Practice makes imperfect
The Imperfectionists is the
culmination of a lifelong journey
COSTCO HAS 50 COPIES of Tom Rachman’s
The Imperfectionists with signed bookplates
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Signed book giveaway
WHAT MOST delighted me
about Tom Rachman’s debut
novel, The Imperfectionists,
is the way he uses his keen
journalist’s eye to ;esh out
the ;ctional newsroom of an
in Rome ;lled with a cast of
What’s more, in today’s
world of Twitter and blogs,
there’s a very real charm to
reading about the people
who work in what to many
readers—and the characters
themselves—appears to be a
dying medium. If you’ve
heard any buzz about this
book, you may have heard it
labeled as a literary read. My
advice: Don’t let labels keep
you from enjoying this
glorious bit of storytelling—
as penned by a new author
who is most de;nitely worth
keeping an eye on.
It’s not a traditional
escapist summer novel, but
if given the chance it will
transport you in the way only
brilliant ;ction can.
The Imperfectionists is
available in most Costco
For more book picks,
see page 27.
By Mark Anstead
THE OLD ADVICE that aspiring authors should
write what they know is proved beyond doubt in
journalist Tom Rachman’s best-selling debut novel,
A compelling series of character portraits, the
book follows a handful of people working for an
The book is the culmination of a lifelong jour-
ney for Rachman. Born in London in 1975, he grew
up in Vancouver, British Columbia, and chose jour-
nalism as a career, but only because he thought it
would be good training for his real ambition: to
eventually write a novel.
English-speaking newspaper based in
Rome. And it’s no coincidence that
Rachman, 36, conceived the idea while
working as an editor for the International
Herald Tribune in Paris.
But Rachman is quick to point out
his book is entirely fictional. It may contain some well-developed archetypes
(bitchy editor, burned-out hack, bored
obituary writer), but he insists none are
based on people he has ever met or
After completing a master’s degree
in journalism at Columbia University,
in New York, Rachman joined the
Associated Press in 1998. Over the
next six years his job took him to India,
Sri Lanka and Rome. At the end of
2004, he took a year off to focus on his
first attempt at fiction.
Nearly a year later he sent a manuscript to friends and family, but was
disappointed at the feedback.
“I started by conjuring up my characters, most of
whom wandered into my imagination surprisingly
well formed, even down to their eyeglasses and the
stains on their shirts,” he tells The Connection. “Then
I organized them and placed them in a setting I knew,
a news organization, and watched what happened.
“The response was unanimous—
my manuscript was lousy,” he says from his flat in
London. “I had not given enough thought to the
structures of fiction, how to build tension and conflict.
“After all that effort, I was very depressed. I was
broke living in Paris, so my next move was to take a
job at the International Herald Tribune.”
“Sometimes I nudged them and sometimes I
was nudged by them, but the stories took life as I
wrote and the outcomes were almost as unexpected
to me as to the reader.”
The Imperfectionists was published last year to
wide critical acclaim, quickly attracting attention
from Hollywood (Brad Pitt’s company snapped up
the film rights). It has since been sold all around the
world and is in the process of being printed in more
than 20 languages.
It took Rachman around seven months to get
over his disappointment enough to try again. In
2006 he began working six months on and six
months off until, after two years, he finally had
another manuscript ready to show.
This time the response couldn’t have been better: Everyone loved it. Encouraged, Rachman
emailed 10 agents and within months was being represented by Susan Golomb in New York.
“There is a very different process to writing fiction,” he says, “and it can only be acquired with
practice. I learned as I went along how to shift time
and place and how to get characters from one scene
to another. Thankfully it came out better the second
When his agent submitted his book to publishers in the fall of 2008 it sparked a bidding war, leading to a substantial six-figure advance.
Now working on his second novel, Rachman
says he hopes to keep a finger in journalism.
“Fiction is very time consuming, so I’d like to be
able to contribute occasional nonfiction articles
as a break,” he says. Regardless of which genre
he’s tackling, he is certain that readers are
always in search of “good and reliable
Pennie Clark Ianniciello,
Costco book buyer