The Transcriptionist: A Novel

The Transcriptionist: A Novel

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by Amy Rowland
     
 

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“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

Overview

“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

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
02/01/2014
Tucked away in an almost forgotten corner of a large office building, young Lena Respass toils away at a virtually obsolete profession for a legendary New York City-based newspaper, the Record. She's a transcriptionist, typing out news stories reported to her verbally from around the world. This ambitious and fascinating debut novel is perhaps most essentially about the kind of work Lena does—listening. The story is set in motion by Lena's chance encounter with a mysterious blind woman, who warns her, "Be careful what you listen to. Be careful what you hear." Single, terribly alone in New York, and plagued by paralyzing doubts about the meaning of her life and work, Lena has come to regard what the paper defines as news as dangerous and deeply misguided—mindless and fawning celebrity profiles alongside stories of misfortune, war, and death. Her belief is substantiated when she looks into the story of a lion mauling reported in the paper. By the end, Rowland will have some very unflattering things to say about the state of modern journalism, especially its increasingly cozy and collaborationist relationship with government. VERDICT Disturbing and powerful; the skillfully drawn Lena may remind some readers of an existentialist hero. Recommended for fans of literary fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 11/22/13.]—Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT
Review quotes

“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

“This haunting, beautiful book set me thinking and dreaming about language and personality. It proves that language can make us whole. The entire book tends towards liberation, and the end is so suggestive and life-affirming, though not a typical happy ending. It's something better, something the reader can carry back into life.” —Rebecca Lee, author of Bobcat and Other Stories

“If one had to name an antecedent for the strange, golden sheen that covers Amy Rowland’s debut novel, possibly early John Cheever, with its dreamy imaginings of commuter intrigues, or beautifully cadenced, resonant verbal exchanges, would be closest. Entering the city Rowland creates, with its tightly strung dialogue and soulful, lonely citizens, is a memorable experience.” —The Boston Globe

“A lively tale, light and enjoyable, about a sensitive, reflective and articulate soul in a fast-paced, often soulless world.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Rowland, a former transcriptionist for the New York Times, has written a strange, mesmerizing novel about language, isolation, ethics, technology, and the lack of trust between institutions and the people they purportedly serve . . . A fine debut novel about the decline of newspapers and the subsequent loss of humanity--and yes, these are related.” —Booklist, starred review

“Sly and humane and with a delicate touch of surrealism, The Transcriptionist is a masterpiece.” —Haven Kimmel, author of Iodine and A Girl Named Zippy

“What a laser-sharp eye Amy Rowland has! From her perch in the most out-of-the-way nook in the world's most powerful paper, her heroine seems to be able to take in the whole world. This first novel is wise, beautifully written, with just the right amount of wickedness.” —James Magnuson, author of Famous Writers I Have Known

“Unforgettable. Written with such delight, compassion, and humanity it’s newsworthy. Amy Rowland is the debut of the year.” —Alex Gilvarry, author of From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant

The Transcriptionist is suffused with prescient insight into journalism, ethics, and alienation . . . A thought provoking, original work.” —New York Journal of Books

From the Publisher

“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

“This haunting, beautiful book set me thinking and dreaming about language and personality. It proves that language can make us whole. The entire book tends towards liberation, and the end is so suggestive and life-affirming, though not a typical happy ending. It's something better, something the reader can carry back into life.” —Rebecca Lee, author of Bobcat and Other Stories

“If one had to name an antecedent for the strange, golden sheen that covers Amy Rowland’s debut novel, possibly early John Cheever, with its dreamy imaginings of commuter intrigues, or beautifully cadenced, resonant verbal exchanges, would be closest. Entering the city Rowland creates, with its tightly strung dialogue and soulful, lonely citizens, is a memorable experience.” —The Boston Globe

“A lively tale, light and enjoyable, about a sensitive, reflective and articulate soul in a fast-paced, often soulless world.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Rowland, a former transcriptionist for the New York Times, has written a strange, mesmerizing novel about language, isolation, ethics, technology, and the lack of trust between institutions and the people they purportedly serve . . . A fine debut novel about the decline of newspapers and the subsequent loss of humanity--and yes, these are related.” —Booklist, starred review

“Sly and humane and with a delicate touch of surrealism, The Transcriptionist is a masterpiece.” —Haven Kimmel, author of Iodine and A Girl Named Zippy

“What a laser-sharp eye Amy Rowland has! From her perch in the most out-of-the-way nook in the world's most powerful paper, her heroine seems to be able to take in the whole world. This first novel is wise, beautifully written, with just the right amount of wickedness.” —James Magnuson, author of Famous Writers I Have Known

“Unforgettable. Written with such delight, compassion, and humanity it’s newsworthy. Amy Rowland is the debut of the year.” —Alex Gilvarry, author of From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant

The Transcriptionist is suffused with prescient insight into journalism, ethics, and alienation . . . A thought provoking, original work.” —New York Journal of Books

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781616203962
Publisher:
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
05/13/2014
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
161,548
File size:
1 MB

Meet 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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The Transcriptionist 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Very slow starting strange
PierresFamily More than 1 year ago
Outstanding first novel! Possessing experience as a transcriptionist herself, Amy Rowland has the "inside skinny" that makes this book realistic. The characters are well-drawn, and the story is moving but not predictable. We learn about what transcriptionists do, how working in the news media affects the workers' morale, and how things turn out for Lena. There is just enough suspense to keep you guessing, yet it's not a contrived story, but rather one that will wrap itself around your heart. I hope this is just the first of many novels to come, from Ms. Rowland!