Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Imperfectionists and Me

There was lots of buzz last year surrounding The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman, a debut novel about an English newspaper in Rome. I wasn't sure why it was receiving so much buzz, but now I know. I won't tell you too much about it (my formal review is forthcoming on, but I will say that I really enjoyed it. There were several parts that resonated with me because of the work I do. Here is an excerpt that I found particularly enjoyable:

[Herman] drags the keyboard to his bunchy gut and, condescending to the screen, types a new entry for the Bible:

GWOT: No one knows exactly what this means, above all those who use the term. Nominally, it stands for Global War on Terror. But since conflict against an abstraction is, to be polite, tough to execute, the term should be understood as marketing gibberish. Our reporters adore this sort of humbug; it is the copy editor’s job to exclude it. See also: OBL; Acronyms; and Nitwits.

He hits save. It is entry No. 18,238. “The Bible”—his name for the [news]paper’s style guide—was once printed and bound, with a copy planted on every desk across the newsroom. Now it exists solely within the paper’s computer network, not least because the text has grown to approximately the size of metropolitan Liechtenstein. The purpose of his Bible is to set down laws: to impart whether a “ceasefire” is, properly speaking, a “cease-fire” or indeed a “cease fire”; to adjudge when editors must use “that” and when “which”; to resolve quarrels over prepositions, false possessives, dangling modifiers—on the copydesk, fisticuffs have broken out over less.
***EDIT*** My review has been posted at Here's the link.

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