The Transcriptionist

A Novel

By Amy Rowland

Published by Algonquin Books

“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

Once, there were many transcriptionists at the Record, a behemoth New York City newspaper, but new technology and the ease of communication 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 a woman 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.

“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

“Ambitious and fascinating . . . Disturbing and powerful . . . Recommended for fans of literary fiction.” —Library Journal

“Rowland’s farcical approach . . . 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.” —Publishers Weekly

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

$24.95 (US)

Product Details
Categories
Number of pages
256
Publication date
May 13, 2014
ISBN
9781616202545
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Amy Rowland

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Review quotes

The Transcriptionist holds many pleasures . . . [and] can be read through many lenses . . . Rowland plays with the notions of truth and reliability . . . It is the responsibility of a journalist to report the truth, but what if--Rowland asks--objective reality is a fiction? . . . Sharp and affecting.” —The New York Times Book Review

“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

“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

“The magic of this book . . . [is that] Rowland demonstrates a gift for making mystery out of a concrete style. Paul Harding has advised writers to write ‘as precisely and as lucidly and as richly’ as they can about mysterious things, instead of writing with mystery and obscurity about clichés; much of The Transcriptionist would likely please him . . . Rowland shows her dexterity with language--her skill at nailing precisely what is mysterious about something or someone with originality, yet without preciousness . . . Remarkable.” —The Rumpus

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

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

“Funny, sad, perceptive and soulful . . . Rowland’s writing is spare but evocative . . . The plot itself--Lena’s obsession with a blind woman who has committed suicide at the Bronx Zoo by throwing herself to the lions--seems almost incidental. It mostly serves as the vessel, a perfectly good one, for what is really going on here: Rowland’s exploration of profound subjects and her consistently engaging writing.” —The Buffalo News

“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