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The Transcriptionistby Amy Rowland
Synopses & Reviews
No one can find it. That's the first thing. The Recording Room is on the eleventh floor, at the end of a rat-hued hallway that some workers at the newspaper have never seen; they give up on the ancient elevator, which makes only local stops with loud creaks of protest. Like New Yorkers who refuse to venture above Fourteenth Street, there are newspaper workers who refuse to go above the fourth floor for fear of being lost forever if they leave the well-lit newsroom for dark floors unknown.
In this room you'll find Lena. She works as a transcriptionist for the Record, a behemoth New York City newspaper. There once were many transcriptionists at the Record, but new technology and the ease of communication has put most of them out of work, so now Lena sits alone in a room on the building's eleventh floor, far away from the hum of the newsroom that is the heart of the paper. Still, it is an important job--vital, really--a vein that connects the organs of the paper, and Lena takes it very seriously.
And then one day she encounters something that shatters the reverie that has become her life--an article in the paper about a woman mauled to death by lions in the city zoo. The woman was blind and remains unidentified, but there is a picture, and Lena recognizes her as someone whom a few days before she had met and talked to briefly while riding home on a midtown bus.
Obsessed with understanding what caused the woman to climb into the lion's den, Lena begins a campaign for truth that will ultimately destroy the Record's complacency and shake the venerable institution to its very foundation. In the process she finds a new set of truths that gives her the strength to shed what she describes as her "secondhand life" and to embrace a future filled with promise, maybe even adventure.
An exquisite novel that asks probing questions about journalism and ethics, about the decline of the newspaper and the failure of language, The Transcriptionist is also the story of a woman's effort to establish a place for herself in an increasingly alien and alienating world.
"New York Times veteran Rowland treads familiar ground (familiar to her, at least) in her debut novel, set primarily amid the remote offices of Record, a fictional newspaper. Lena is the newspaper's sole remaining transcriptionist, her job having been made nearly redundant by technology. Lonely and prone to melancholy, she is haunted both by the words that are edited out of her transcribed stories prior to publication, and by her childhood fear of mountain lions. Both preoccupations come to a head after a blind woman, with whom Lena had a brief encounter, is found mauled to death in the Bronx Zoo's lion exhibit. Lena's identification with the dead woman verges on obsession as she researches the woman's life and death. Rowland's farcical approach (for example, Lena finds mental safety in periodically donning the biohazard escape hood that she was given by the newspaper) is balanced by the novel's realistic insights into journalistic integrity, the evolution of contemporary newspaper publishing, and, more broadly, the importance of genuine communication. 'Listening,' notes Lena, 'helps us recognize our absurdity, our humanity.'" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"A haunting and provocative novel about the mysteries of life and a death, the written word, things seen and unseen, heard and forgotten. Amy Rowland's writing is compelling and masterful." --Delia Ephron, author of The Lion Is In
“The Transcriptionist is a masterpiece . . .
About the Author
Amy Rowland has spent more than a decade at the New York Times, where she worked, notably, as a transcriptionist before moving to the Book Review. Her articles have appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, the Smart Set, and the Utne Reader. She lives in New York City.
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