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The Transcriptionistby Amy Rowland
Synopses & Reviews
“Haunting and provocative . . . Rowland’s writing is compelling and masterful.” —Delia Ephron, author of The Lion Is In
Once, there were many transcriptionists at the Record, a behemoth New York City newspaper, but new technology has put most of them out of work. So now Lena, the last transcriptionist, sits alone in a room--a human conduit, silently turning reporters’ recorded stories into print--until the day she encounters a story so shocking that it shatters the reverie that has become her life.
This exquisite novel, written by an author who spent more than a decade as a transcriptionist at the New York Times, asks probing questions about journalism and ethics, about the decline of the newspaper and the failure of language. It is also the story of a woman’s effort to establish her place in an increasingly alien and alienating world.
“The Transcriptionist is suffused with prescient insight into journalism, ethics, and alienation . . . A thought provoking, original work.” —New York Journal of Books
“Rowland seems that rare thing, the naturally gifted novelist . . . [She] deftly maps a very specific kind of urban loneliness, the inner ache of the intelligent, damaged soul who prefers the company of ideas and words to that of people . . . That urge--to make words holy--is at the heart of this novel’s strange, sad beauty.” —The Washington Post
“The Transcriptionist holds many pleasures . . . [and] can be read through many lenses . . . Rowland plays with the notions of truth and reliability . . . Sharp and affecting.” —The New York Times Book Review
“A strange, mesmerizing novel . . . about the decline of newspapers and the subsequent loss of humanity—and yes, these are related.” —Booklist, starred review
“Ambitious and fascinating . . . Disturbing and powerful.” —Library Journal
“Entering the city Rowland creates, with its tightly strung dialogue and soulful, lonely citizens, is a memorable experience.” —The Boston Globe
“Unforgettable. Written with such delight, compassion, and humanity it’s newsworthy.”—Alex Gilvarry, author of From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant
"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
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.
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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