Thursday, October 20, 2011

a literary feat: Tinkers by Paul Harding

I confess....I'm oddly nervous about writing a review of this book.  I think it would get harder to do with time so I'm breaking my "double up" trend and writing it the day after finishing.

Tinkers is a short novel by Paul Harding.  The novel's story itself is a good one, Harding had a lot of trouble finding a publisher and ended up with Bellevue Literary Press, a small joint that puts out fewer than ten books a year and has a focus on books that include medical issues.  Tinkers marks the first time in thirty years that a small press book went on to win the Pulitzer Prize.  I like that story.

On a superficial level, the book is about the final days of George Washington Crosby's life when his mind wanders randomly as he lies, surrounded by family, in a hospital-style bed set in his living room.  The book wanders from George's own memories to the life of his father and even his grandfather.  There are many scenes from before his birth, or that he simply wasn't present for, but this fits with an overall sense of interconnectedness.  The book is VERY literary and many points reminded me of Whitman's Song of Myself, including some very clear references to the work.  It is a meditation on life and time.  There are plot-like stories but more of the book is turned over to philosophical musings (and, well, some sections on clock repair).  There is also a lot in the book about illness and the bod including George's dying body, his father's epilepsy, and his grandfather's dementia (likely Alzheimer's).

I am torn between four and four-and-a-half stars (I guess the lack of half-stars on my rating sites is helpful here!).  I fell into the language quickly and my first reaction was an appreciation of the language's beauty.  I wanted to love it all the way through, but grew a bit tired as I made my way to the end.   It is a book that requires patience and attention, not something you can read with a lot of background noise.  Sentences can run VERY long and complex and many take a second look.  It IS worth IS beautiful.  I am just not sure I gave it the attention it needed and I think I got impatient. 

Conclusion...recommended for lovers of the written word who are willing to take the time to enjoy the beauty of language and truly give themselves over to the book.

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