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Tinkers

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  25,397 Ratings  ·  4,325 Reviews
An old man lies dying. As time collapses into memory, he travels deep into his past where he is reunited with his father and relives the wonder and pain of his impoverished New England youth. At once heartbreaking and life affirming, Tinkers is an elegiac meditation on love, loss, and the fierce beauty of nature.
Paperback, 192 pages
Published 2009 by Bellevue Literary Press (first published 2008)
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Ben Tipper The prose is really out there, and the content matter isn't interesting either, so it's very, very tough to get going with it. I wasn't able to.

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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
Will Byrnes
Jun 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 s
...more
Michael Finocchiaro
This short book first book by Paul Harding explore the lives of three generations of a family - the nameless great-grandfather, a small-town preacher who slowly goes insane, who we only glimpse through the grandfather Howard's memories of him - the grandfather who ran off to protect his family from the epileptic fits that he inherited from his father, and the father George who, bitten severely by Howard during a fit, we see as a boy in his memories, but who in the present is dying on a hospital ...more
PattyMacDotComma
4★
Geez. Another Pulitzer winner with so much I loved about it but with enough that was irksome to leave me dissatisfied. (Not that that matters.)

Beautiful writing and characters and sense of place and time, although they all got mixed up in my head and I think in the characters’ heads as well. The generations of men kind of ended up all being the same person, or parts thereof. (Not that that matters either.)

The original main character is dying (today) with grandchildren nearby. George tinkers
...more
Scott Axsom
Aug 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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 eightee ...more
smetchie
Aug 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
Agnieszka
May 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, reviewed, 2015

Lying in the bed in the middle of own living room , surrounded by family , among well-known things , listening to the clocks he used to repair , an old man embarks on a journey . But it is not an ordinary journey . While his weakened body heads for death and nothingness his disintegrate mind freely moves towards opposite direction having as a guide this unreliable companion that memory is .

George Crosby , it’s his name , watchmaker and handyman , plagued by hallucinations recollects his life . H
...more
William Ramsay
May 29, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
❀Julie
Mar 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I came across this book while looking for a “winter read” and was attracted to the cover. At the time I had just lost a long-distant great uncle whom I hadn’t seen in many years and given this story was about an old man dying somehow it sounded strangely appealing to me. I struggled with the book in the beginning and even thought about not finishing it. There were many times I had no idea where the story was going, much like how the person on the cover must have felt, trudging through drifting s ...more
Agumom
May 06, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Teresa
May 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Lee
May 18, 2010 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 06, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Apr 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Lars Guthrie
Jun 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
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
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
Janet Leszl
Oct 18, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Tony
Sep 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: u-s-lit
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
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
Melissa Jackson
Aug 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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."
Mark
Aug 20, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction

I picked up this book because (a) it was short and (b) it won the Pulitzer Prize.

Sigh.

For my tastes, it was actually two books: one was a set of compelling, clearly written and effective narratives about a dying man, George Crosby, his father, Howard and the people in their lives. The other was what I would call "Iowa Writers Workshop 101", including passages like this:

"The true essence, the secret recipe of the forest and the light and the dark was too fine and subtle to be observed with my blu
...more
Bam
I read through this short gem of a book twice, the second time to more appreciate the beautiful writing. It is a wonderful story of love and family relationships told through the thoughts of George Crosby, the clock repairer, as he lays dying. His memories come in disjointed bits, in streams of consciousness. He especially remembers his father, Howard, who was an itinerant peddler and tinkerer in the back country of Maine and suffered frequent fits of epilepsy. During the one fit George actually ...more
Sean
May 04, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jason
Mar 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 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
Trish
Nov 14, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, audio
Well, I really don't like giving one star reviews--usually. But truthfully, I not only didn't like Tinkers, I hated it. Paul Harding has gotten his kudos in the form of an award and bestsellerdom. He does not need everyone in the world to admire his story. And in fact, I do believe it is the story itself I disliked so intensely--not the writer, nor even the writing. He clearly has some talent: the book is slim, which I like. Too many authors feel they need to pontificate too long. But thank the ...more
Fionnuala
I read this last year, soon after I heard Marilynne Robinson speak about the wonderful workshop in Iowa where she teaches and where Paul Harding was a participant. I admired the the way he tinkered with time - the counting down of the last days of a man who liked to repair clocks, while seamlessly roving back and forth through his past life and that of his father, a traveling salesman. The language was beautiful too, especially in the passages dealing with the father and his relationship with th ...more
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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.

More about Paul Harding...
“I breathed the book before I saw it; tasted the book before I read it.” 39 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.” 38 likes
More quotes…