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3.39  ·  Rating details ·  30,065 ratings  ·  4,832 reviews
An old man lies dying. Propped up in his living room and surrounded by his children and grandchildren, George Washington Crosby drifts in and out of consciousness, back to the wonder and pain of his impoverished childhood in Maine. As the clock repairer’s time winds down, his memories intertwine with those of his father, an epileptic, itinerant peddler and his grandfather, ...more
Hardcover, First Edition, 192 pages
Published January 1st 2009 by Bellevue Literary Press (first published January 1st 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.
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Ashley The whole entire thing was really confusing to me
You could never really tell if something was happening or not. And i feel like a lot of the things ha…more
The whole entire thing was really confusing to me
You could never really tell if something was happening or not. And i feel like a lot of the things had no meaning or point to them.(less)

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Average rating 3.39  · 
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 ·  30,065 ratings  ·  4,832 reviews

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Will Byrnes
Jun 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013-reads
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
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
William Ramsay
May 29, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Scott Axsom
Aug 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 eighteen ...more
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
Aug 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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.
May 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-a-copy, 2015, reviewed

In the middle of a living room there is a bed, and lying in there, 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 li
Gerry Wilson
Jun 07, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Mar 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Michael Ferro
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
TINKERS is everything that I had hoped it would be: a quiet meditation on life and memory, a journey into worlds past, and a visceral exploration of the meaning in death, love, and family. Paul Harding has pried back the veneer from the usual quaint narrative of reflection and infused it with a beautiful, poetic dive into our individual subconscious. The vivid descriptions of a New England mostly gone are second only to the emotional realities on display lamenting his protagonist George Washingt ...more
May 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 e ...more
Lee Klein
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
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
K.D. Absolutely
Aug 06, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Barbara H
Apr 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Barbara H 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
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
Oct 18, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Aug 20, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction

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


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
Dec 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
I read this last year, soon after I heard Marilynne Robinson speak about the workshop in Iowa where she teaches and where Paul Harding was a participant.
I admired the way Harding tinkered with time in this book—the counting down of the last days of a man who liked to repair clocks—while seamlessly roving back and forth through the man's past life and that of his father, a traveling salesman.
The writing was beautiful too, especially in the passages dealing with the father and his relationship w
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Tinkers is a brilliant short novel that won The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2010. I would categorize the book as an inter-generational saga in the naturalist and realistic fiction vein, ala Emile Zola or Wallace Stegner. Tinkers asynchronously portrays the lives, or vignettes thereof, of a father and son living in rural New England and does so masterfully with a sparsity of words. A grandfather clock acts as the obvious metaphor for the life and story of George, the son, as he marches to his e ...more
Sep 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
T. Greenwood
Apr 19, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: pulitzer-project
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
May 04, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Melissa Jackson
Aug 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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."
Bam cooks the books ;-)
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
This short luminous volume reads more like poetry than a novel with a traditional narrative. I enjoyed its revelations in the same way I did the equally outstanding "Gilead" by Marilynne Robinson. While he is dying and drifts in and out of lucidity, George reflects on events from his childhood growing up in rural Maine and Massachusetts and dwells on metaphors about life gleaned from his retirement avocation of repairing clocks. From these stepping stones, we slip into extended vignettes from th ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
When I was in a high school creative writing class, the teacher recommended we start a notebook where we copied sentences and phrases from books that struck us as beautiful or beautifully constructed. It was a wonderful idea to me! I loved perusing it every once and while. In this way I discovered I had whatever genes people who love to read poetry and gorgeous writing have. Something in my heart and head responds with pleasure to beautiful words and sentences, and to clever and intellectual lit ...more
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
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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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