

Booklineandsinker said...

that clip is CLASSIC! it's like watching back to the future or something. as for print newspapers, i do like to get my hands on a copy of the sunday NY Time, but my day-to-day reading is done online. when i was in high school, my parents did subscribe to the paper (at my request) and i read it every day. when i moved out, i did have a subscription but found i was reading the online version of my newspaper and the paper copy was redundant. (i'm 36, by the way.) :)