Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tinkers by Paul Harding

TinkersTitle: Tinkers
Author: Paul Harding
Pages: 191
Published: 2009 Bellevue Literary Press
Read For: winning the Pulitzer Prize in 2010
My Rating: 4 stars

Now here's a book to be read for it's love of language.  If you enjoy poetic prose, this small lyrical novel is a breathtaking example.  If, however, you have been looking for a good synopsis of the story to determine whether you are interested, you might find yourself coming up short because there is no straightforward plot line.  This (from the back cover) is actually a pretty good explanation of what you'll find in between these small white covers.
And old man lies dying.  As time collapses into memory, he travels deep into his past where he is reunited with his father and relives the wonder and pain of his impoverished New England youth.  At once heartbreaking and life affirming, Tinkers is an elegiac meditation on love, loss, and the fierce beauty of nature.
It is the story of George, who is dying, although the focus is more on his father, Howard, who suffers from epilepsy.  We get bits of George's life and his childhood experiences; whatever happens to flit around or linger in George's final thoughts.  There are bits included on horology (the art/science of making timepieces) that lay a lovely comparison for the way the lives of fathers and sons are intrinsically connected and entwined.

A description of one of George's hallucinations (eight days before he died) choked me up with its clarity and beauty, and that was only on the second page.  I found myself writing down all kinds of quotes, although looking back on them I've realized that they hold much more beauty in the context of the surrounding observations.  Although the books speaks mostly to the father/son relationship, a brief comment about George's daughters at the end of the book stood out to me as well.  (This sentence, by the way, is a pretty good example of how the storyline is mingled with descriptive tangents, although some of those tangents are longer and more meandering.)
The doorbell rang just as he and his wife and two daughters--Betsy and Claire, the two daughters who now sat at his bedside haggard, pale, exhausted; the daughters he loved and whom he realized would be daddy's little girls as long as he allowed them, which was until the day he died, which was today--were sitting to eat.
If you decide to delve into this little world, do yourself a favor and reserve it for a time when you can focus and immerse yourself in the language.  And be forewarned that this truly is a language lover's delight: prepare to be saturated.

OTHER OPINIONS: (have you reviewed this? leave a link!)
Book Chatter "A tiny novel that packs an emotional punch."
Savidge Reads "Harding’s prose is stunning; there is absolutely no other word for it."
The Bluestocking Society "...the plot meandered...without ever really finding a true direction."
Farm Lane Books "I felt that most of the scenes were over described"
And a great review by Jay Parini makes me think that I just might like Faulkner.


  1. Alot of reviewer have had a slight problem with the lack of plot but I have to admit that this still appeals to me because I'm happy with a book more focuses on lanuage sometimes rather than plot.

  2. You will probably really enjoy this then. There were so many deep thoughts in lovely language. A lot to ponder and appreciate.

  3. I personally enjoy books that really take full advantage of the English language. Tinkers sounds like one of those books.

    Have you by chance read Cormac McCarthy's The Road? Not only is it an amazing story of the undying love between a father and his son, but it also contains some of the most beautiful prose I've ever encountered. McCarthy's use of the English language is absolutely brilliant.

  4. I haven't read The Road. I love finding books that can take my breath away simply because of the writing, so thanks for mentioning it. I'll have to move it up my TBR list a bit.

  5. If you liked Tinkers - have you read All The Living by CE Morgan? It also has great language and little happening. I like "interior" books so little plot doesn't bother me.

  6. I haven't read it, but put it on my wishlist--thanks! I do love to find a book with great language.


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