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Tinkers

3.35 of 5 stars 3.35  ·  rating details  ·  18,335 ratings  ·  3,522 reviews
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 t...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published January 1st 2009 by Bellevue Literary Press (first published 2008)
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Community Reviews

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Nataliya
A year ago I got through fifty pages of this book and quit in bored frustration. But its alluring squareness kept nagging at a little corner of my brain, and I gathered my will to finish it a year later.

And I'm still not quite sure what I think about it.

On one hand, it's full of superb writing, smartly constructed prose, quite lovely memorably fascinating passages. Whatever I may think about the plot or the characters or the narrative passing, there is no denying that Paul Harding sure knows how...more
smetchie
Dec 10, 2011 smetchie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who appreciate writing as art
This book is small and square.

I bought it at the airport Barnes & Noble en route to my hometown for my Grandfather's funeral. It's lovely small squareness caught my eye. The description on the back which reads "An old man lies dying." made me think it was serendipity. I read the first paragraph and it was all sealed up. This is some of the most wonderful writing I've come across in quite a long time. I'm thrilled to have found it and can't wait to share it.
Scott Axsom
Paul Harding’s “Tinkers” is a profoundly moving meditation on death and time. I gave the book five stars and would rank it among the best of its kind. That’s why I was particularly shocked, after finishing it, to see the overall rating of 3.3 among Goodreads users. Nonetheless, I do have a good idea why “Tinkers” resonated so deeply with me, personally. Harding manages to describe the process of dying in much the same way that I’ve imagined it since losing my first close friend at the age of eig...more
Teresa
May 23, 2010 Teresa rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Teresa by: Cynthia
I'd love to reread this book one day and read it straight through without stopping (something I couldn't do as I was traveling). As it was, I did immediately reread many of its beautiful and complex sentences. After I finished the book, I thought of these sentences as a trail (perhaps that's because I did a lot of hiking on my trip!) that leads you back to where you started. I first read these sentences in pieces, stopping to think, letting my mind settle on ideas and images, until I got to the...more
Gerry Wilson
The story behind Tinkers is almost more fascinating than the book. It's a debut novel, and Harding had a hard time getting it published. A very small press--Bellevue (yes, affiliated with Bellevue Medical Center, NYC--they also produce a nice literary mag that publishes only works that deal with mind/body, life/death/loss, illness issues, etc.) and they printed a very limited number of copies.

Along comes the PULITZER! In an interview Harding says he found out he won on the Pulitzer website befo...more
Lee
Mar 16, 2014 Lee added it
A few hyperincantatory pages early on. About an isolated American region possibly once known as "Austere Caucasia" before its people of starch, hoarfrost, and flint settled on "Maine." Descriptive language too often expelled me from the garden o' reading. If, in 10 years, this unheralded book were recommended by a friend instead of by an affable author profile in the NYT re: the recent Pultizer Prize for fiction, I'd've probably been more generous -- and I also might not have finished it. Someth...more
K.D. Absolutely
Aug 07, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Joselito, Emir and all the loving fathers or even sons
Recommended to K.D. by: 2010 Pulitzer's Awards for Letters (Winner)
Shelves: pulitzer
ELEGIAC refers either to those compositions that are like elegies or to a specific poetic meter used in Classical elegies. An elegy is a mournful, melancholic or plaintive poem, especially a funeral song or a lament for the dead.

A tinker was originally an itinerant tinsmith, who mended household utensils. The term "tinker" was also used in British society to refer to marginalized persons. In this sense, "tinker" may mean: Irish Traveller, a nomadic or itinerant people of Irish origin; Scottish...more
Barbara
Sep 06, 2010 Barbara rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Barbara by: NY Times Book Review, Teresa, Cynthia
Paul Harding's first book, Tinkers has totally amazed and delighted me. The fact that such a tiny novel could convey so much so well is a tribute to his literary skills. In an editorial in the Boston Globe, on April 16, 2010, it was reported how Harding was unable to find a publisher, passing the manuscript around to many houses, until a small publisher (Bellevue Literary Press)agreed to do it.Several people urged that the book be entered for the Pulitzer Prize and to waive the $50 submission fe...more
Sarah
I so, so recommend this...and not for narcissistic reasons. This is a book that transcends personal identity.

It's about loneliness, human frailty, fathers and sons, time and eternity. It's about so many things! If you like dense, complex writing, you should definitely read this. And, slowly. And, repeatedly.

