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Tinkers (Book Review)

Tinkers (Book Review)

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Published by George Scherer

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Published by: George Scherer on Sep 05, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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07/04/2014

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Review of Tinkers by Paul HardingPublished by Bellvue Literary Press, January 2009, 192 pages
Tinkers, by Paul Harding had several distinctions for me. For one thing, it was the first book I read on the new Kindle I received for Christmas last year. Also, it was the firsttime I’d read a Pulitzer Prize winning novel without knowing that it had won. For somereason, Amazon said nothing about it being awarded the Prize and if I had heard it, I hadforgotten it, because at the time I’d never heard of the book. When, after finishing it, Icame across something about it winning, I was shocked, not because I don’t think itdeserves it, but because it’s not the kind of book one normally expects the Pulitzer judgesto recognize.For one thing, it doesn’t come from one of the major publishing houses like most Pulitzer winners do (the last one which didn’t was “A Confederacy of Dunes” by John KennedyO’Toole in 1981, almost thirty years ago), and also, because it is a small, almost plot less book written from the point of view of a man in his final days of life. Still, the richnessof the language and the strangeness of the story draw you in and by the time you stop towonder where this story is going, it’s already gone there and is over.The novel begins with a sentence (“George Washington Crosby began to hallucinateeight days before he died.”) that I would argue either draws you in or makes you close the book and never finish reading it. I was actually tempted to do the latter, but for somereason I didn’t. For the next few pages, the author describes those hallucinations, whichinclude the house where he has lived most of his adult life, collapsing down upon. Not just the ceilings and walls, but all the processions he and his family have adorned the place with, the floors which he falls through into a basement, filled with more collapsingmemoirs and debris. And not just the things inside the house, but the blue sky above himand the ground around him and the stars and moon and planets, all come crashing in onhim.Of course, since George is hallucinating, the story jumps from place to place, time totime. Sometimes he is awake and lucid, able to talk to one of the grandchildren who aresitting with him through the night. Most of the time is spent thinking of his father, anitinerant peddler who worked in the backwoods mountains of Maine, providing whatever services and supplies those far removed from society people needed. The old man,Howard, was also an epileptic who suffered violent seizures, which left him unconsciousand unaware of his surrounding for days at a time. None of them understand thecondition and his wife, George’s mother, resents the man for the disease, as though itwere some moral failing on his part. When Howard finds a pamphlet from the StateHospital in his wife’s drawer he thinks she’s having him put away and simply never comes home again.Harding is a master at description, whether he is discussing clock making, a flower in thewilderness, or the condition of epilepsy and it brings the characters in the book to life.His descriptions of the primitive world where his father worked, give you a new

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