The Transcriptionist

The Transcriptionist

A Novel

Book - 2014
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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 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
Publisher: Chapel Hill, North Carolina : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2014
Edition: First Edition
ISBN: 9781616202545
Branch Call Number: FIC ROWLAND 2014
Characteristics: 246 pages ; 22 cm


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Dec 30, 2016

Painful to read.

diesellibrarian Sep 02, 2014

This starts out as a promising story about the last remaining transcriptionist at a fictional daily newspaper in New York. Lena, the protagonist, accepts the clerical job as an antidote to the overwhelming pressure of grad school. She spends her days transcribing stories and interviews phoned in by reporters in the field. Things start to unravel for Lena when she becomes obsessed with a the story of a blind woman who feeds herself to the lions at the metro zoo. From here, the story devolves, becoming very self-conscious and overly didactic. Towards the end, it reads like an MFA thesis in Creative Writing. The tropes are heavy-handed, and the crux of the narrative feels contrived. Overall, the writing is good, but this book is not the "masterpiece" I was expecting.


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