In 2010 I fell hard for The Imperfectionists, a debut collection of interconnected short stories by journalist Tom Rachman.
Each story was about a different person who works at a fictional newspaper, and Rachman captured them beautifully: each and every character was someone I recognised from my own life spent in and around newsrooms. It was charming and witty, sympathetic and devastating.
Rachman’s follow-up novel, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, was less successful. With Basket of Deplorables he returns to the short fiction form, with five loosely connected stories of life in Donald Trump’s post-truth world.
The first, set at a Democratic election night soirée that was meant to mark the “end of the nightmare” is the most directly political of the stories but it’s not an anti-Trump rant. Rather it’s an insicive character-study of the “establishment elites” who never countenanced the notion Trump might win.
The other stories, some of which connect but only obliquely, are set in the near Trump-future but are less directly concerned with the president than the things he has come to represent: the rise of fake news and the end of objective truth, celebrity culture, narcissism, social media obessesion.
It’s not as ambitious or cohesive as The Imperfectionists but Rachman is an excellent writer with a sharp wit and a keen eye for character. This is a collection both funny and frightening and perfectly timed for the bizarre age in which we live.