Tinkers by Paul Harding

I feel like I’ve been toting this book around for ages, but I’ve finally finished it, making it the first novel I’ve completed since undertaking this project.  Hurrah!  Here’s what I have to say about it.

Synopsis: Spanning the last 8 days of an old man’s life (the time in which it takes a clock to wind down), the reader is drawn into his memories and reflections.  As a result, time becomes subjective, and dream and reality meld into a single, meandering consciousness.

This small book–not much more than a novella, really–snared my attention for many reasons when I came across it in the bookstore.  It commanded a display table with a lengthy, glowing staff review, jacket blurbs ensuring it was “astounding,” “original,” remarkable,” and a “gorgeous example of novelistic craftsmanship,” not to mention it had won the Pulitzer Prize–the first title from a small press to do so in 30 years.  What a marvel this novel must be, right? Right…

When I began Tinkers, I was ready to be mesmerized; and I was engrossed for a while, but mostly I think I was riding the coattails of proffered wonder waiting for it to truly kick in.  Unfortunately for me, it never did.  Harding employs some beautiful, inventive imagery which did catch my attention–cause me to pick up my pen to jot them down, even–but often they went on too long, outstripping my attention.   And with all the praises sung on his concise writing style, I can’t help but think these extended passages exist for the sake of language alone.  As a reader, an English major, and a Scrabble fan, I can safely say that I have a love and appreciation of language, but perhaps I lack the linguistic ardor to embrace Tinkers as the novelistic wonder it is touted to be.  A bit more plot for me, thanks.  I found the side story of the man’s father more engrossing than the narrator’s musings on life and felt traitorous for it.

Overall the book was well-written with lovely moments, but it did not hold my attention as a whole.  In all fairness, Tinkers was another casualty of Public Transit, interrupted and drawn out.  On the other hand, I never anticipated it would take long enough to read that it would find itself on trains and buses.


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