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Tinkers by Paul Harding


by Paul Harding

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,9892133,137 (3.48)353
On his deathbed, surrounded by his family, George Washington Crosby's thoughts drift back to his childhood and the father who abandoned him when he was twelve.
  1. 10
    Ancient Oceans of Central Kentucky by David Connerley Nahm (HeathMochaFrost)
    HeathMochaFrost: I just finished Ancient Oceans, and the writing kept reminding me of Tinkers. The characters, location, situations, all of these are different, but many readers who enjoyed the writing style of Tinkers might like this one as well. It's from a small press so it's harder to find, but it's certainly worth it.… (more)
  2. 11
    Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (Anonymous user, DetailMuse)
  3. 00
    The Driftless Area by Tom Drury (speakfreelynow)
  4. 00
    Evening by Susan Minot (novelcommentary)
    novelcommentary: Both begin with a dying protagonist who clings to a memory of the past. In Minot's book, it has to do with an affair that may have been her true love.
  5. 00
    Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (sturlington)
    sturlington: Two Pulitzer Prize winners set in Maine
  6. 01
    The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields (Miels)
    Miels: Similar prose style and similar emphasis on social isolation.

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» See also 353 mentions

English (208)  Italian (2)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (214)
Showing 1-5 of 208 (next | show all)
George Washington Crosby died. That, in sum , is the plot of this short novel, but within that death there is told a story of a life, a family, and a world made interesting through the beautiful prose of Paul Harding.

The book could have been called As I Lay Dying, but that title has already been used; it could have been called Clocks, or Timepieces, for that is one motif that recurs again and again in the story of George and his family, especially his father.

"That was it, he realized; the clock had run down." (p 33)

As we count down the hours until his death we experience images of his dreams, of his life, and of nature. Harding's prose brings each small detail alive as he shares the wonder of a life lived full of things, of tinkering, odd jobs, family interests, and disinterests. It is written with details sure to bring personal memories to the mind of the reader. It did for me, not that the small town may have been similar to my own, or not that the incidents might suggest ones I experienced; but one reference, to a Cribbage Board, brought back fond memories of learning how to play Cribbage and playing it with my Parents, Grandparents, and family. I still have a Cribbage Board hidden away in a closet, behind my Chess set. George's memories were like that, hidden away in the closets of his past, behind events long forgotten until the last days of his delirium.

We find out that George could not, or at least felt he could not, fill his father's shoes. Yet we are not told, but shown how, in a dream, George goes looking for his father and puts on his father's old boots which are too big for his feet, requiring additional layers of socks to make them fit. That is the way of this story: "Choose any hour on the clock. It is possible, then, to conceive that the clock's purpose is to return the hands back to that time . . ." (p 179) Thus the hands on the clocks go around and signal both the past and the present and, ultimately, the end.

Paul Harding has written a simple, subtle, and surely beautiful story about a man and his memories. As a story of one man's death it reminded me of Hermann Broch's The Death of Virgil. Each story provides meaning, if that is possible, using exceptionally poetic prose to share the final dreams and thoughts of one man who has reached his end. ( )
  jwhenderson | Jun 4, 2020 |
The writing is wonderful. The descriptions are rich and often read like poetry. The details come alive with the gorgeous use of images and metaphors.
The book tells stories in a series of flashbacks an eighty year old man is having on his deathbed. The stories are loosely bound together in that they all describe people and incidents from the main character's life.
While the writing is wonderful and I have to admit to reading the entire book, I did not like it. Yes, it won the Pulitzer Prize and a lot of people loved it, or, at least, were impressed by it, but, personally, I am sorry I wasted good reading time on it. Had it added an interesting plot or good story to its marvelous writing, it would have been a great book. As it was, it was a lot like reading a diary or journal that had been edited and re-edited to read well. ( )
  Paul-the-well-read | Apr 18, 2020 |
This book is exquisitely written and the themes of how our lives are intertwined with those of our ancestors and how the world operates as a clock with all the pieces working together (or not) are worth contemplating. I did not feel as moved, though, as I thought I should be in the face of such poetic prose and I cannot decide if the fault lies with me, or if the story lacks in substance somehow. Is the writing too self-conscious? Can there be such a thing? ( )
  PatsyMurray | Feb 16, 2020 |
Paul Harding writes a sensitive and prosaic account of the heart, the human condition, the irreducibility of life's circumstances and the ways in which we are all shaped. It is about much more than a man's, often humorous, memories of life during his last days or of his father's kindness and epileptic seizures which makes him a poor candidate for being a successful traveling salesman. Harding has a unique ability to delve into the gap that divides the material world from the mind's conception of it thereby exploring the mystery and the magic of being alive. ( )
1 vote LoriRous | Jan 4, 2020 |
This read like a book that I had to read in high school and be impressed by the writing techniques. However, now that I can choose books I like, I much prefer books where I understand what is happening. I don't like books where the story seems to weave back and forth in time and where the writing is so poetic. So basically I did not enjoy it. I would not reread it, nor would I recommend it. ( )
  KamGeb | Oct 6, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 208 (next | show all)
"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, the story of a dying man drifting back in time to his hardscrabble New England childhood, growing up the son of his clock-making father. Harding has written a masterpiece around the truism that all of us, even surrounded by family, die alone."
The occasional overwriting, the looping narrative, and the almost defiant lack of plot made this a hard book to sell to publishers. An array of editors at major houses rejected the novel, no doubt afraid it would never sell. It apparently sat for several years in the writer's desk. Then an obscure house, the Bellevue Literary Press, published it to such little fanfare that the New York Times (like most papers) ignored it completely. Then, miracle of miracles, it won the Pulitzer.
added by _eskarina | editThe Guardian, Jay Parini (Sep 25, 2010)
Among the many triumphs of this novel, Harding enables a reader to look at the world differently, without the things that normally encumber experience. Tinkers is a considerable achievement.
added by _eskarina | editThe Telegraph, Peter Scott (Aug 18, 2010)
Its prose is complex, sometimes convoluted, but at its best suffused with brilliantly realised imagery and a reminder of how rich the written language can still be.
"In Paul Harding's stunning first novel, we find what readers, writers and reviewers live for: a new way of seeing, in a story told as a series of ruminative images, like a fanned card deck."
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For Meg, Samuel, and Benjamin
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George Washington Crosby began to hallucinate eight days before he died.
Crosby, how are you going to be one of my twelve?
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Book description
An old man lies dying. Propped up in his living room and surrounded by his children and grandchildren, George Washington Crosby drifts in and out of consciousness, back to the wonder and pain of his impoverished childhood in Maine. As the clock repairer’s time winds down, his memories intertwine with those of his father, an epileptic, itinerant peddler and his grandfather, a Methodist preacher beset by madness. At once heartbreaking and life affirming, Tinkers is an elegiac meditation on love, loss, illness, faith, and the fierce beauty of nature.

Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize and PEN / Robert Bingham Fellowship for Writers Award, Tinkers was also named a 2010 American Library Association Notable Book and shortlisted for the American Booksellers Association’s Best Book of the Year Award.
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