Tinkers is truly remarkable… It confers on the reader the best privilege fiction can afford, the illusion of ghostly proximity to other human souls.”—Marilynne Robinson
Lars Guthrie
I tried, I tried to like 'Tinkers.' Everyone else does, right? It's a delightful surprise of a book, published by a tiny intellectual house, ignored by most of the major media, that came out of nowhere to the Pulitzer Prize and bestsellerdom.

Paul Harding is a master of his craft, composer of exquisite and copious sentences stuffed with crystalline and erudite language. Many of them, though, are about repairing clocks. I don't know, I felt like he was showing off instead of telling a story. I st...more
Brianna
I just finished this book and I have no idea what I just read. Something about a father dying, his son dying, and how their lives meet only once more after the son is grown. I don't know. Passage of time, death is inevitable, clocks are like the universe, blah blah blah. Here is what I think the book is about: Guy gets married, wife was too young, wife resents husband and children, guy runs away, starts new life, his oldest son starts a life, son likes to fix clocks, both guys work a lot, money...more
Sue
This was different from most reading experiences I've had because of Harding's use of language. Using simple language in non-simple, metaphorical ways, he describes the last days of an elderly man who is dying at home--the memories of his youth, his father, the natural world he recalls, the clocks he fixed as both vocation and avocation. The clock metaphor runs through the book and the descriptions of nature are poetic. Though this is a slim volume it is dense in what it presents to the reader....more
Janet Leszl
To me, it would have been a powerful story if it had been edited down to somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 of its volume. In many cases there were so many side stories that had no bearing on the meat of the tale. Was it really important to fully describe the picture on the box of scissors he retrieved to make the woven frame in the field?

As I was reading, I made a note to myself: too many pretty words strung together just for the sake of flowery prose. At times the writing was beautiful but at othe...more
William Ramsay
I'm giving up on critics. And on prizes too. This book won the Pulitzer and was lauded by the critics. I found it one of the most boring books I've come across in a long time. The fact that it was praised so highly bothers me. I started reading when I was about sixteen. I have not been without a book ever since and I'm seventy. I've read thousands of books, all the English, American, and Russian classics and all sorts in between. I think I have a feel for a good book if for no other reason than...more
Tony
So, I started writing two book about 30 years ago. One is a novel and one is kind of a memoir. They could not be more inchoate. Which is to say: I have written the first line of each book and not a sentence more. But I like the first lines. I won't write them here. But, so you know, each first line is about my father.

For me, all of this - all of this - is an attempt to figure out just who the hell I am. No psychiatrist's couch for me. Just novels that bleed and paintings that cry; music (why doe...more
Melissa Jackson
If I could give this book 500 stars, I would. It was beyond description in its beauty. As soon as I finished, I wanted to reread it.

My friend Nellie who recommended it to me said, "The book is one giant quote." She was right. There was not a sentence that didn't make me ache in the best possible way.

"When the grandchildren had been little, they had asked if they could hide inside the clock. Now he wanted to gather them and open himself up and hide them among his ribs and faintly ticking heart."
Chrissie
Oh my, I have heard so much praise for this book and this author. Well, it didn't work for me - not at all! First of all I tend to like looooooong stories and this is short. Secondly, the writing is all over the place, one minute poetical and then down to earth, matter of fact and simplistic. Sometimes sentences were numbered! Why? I would listen to a line and think, "What IS the author trying to say with that sentence?! What is his message?" I had no idea. Some of his descriptions of light, how...more
Jason
This is like walking through a beautifully ornate, nostalgically built maze - each path you take opens possibilities and intrigue, and oops, the path is walled off, the trajectory cut, and you try another one, this one narrower, more nuanced, the path is promising, the wonderfully constructed and visually stunning way is... Ah! its severed. Another one,and...and they all interlace like the components of the bird nest that was described herein to a T.
The author apparently was rejected by everyon...more
Sean
It's truly a testament to an author's ability to write when he puts me to sleep after two pages. I don't think if I tried I could bore a reader to sleep in two pages. I mean how does that even work? I have no idea what the story is about nor who the characters are, yet by the middle of page two I want to slit my wrists.

This actually won the Pulitzer? So I guess that's as meaningless as any other award. What's so awful about telling a story? Why is that so loathed among "writers" today? Why does...more
T. Greenwood
When I teach Plot in my creative writing classes, I return again and again to Anne Lamott who says, "You need to be moving your characters forward, even if they only go slowly. Imagine moving them across a lily pond. If each lily pad is beautifully, carefully written, the reader will stay with you as you move toward the other side of the pond, needing only the barest of connections -- such as rhythm, tone, or mood (Bird by Bird, 59). This is a lily pad novel. The writing is lovely, elegiac in to...more
Will Byrnes
I drip for the beauty of words, not sobbing, heaving tears, but slow wet salt that leaves a trail on gristled cheeks. Tinkers often reads more like a poem than a novel, holding extended passages describing nature or recollection in huge, meandering sentences that carry meaning and feeling like a swollen river delivers silt. It is not an easy read.

