Tinkers

Tinkers

Book rating: 04 Paperback

By (author) Paul Harding

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  • Publisher: Windmill Books
  • Format: Paperback | 192 pages
  • Dimensions: 130mm x 196mm x 10mm | 141g
  • Publication date: 3 July 2010
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0099538040
  • ISBN 13: 9780099538042
  • Sales rank: 5,137

Product description

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 seven 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. Heartbreaking and life affirming, TINKERS is an elegiac meditation on love, loss, and the fierce beauty of nature.

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Author information

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. Tinkers is his first novel.

Customer reviews

By Alex 20 Jun 2013 4

Paul Harding's Tinkers is an interesting work. The plot, as it is, concerns an old man who begins to hallucinate eight days before he dies. Through an odd, dream-like lens, the novel reveals snatched glimpses of his life, his father's life and his grandfather's life. It's a strange and stunning experience from beginning to end.

Harding's use of language is masterful and evocative, descriptive yet lean at the same time. As you read about George's childhood with his travelling salesman father Howard, and Howard's childhood in turn, you really feel the stark isolation of life in early 20th century New England. You also sympathise with George as he lies in his living room with his family, waiting for death, and you can also believe that Howard experiences his epileptic seizures as episodes of the divine. As in memories and dreams, things are at once hazy and clear and logical and not. Simply put, Tinkers contains some of the best writing I've read in a long time.

The book shifts back and forth between different points of view, different tenses, different stories and different times. The author uses no quotation marks, which further blurs the line between thought, dialogue, hallucination and narration. Sometimes, the prose erupts into stream-of-consciousness mode, resulting in sentences so long they leave you breathless. At other times, passages are interrupted mid-story to make way for fictional extracts from The Reasonable Horologist and another, unknown work. This can all be quite maddening. If the thought of reading something "literary" makes you shudder, then this is most definitely not the book for you. Indeed, the way it's written feels almost like Harding's thrown in the whole Eng Lit bag of tricks. On its face, the narrative is just a bunch of events, told in no apparent order, with no apparent connection (other than the familial connection of the characters), and no apparent conclusion. It seems deliberately confusing and gives the impression of being one of those books where the author is just showing you how much smarter and deeper s/he is than you are or ever will be, you pleb, you.

Ultimately, I was moved by the book's characters - you really do become immersed in their lives - and I marvelled at Harding's ability to craft finely captured "moments" in almost every scene. The writing truly demands to be noticed; it is beautiful in a strangely refreshing way and reading it was like being dipped into a clear, still pool of water. Everything is so well done that I couldn't help but like Tinkers, and yet, at the same time, it was so stylised and so aggressively ~literary~ that I almost hated it. Just as well it's a short read - any longer and admiration could have easily turned to disdain.

Review quote

"Wonderful, lyrical ... Triumphant ... A beautiful, moving and elegiac lament on the human condition ... Hypnotic." The Times "Brilliantly realised ... a reminder of how rich the written language can still be" Independent "Prepare to be seduced... Beguiles from the opening sentence ...This little novel is a wonder" Irish Times "An expert piece of historical and psychological archaeology, which unpicks the intricacies of ordinary life while also asking the terrifying, unanswerable, yet endlessly fascinating questions that haunt us all" Observer "A dense, elegiac and richly imagined piece of remembering...Life-affirming and visceral in its detail." Daily Mail