Monday, April 16, 2012

TINKERS by Paul Harding

This book leapt from obscurity to popularity when it won the 2010 Pulitzer.  Unfortunately, however, the words did not leap from the page for me.  The author flits between third person and first person, and between present and past tense, even when describing the same time period.  I felt as though he were experimenting, and somehow the book went to press before he had a chance to clean it up.  Speaking of cleaning it up, there are several typos, especially surprising in a price-winning book that is so (mercifully) short.  The writing was a little too Joycean for my tastes, with interminably long sentences, and I generally lost interest mid-sentence, thus losing track of the author's point as well.  George is a dying, old man, with his family gathered around him, awaiting his passing.  He thinks back on his life working on clocks, but the book is equally about his father, Howard, who abandoned his wife and children to avoid being institutionalized for epilepsy after one particularly dangerous seizure.  The author appears to have an ulterior motive with his emphasis on timepieces, especially with his periodic announcements of how many days, minutes, hours George has left to live—sort of a countdown to death.  The book also contains several mentions of a clock's escapement, possibly alluding to the several escapes that characters in the novel make.  George runs away to a friend's barn when he discovers that his father is about to be sent away, and Howard runs away to avoid being committed and starts a new life.  Howard's father was also an absent parent, having been committed to the madhouse himself, and then George makes the ultimate getaway by dying.

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