Thursday, December 19, 2013

Literary Bite: Tinkers by Paul Harding

Tikers by Paul Harding is a Pulitzer Prize-winner, and one of those books that you've probably seen around. I don't regret reading it (it took less than a day), but I can't say I particularly enjoyed it. The actual story parts I liked, but overall it's mostly artistic nonsense -- prose-y, as my mama says.

Tinkers is, loosely, the story of three generations, fathers and sons, taking place mostly in the wilderness of Maine, and mostly inside the characters' heads. There's an underlying theme of clocks -- time ticking away, people as clocks, gears out of place, clocks wound too tight -- embodied in the insanity, epilepsy, and impending death of the three men (a preacher, a tinker, and a clock-repairer). The story itself is not chronological, and jumps from character to character, so you have to pay attention!
Framed partly as a deathbed vigil for George Washington Crosby, a clock repairer, the book wanders through time and consciousness, describing in fine-grain detail its rural Maine setting and the epileptic fits of George’s father, Howard, an old-time tinker who traveled the countryside by wagon. (NYT)
I had the sense that I was reading something beautiful, but beyond my grasp. Like getting glimpses of someone else's dreams and hearing descriptions of things I couldn't possibly see. There were times when after reading a few pages I had no idea what was going on, but then after skimming back, I realized that was because there really wasn't anything going on.

I'd be interested to meet the author, just to interact with the kind of mind that produces writing like this. Does he just like the way some sentences sound? Or is there a deliberate purpose to every part, and I'm just not smart enough to get it?

It's quite popular...Tinkers made NPR’s best debut fiction, The New Yorker magazine’s list of reviewers’ favorites in 2009, and is an indie bookshop "darling" -- aka this is a book I should like. But I didn't. I only finished it because I was comfortable on the couch and it was too short to quit. I'd be interested to hear what other people liked about it.