Monday, August 30, 2010

Tinkers, Paul Harding

I’m going to be honest. I didn’t “read” the entire novel. After the first sixty pages I started to skim through until the end. How does one find themselves unable to complete a slim 175 page novel? A Pulitzer Prize winning novel to top it all off. It is rare that I skim through a novel. If I don’t enjoy it, I just give up. But, I felt there was a reason to complete. To travel through until the end. And, after keeping myself on track… I’m not really sure why I needed to find the end.

The story is lovely. A dying man. His recollections on life- youth, family, career. At times, there is something surreal at work. The memories of a dying man. A hallucinogenic experience. A lot of the time the novel feels stream of conscious gone overboard. The thoughts connect, but why are they connecting? Are the final days of one all that significant to others?

The novel feels classic for how contemporary it actually is. The story teller comes from a time when life was simple. Technology was an idea, not a reality. Life feels clean. Less clutter. Less chaos. Was it easier to exist with less knowledge so easily gained? These aren’t really the issues, though. Technology just isn’t there. We’re experiencing an America so long forgotten.

The author, Harding, is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop. The school has a long list of famous graduates and equally famous teachers. There was a time I fantasized about attending the university. But, on some level, the authors feel similar. The writing is structured in a way that really removes the originality of many novels. This isn’t the school of experiment. It is the school of the silent, prose heavy literature of our past.

The authors professor, Marilynne Robinson, has been considered an inspiration for Tinkers. And, anyone who has read Robinson, Gilead or Home, would have to agree. The distance of the narrator to our world. The spiritualist. The moralist. These are great aspects of a novel. But, I wasn’t connecting. I wasn’t interested. It all felt beautiful and cold- just like the book cover.

Harding’s prose is fantastic. And, the purpose is painful. But, the experience… a little less than original.

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