Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Tinkers by Paul Harding

George Crosby remembered many things as he died, but in an order he could not control. from Tinkers by Paul Harding
A new edition of Paul Harding's Tinkers celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. This edition includes a foreword by Marilynne Robinson, author of Gilead, and book club extras.

Tinkers was Harding's first novel, independently published, and a word-of-mouth success. Winning the Pulitzer was called "the most dramatic literary Cinderella story of recent memory" by the New York Times. Robinson states in the forward that "Tinkers epitomizes two of its fascinations, craft and inheritance."
George Washington Crosby began to hallucinate eight days before he died. from Tinkers by Paul Harding
Over eight days--the time a hand-wound clock winds down--George Washington Crosby, a retired teacher and repairer of antique clocks, lays dying. Flashing through his consciousness arise a patchwork of memories, telling the story of his epileptic father Howard, a traveling salesman, and Howard's father, a clergyman who struggled with a mental decline.

1830s Ogee Clock

Awful damn quiet...That was it, he realized; the clock had run down. All the clocks in the room had wound down...When he realized that the silence by which he had been confused was that of all of his clocks having been allowed to wind down, he understood that he was going to die in the bed where he lay. from Tinkers by Paul Harding

Clocks are a potent recurring image. Excerpts from a 1783 manual on clock repair are inserted. Sections tell how George carried out his clock repair and added his name to the works. There is an ogee clock on the end table, one of the many that have been allowed to wind down, his family misunderstanding that the ticking was a comfort to the dying man.

Repair signature on 1830s Ogee Clock
George's father Howard traveled into the back roads of Maine, selling his wares from his cart. Howard's observation of nature on his long days on the road make for glorious reading.
Tinker, tinker. Tin, tin, tin. Tintinnabulation. There was the ring of pots and buckets. There was also the ring in Howard Crosby's ears... from Tinkers by Paul Harding
George's family struggled with health issues that had dire consequences for their family. George's father Howard left after a disastrous epileptic fit caused his wife to consider institutionalizing him. Howard's minister father spent his days scribbling our sermons that made no sense; his mental instability caused him to abandon his family.

circa 1830s rosewood ogee clock with reverse painting on glass

The Crosby men are not the only characters with inflictions. Howard visits a hermit every spring, a man who had known Nataniel Hawthorne at college, now a silent vagrant who exchanges crude carvings for a pipeful of tobacco. One spring Howard pulls the man's infected tooth and is given a signed edition of The Scarlet Letter.

The writing is gorgeous and poetic, although some sections are challenging to stick with. This is a book best read in a long sitting. These simple Maine men won't be forgotten.

Harding studied under Marilynne Robinson and readers who enjoy her books will want to read Tinkers.

I received a free ebook from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Tinkers, 10th Anniversary Edition
by Paul Harding, with an introduction by Marilynne Robinson
Bellevue Literary Press
Publication: January 8, 2019
ISBN 9781942658597, 1942658591
Hardcover $26.99 USD

“A powerful celebration of life in which a New England father and son, through suffering and joy, transcend their imprisoning lives and offer new ways of perceiving the world and mortality.” —Pulitzer Prize citation 

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