Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Inertia and continued employment cease to be mutually tenable

Arthur's cubicle used to be near the watercooler, but the bosses tired of having to chat with him each time they got thirsty. So the watercooler stayed and he was moved. Now his desk is in a distant corner, as far from the locus of power as possible but nearer the cupboard of pens, which is a consolation.

He arrives at work, flops into his rolling chair, and remains still. This persists until inertia and continued employment cease to be mutually tenable, at which point he wriggles off his overcoat, flicks on the computer, and checks the news reports.

No one has died. Or, rather, 107 people have in the previous minute, 154,000 in the past day, and 1,078,000 in the past week. But no one who matters. That's good — it has been nine days since his last obit, and he hopes to extend the streak. His overarching goal at the paper is indolence, to publish as infrequently as possible, and to sneak away when no one is looking. He is realizing these professional ambitions spectacularly.

— from The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman.

I'm barely a quarter of the way into this book, but I'm loving it. It's funny and poignant, and a whole lot of other things besides.

At this point it seems more like a series of connected stories than a novel per se, but we'll see how it unfolds. The stories, the people, all circle round an English-language newspaper in Rome.

It feels right to be reading this just as I'm starting a new job in an editorial environment completely different from what I'm used to. It's not a newspaper, but the publication cycle for a good deal of the work is close to every-other-day-ly, so there's a buzz and a busy-ness that make going to work kind of exciting.

Editorial is just a small part of this business in a sector that I know rather little about. I am relying on osmosis to get up to speed, but that shouldn't be such a feat when the people around me spend their days talking, hashing out ideas and problems and other ways of thinking about things in a fairly passionate way. They are not imperfectionists. We have several watercoolers.

Overheard the other day: "The granularity of the content is one." I don't know what that means, but I can't wait to find out.


Frances said...

This one was one of my favorites this summer. Not only homage to print that I grooved to but those detailed character portraits blew me away. Not only a skilled writer but a perceptive person in general.

Enjoy finding out! Hope that the now incomprehensible doesn't turn into the too frequently repeated. :)

Atif Saeed said...

I recommend this book enthusiastically. It's a quick read, you'll meet some very interesting people, and you'll get a chance to encounter Rachman's writing, as he, hopefully, continues to be a fresh creative American literary voice.