Summary and book reviews of Tinkers by Paul Harding

Tinkers

by Paul Harding

Tinkers
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2009, 192 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2009, 192 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Stacey Brownlie

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About this Book

Book Summary

An 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. Heartbreaking and life affirming, Tinkers is an elegiac meditation on love, loss, and the fierce beauty of nature. Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. An old man lies dying. Confined to bed in his living room, he sees the walls around him begin to collapse, the windows come loose from their sashes, and the ceiling plaster fall off in great chunks, showering him with a lifetime of debris: newspaper clippings, old photographs, wool jackets, rusty tools, and the mangled brass works of antique clocks. Soon, the clouds from the sky above plummet down on top of him, followed by the stars, till the black night covers him like a shroud. He is hallucinating, in death throes from cancer and kidney failure.

A methodical repairer of clocks, he is now finally released from the usual constraints of time and memory to rejoin his father, an epileptic, itinerant peddler, whom he had lost 7 decades before. In his return to the wonder and pain of his impoverished childhood in the backwoods of Maine, he recovers a natural world that is at once indifferent to man and inseparable from him, menacing and awe inspiring.

Tinkers is about the legacy of consciousness and the porousness of identity from one generation the next. At once heartbreaking and life affirming, it is an elegiac meditation on love, loss, and the fierce beauty of nature.

1

GEORGE WASHINGTON CROSBY BEGAN TO hallucinate eight days before he died. From the rented hospital bed, placed in the middle of his own living room, he saw insects running in and out of imaginary cracks in the ceiling plaster. The panes in the windows, once snugly pointed and glazed, stood loose in their sashes. The next stiff breeze would topple them all and they would flop onto the heads of his family, who sat on the couch and the love seat and the kitchen chairs his wife had brought in to accommodate everyone. The torrent of panes would drive everyone from the room, his grandchildren in from Kansas and Atlanta and Seattle, his sister in from Florida, and he would be marooned on his bed in a moat of shattered glass. Pollen and sparrows, rain and the intrepid squirrels he had spent half of his life keeping out of the bird feeders would breach the house.

He had built the house himself - poured the foundation, raised the frame, joined the pipes, run the wires, ...

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  • award image

    Pulitzer Prize for Letters, Drama and Music
    2010

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Tinkers is a skillfully written novel. It succeeds in demonstrating that our daily, microcosmic lives contain vastness and fantasy. This book offers its reader a meditation on the private geography of the mind and, through Harding's characters, a glimpse of our own efforts to piece together the broken and mismatched elements of human relationships and existence.   (Reviewed by Stacey Brownlie).

Full Review Members Only (441 words).

Media Reviews

Hartford Courant - Carole Goldberg

Paul Harding's Tinkers defies expectations and proves to be one of 2009's most intriguing debuts.

The New Yorker

In Harding’s skillful evocation, Crosby’s life, seen from its final moments, becomes a mosaic of memories, "showing him a different self every time he tried to make an assessment."

Los Angeles Times - Susan Salter Reynolds

Every so often a writer describes something so well ... that you can smell it or feel it or sense it in the room. The writing does what all those other art forms do -- evoke the essence of the thing.

In this astonishing novel, Paul Harding creates a New England childhood, beginning with the landscape. And he does this, miracle of miracles, through the mind of another human being -- not himself, someone else.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. [An] outstanding debut...This is an especially gorgeous example of novelistic craftsmanship.

Library Journal

[A] beautifully written study of father-son relationships and the nature of time.

Booklist

Starred Review. Writing with breathtaking lyricism and tenderness, Harding has created a rare and beautiful novel.

Reader Reviews

Harvey Fenigsohn

Paul Harding's Tinkers
The opening sentence of Tinkers, Paul Harding's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel reveals the novelist's ingenious talent. Harding tightly compresses a spring which, when released, propels his entire narrative. The compressed spring is the simple ...   Read More

Dulal Al Monsur

Outer Geography and Inner Journey
Paul Harding's debut novel set in New England presents the outer realm and inner corner of both the individual and the universal man very excellently.

Lois-ellin Datta

Channeling Faulkner and Doing It Well Indeed
There's much to love about "Tinkers," most of which has been noted and with which I agree. What struck me is how much Tinkers seems to be channeling Faulkner. The linguistic precision, yes of course. The sentence-paragraphs. The ...   Read More

Bill Boley

Workshop Work
Though Harding offers some effective stream of consciousness passages, his writing too often creates an excruciatingly slow read and many overwrought, writer's workshopish passages. Giving "Tinkers" a 4 is a push. At least it's short.

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Beyond the Book

Horology
Protagonist George Crosby's love for repairing clocks is a prominent theme in Tinkers, which includes references to a fictional 1783 book called The Reasonable Horologist.

Horology encompasses both the science of measuring time and the art of making time pieces.  Thus, horologists include watchmakers, clockmakers, scholars, scientists and hobbyists.  Humans have long been concerned with recording the passage of time - from Stonehenge to calendar stones to sundials and atomic clocks*, civilizations have sought the most precise way to record time. Today, we can pull up the official United States time with just a few keystrokes!

There are numerous museums and libraries around the world devoted to ...

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