This is a book of short stories. Yes, they are interconnected through the paper, but I would argue not only that all of these could stand alone, but that several of the characters are so similar that it would be better if they did stand alone. Overall, it is an achingly sad collection: no one is happy, no one is successful (at least at whatever they would define as success themselves), none of their personal relationships are working. Rachman has some poignant moments and the stories are all interesting reads.
Lloyd Burko--I'm not sure why Rachman starts with this one; Lloyd is the least loveable (and he is echoed later in Jimmy..Herman's friend) of the characters. I thought this set the tone not only as depressing, but set me up to not really like anyone in the industry. I did like the subtle writing when Rachman refers to French as the only language in which Charlotte will speak to Lloyd, but it is the language that Lloyd and Jerome speak together.
Arthur Gopal--I thought this was the the most heartbreaking of the stories (certainly the only one with a death), but a bit over the top that it is the obit writer who has to face death on a personal level. Personally, I charge my kids "mom tax" almost every time they eat something sweet and so found Arthur's "Father tax" rather funny. I also liked Gerda quite a bit. Both her thoughts on death 'my point, you see, is that death is misunderstood. The loss of one's life is not the greatest loss. It is no loss at all. To others, perhaps, but not to one's self. From one's own perspective, experience simply halts. From one's own perspective, there is no loss." and ambition "nothing in all civilization has been as productive as ludicrous ambition. Whatever its ills, nothing has created more. Cathedrals, sonatas, encyclopedias: love of God was not behind them, nor love of life. But the love of man to be worshiped by man."
Hardy Benjamin--I did not find her believable. I think Rachman's male characters are much stronger; she is transparently simple in her quest for love and her self-hatred.
Herman Cohen--Too simplistic that Jimmy is simply a loser and that Herman is the one who has it all. Yes, perception is everything and Jimmy only exists as a hero in Herman's eyes (and no one else's) because Herman has seen him as such for so long. Overall, I just didn't really think there was much to this story.
Kathleen Solson--I felt that she was very much Gerda's student (which was nice foreshadowing on Rachman's part). It was too convenient that she discovers Nigel's affair just when re-uniting with her lost lover.
Winston Cheung--This was my least favorite of the stories. Winston is too gullible (really why would he think Snyder is helping him?), he is too submissive (in every way), and it was too convenient that Zenia ultimately takes his job. I wasn't sure about the quiet Asian boy/man stereotype here...should we consider it a racist portrayal?
Ruby Zaga--Again we have the theme of perspective. Ruby is portrayed in the other stories much differently than she sees herself. She also only wants her job when she comes to losing it (as do they all in the end)...similarly Abbey's rejection/acceptance of Dave Belling. Perception of value is dependent on whether or not the narrator him/herself is valued. I did feel like Ruby was still similar enough to both Hardy and Abbey that there was not really a new female character; just three spins on the same caricature.
Craig Menzies--Back to the fidelity theme. Lloyd's wife, Kathleen's husband, and now Annika. Basically if people are left with nothing to do they'll go out and start fucking random others. Again, felt a bit too repetitious for my taste.
Ornella de Monterrecchi--Ornella gives the best depiction of loneliness (in a book of lonely characters). Ultimately, she is an abused wife who finds solace in the past. When she relinquishes her hold on the first day her husband was abusive she can embrace the present. A bit too over the top, though, in my humble...
Abbey Pinnola--Abbey is lonely like Ruby, gets taken advantage of like Hardy. Where are the complex females in this book?
Oliver Ott--I was glad that he didn't sell the paintings to fund the newspaper. I was sure that he was going to feel guilty at the staff meeting to make some extravagant (and ridiculous) promise. Instead, he held true to form and did nothing. I wasn't sure about the overtones of homosexuality (remind me a bit of Joyce, but maybe that was just the drunk leering old men); were we supposed to understand that Ott really did blame poor old Mr. Deveen and he was resentful? Why doesn't he just find himself a nice young lover and admit to his sexual preference?
Ultimately I wasn't sure if the similarity among the cast was a comment on the interchangeability of humans (in which case Rachman deserves credit) or instead was poor writing (in which case the credit is retracted).