Wednesday, January 19, 2011


If I wanted to read short stories, I'd pick up a short story collection, and that's what this is. Each chapter offers a telling glimpse into the personal life of one of the staffers, plus a neurotic reader, at a Rome-based English-language newspaper. Unlike Olive Kitteridge, in which Olive appears in every story, this book has no binding character, except the newspaper itself, which is struggling, like most print media news organizations. It seemed to me that the lives of the characters mirrored the downhill slide of the paper. There is some overlap among the stories, which may be enough for some readers, but I felt puzzled at the end of each one. Several of the stories involve rather bizarre romantic relationships or encounters, particularly when the CFO finds herself attracted to the man seated next to her on a plane, whom she happened to have fired recently. A couple of the women are desperate types, allowing themselves to be manipulated or, in one case, repeatedly dialing a man who made the mistake of kissing her once. To be fair, I have to admit that a couple of the men are fairly desperate, too, and even manipulated, as is the wannabe stringer in Cairo who finds himself at the mercy of a blustery guy who may be his competitor for the job. I can certainly understand why Christopher Buckley read this book twice. Somehow I want to revisit and remember these stories, embarrassing and unpleasant as some of them are, and yet at the same time I'm not sure I want to relive the urge to yank these misfits up by the collar and tell them to get a grip.

1 comment:

1morechapter said...

I enjoyed this one. I do think you're right about the lives of the people mirroring the newspaper's struggles. The characters did feel real to me, though.