I recently read a fascinating novel The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. Set in a fictitious newspaper in Rome, it features multiple POV’s, covering decades at the newspaper. But my favorite part of the book was the conversation in the back between Rachman and writer/journalist Malcolm Gladwell.
Sometimes before I even read a book, I scan the acknowledgments and endnotes for insights about how the book came together. Did it take years? Who supported the writer along the way? Where did the ideas come from?
Side note: I’d love to see a conversation like this featured in a children’s/YA book between two authors like Russell Freedman and Jim Murphy discussing nonfiction research and how it affects story arc or a pair of fantasy writers discussing how they create their worlds. Maybe some day.
In the Q and A section, Gladwell asks Rachman how much of his personal life shows up in his fictional characters and the plot. Rachman states that there are bits and pieces of himself in all his fictional characters. We writers know this to be true. But many of my reader friends are rabidly interested in this intersection between art and life. But for me, it is process that pulls me in. I could listen to writers talk about their process all day long. It is one of the joys of our residencies or a great writing conference.
At the end of the section Gladwell asks Rachman, “Do you consider The Imperfectionists a success? I suppose that will have as much to do with your personality as the book itself.” Rachman responds, “I battled with this book . . .certainly there are imperfections in this book, but they are the best imperfections I had in me at the time. For that, I am contented.”
Ah, contentment. May we live with the tension of imperfections in our writing, knowing that on any given day they are the best imperfections we have to give.