Monday, November 7, 2011

Week 40: Tinkers, by Paul Harding

I was drawn to Tinkers, frankly, because it had won the Pulitzer Prize in 2010. When I picked up the book, it did not strike me as a Pulitzer winner. It’s a small book, a fairly short book, looking more like a young adult novel as opposed to a serious novel. These attributes, however, segue into what makes Tinkers appealing. It is a different sort of book. It’s somewhat abstract and single-minded in its subject matter. After reading a bit about the author and his Pulitzer win, I learned that Tinkers seemingly came out of nowhere to swoop up the prize, creating two camps of opinions: one, that Tinkers was a book about nothing; and the other, that Tinkers was a breath of fresh air. The book has to do with an old man on his deathbed. As he dies over the course of several days, surrounded by family, he reconnects with the memories of his family (particularly his father).  We don’t really get to know the old man all that well. We are only privy to certain aspects of his personality that play out as his mind deteriorates. Still, the reader feels a fondness for him as he mentally recounts parts of his childhood. There is a feeling of a passing of a torch, almost. The cycles of life and death are on full display here, as the old man’s family members tend to him. There is a melancholy emphasis on death’s inevitability. I suppose I’m making it all sound pretty dreadful, but in fact, I really enjoyed this read. Its poetic artfulness is what makes it transcend ordinary stories.

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