It’s in the most overrated book of the year, The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman, a man with no sense of flow or dialogue. The cause is concisely revealed in Rachman’s condensed bio – “born in London and raised in Vancouver.” Nobody’s more dogmatic about proper British English, but less able to produce it, than a Canadian Brit from B.C. (Pop quiz: Pronounce “water.”)
Our young anglophile even weaves in a zinger in the form of a character named Menzies. So very few people know how that’s pronounced. (Kind of like “zinger.”) Mostly people who wouldn’t pronounce a postvocalic R if a gun were pressed against their temple.
If this thing is a bastardization of British English written by a Canadian who in turn is a traitor to his dialect, why is the whole book rendered in American spelling? The type, more or less competently handled for a change (designer: Barbara M. Bachman), uses a face that works only in a printing technology from two centuries back. (That era is about right for the book’s subject, newspapers.) But the typesetting interferes all by itself from time to time, as in the book’s opening words: LLOYD SHOVES. Is that like orange groves?
Isn’t it the role of editors to compensate for authorial failings? Sure, if we still had editors, or if anyone at all knew what line-editing was and why it’s important, or, at the very least, if we had editors with a legitimate ear for dialogue and an eye for repetition. (Another pop quiz: What are Kathleen and Dario busy eating? Could it be olives? Is it possible what they’re doing is eating olives?)
Who, then, was the editor or editrix? Rachman credits Susan Kamil, clearly old enough to know better, for a “wisdom and deft touch” – complete hands-off approach? hitting Print on the delivered manuscript? – that “helped make The Imperfectionists that much less imperfect.” Not much less enough.