Harding contemplates the tenuous borders of time, and the uncertain edges of reality. Life, existing under a lid, is limited, endangered
This is the se
...more
THE
Some books are meant to be more appreciated than read. I add TINKERS to a distinguished list of works that one might "die" to write and suffer a similiar fate in reading. It is a work of genuine literary skill and technique matched by an unbending fascination for the arcane and insipid. (These may be qualities cherished by the Pulitzer committee, which selected it as 2010 winner in fiction. One might also suggest that there has been a rather less than inspiring list of winners in the last few ye...more
Peter
Paul Harding described laying out the text of Tinkers on his living room floor and, after some whiskey, cutting up the pages and stapling and taping them back together to assemble the novel as we know it.

That feels about right.

Tinkers opens at George Washington Crosby’s deathbed, his family gathered from corners of the country to witness his final week. A former clock-maker and repairman, George is confined to his bed, and he is often unable to communicate and even think clearly. As the novel c...more
David Katzman
Tinkers by Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Harding is a methodical, thoughtful novel about an old man dying, a look back at the story of his life and his father's life. He was a watch repairman, and his father was an itinerant salesman traveling with a donkey and wooden cart into distant backwoods country. The writing was at times quite poetic, however overall I found it to be a bit dry. I just couldn't get into the story. It was deeply melancholy and subtle but didn't have the linguistic energy I pr...more
Mom
This is a challenging, original novel. George Washington Crosby is on old man, dying in his home surrounded by family after a simple modest life. Narrated mostly by George, we watch as he recalls his life,as well as his father's and grandfather's, drifts in-and-out of consciousness, hallucinates. The writing is spare and precise.

Since this novel won the Pulitzer prize, I was expecting something powerful and memorable. Unfortunately, I was disappointed, and found myself putting the book aside re...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

Ah, literary awards -- what would we book nerds do without them? In fact, this has quickly grown in the last decade into a fascinating subject for me, ever since becoming a book reviewer and officially entering the edges of the "industry" known as literature, of the curious ways that artistic awards both...more
Erin
Wow. Completely blown away by this book's language. I'll tell you what, I never want to play Scrabble with Paul Harding.

Beyond that, the story is unexpected and engaging. It took me places I did not expect. On the outside, it seems like a simple tale. An elderly man lies dying and thinking of the past. But then interspersed is the sampling of the past: his father, his father's memories of /his/ father. I was left with the inter-connected relationships of this family. The oddities of their normal...more
Steve Turtell
On my second attempt to read this, I managed to get to page 146. I was alternately thrilled and bored--he writes gorgeously at times, and some of his images are brilliant and mesmerizing. At other times he is labored and far too self-consciously literary to be bothered about the mechanics of simple storytelling. Then, when I got to page 146 I found a sentence that made me stop reading and put the book down to do a little research, which I wish the author had done as well. He has his character Ho...more
Christopher
A fascinating story of three generations of fathers, all "touched" in some way, set against the backdrop of a man on his death-bed. The tale jumps around seamlessly in time through the lush and rich Maine woods, filled with tinkers, clocks, memories, family, and madness. The writing is exquisite and brutal in its humanity. As an exercise in excellent storytelling with insight into the internal struggles of everyday men, it succeeds. And there are moments of levity and light-heartedness as well b...more
Daniel Solera
Tinkers won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for fiction in a scant 191 pages. It is a story about a man reflecting on his life as he lay on his deathbed. George Washington Crosby, dying of a terminal disease, meditates on the life of his father, Howard, and his battle with epilepsy.

And that’s pretty much it, plot-wise. This was one of those books that you read and think to yourself, I can see why people are revering this; I understand why it’s considered a respectable work of dazzling prose. However, I...more
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La Stamberga dei ...: L'ultimo inverno di Paul Harding 1 8 Apr 05, 2014 09:22AM  
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Paul Harding has an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers' Workshop (2000) and was a 2000–2001 Fiction Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center, in Provincetown, MA. He has published short stories in Shakepainter and The Harvard Review. Paul currently teaches creative writing at Harvard. His first novel, Tinkers, won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

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“I breathed the book before I saw it; tasted the book before I read it.” 32 likes
“And as the ax bites into the wood, be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world, even though you have done nothing to deserve it.” 22 likes
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