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Tinkersby Paul Harding
Tinkers is a haunting little book that weaves together the story of George Crosby, who is dying, with the story of his father, Howard Crosby. As George lies hallucinating, he tries to untangle the threads of his youth and finally come to grips with the enigma that is his father. Howard is an epileptic at a time in history when being so gets one labeled "insane." He suffers under that burden and finds a way of dealing with it that will haunt his son forever. Paul Harding writes like no one you've ever read: lyrical, poetic, spare, and lush.
Synopses & Reviews
Congratulations to Paul Harding and Bellevue Press for the recent Pulitzer win! And, we're delighted to say that Powell's featured a signed and numbered special edition of Tinkers in Volume 8 of Indiespensable, our exclusive book club. (View all of our past volumes here.) Less than 2,000 hardcover copies of Tinkers were printed, and 750 of those went to our subscribers! Wow. So, don't miss out on another extremely valuable collector's item, sign up for Indiespensable today!
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.
"Harding's outstanding debut unfurls the history and final thoughts of a dying grandfather surrounded by his family in his New England home. George Washington Crosby repairs clocks for a living and on his deathbed revisits his turbulent childhood as the oldest son of an epileptic smalltime traveling salesman. The descriptions of the father's epilepsy and the 'cold halo of chemical electricity that encircled him immediately before he was struck by a full seizure' are stunning, and the household's sadness permeates the narrative as George returns to more melancholy scenes. The real star is Harding's language, which dazzles whether he's describing the workings of clocks, sensory images of nature, the many engaging side characters who populate the book, or even a short passage on how to build a bird nest. This is an especially gorgeous example of novelistic craftsmanship." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Tinkers is truly remarkable.... It confers on the reader the best privilege fiction can afford, the illusion of ghostly proximity to other human souls." Marilynne Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Home and Gilead
"In astounding language sometimes seemingly struck by lightning, sometimes as tight and complicated as clockwork, Harding shows how enormous fiction can be, and how economical. Read this book and marvel." Elizabeth McCracken
"Tinkers is a remarkable piece of work... fascinating — and sometimes horrific — to read, and is cumulatively moving because it is woven together into the single quilt of our humanity." Barry Unsworth
"Every so often (and this must happen to you too) a writer describes something so well — snow, oranges, dirt — 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." Susan Salter Reynolds, L.A. Times
"A beautifully written meditation on life, death, the passage of time and man's eternal attempt to harness it... one of 2009's most intriguing debuts." Carole Goldberg, Hartford Courant
"Harding is a first-rate writer, and his fascination with what makes his characters tick recommends him as a philosopher, as well." Jonathan Messinger, Time Out Chicago
"Harding's rendering is replete with a fantastic array of forehead-slapping ruminations and observations and adroit and elegiac turns of phrases... A remarkable book." Robert Birnbaum, The Morning News
"This compact, adamantine début dips in and out of the consciousness of a New England patriarch named George Washington Crosby as he lies dying on a hospital bed in his living room, ‘right where they put the dining room table, fitted with its two extra leaves for holiday dinners’…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." The New Yorker
"Harding’s interest is in the universalities: nature and time and the murky character of memory…The small, important recollections are rendered with an exactitude that is poetic…Harding's prose is lyrical and specific...Tinkers is a poignant exploration of where we may journey when the clock has barely a tick or two left and we really can’t go anywhere at all."The Boston Globe
"At only a very brief 192 pages, it still packs an emotional punch that books of three times its length often lack. It's a novel that you'll want to savor for its stunning yet economical use of language, for its descriptions of nature, of illness and health, and for its profound understanding of humanity's deepest needs and desires for family and home. I found reading it to be an incredibly moving experience, yet Harding is in such control of his material that it never devolves into mushiness or becomes maudlin." Nancy Pearl
"In Paul Harding's stunning first novel, we find what readers, writers and reviewers live for." San Francisco Chronicle
"There are few perfect debut American novels. Walter Percy's The Moviegoer and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird come to mind. So does Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping. To this list ought to be added Paul Harding's devastating first book, Tinkers....Harding has written a masterpiece." John Freeman, National Public Radio
"Writing with breathtaking lyricism and tenderness, Harding has created a rare and beautiful novel of spiritual inheritance and acute psychological and metaphysical suspense." Booklist (starred review)
"Filled with lovely Whitmanesque descriptions of the natural world, this slim novel gives shape to the extraordinary variety in the thoughts of otherwise ordinary men." Kirkus Reviews
An astonishing first novel of memory, consciousness, and man's place in the natural world.
About the Author
Paul Harding has an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has taught writing at Harvard and The University of Iowa. He lives near Boston with his wife and two sons. This is his first novel.
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