I’m in Ann Arbor watching my sister’s and her partner’s dog, Odo, while they are away for a few days. Ann Arbor is only about 40 minutes from where my mother and CJ live so this afforded me the opportunity to visit them as well. But today the snowstorm hit and so instead, I and Odo have hunkered down and spent the day, except for a long early morning walk, inside. Reading and watching the snow fall.
Let me repeat that with a crucial adjective. Uninterrupted reading and watching the snow fall. I sat down under a blanket on the couch and read Tinkers, a book my husband and many friends have urged me to read for some time now. It’s not a very long book, less than 200 pages, but it is very large.
Reading this book all in one sitting was a treat. There was nothing to break the mood or the aura the book creates about George Washington Crosby who is dying, lying on a hospital bed in his dining room, with all his extended family in attendance. George is at that very precipice between life and death and he thinks/ remembers/ and hallucinates about his life and the lives of his own father and his father’s father. These stories are incredibly evocative and compelling and as a reader, one is totally convinced this is what it must be like to be at this very precipice.
There is a kind of stream of consciousness for much of the book as these stories interweave and unfold, with narrators and points of view changing, which sometimes meant I had to go back and reread portions to get a better handle on what they meant. This was not a hindrance but more like solving a mystery, a way to literally interact with the story and the text. And the language is lush and the images well-observed and detailed, mesmerizing, poetic even. Harding creates a wonderment and poignancy around what it means to be human, to recognize our flaws, to be in relationship, and to feel love. Quite an accomplishment in 191 pages.
I had heard that Harding had sent this novel around to many agents and publishers, all of whom rejected it, stating that it was too quiet a novel and that no one would read it. He found an independent publisher, Bellevue Literary Press, who embraced it. And then the novel won the Pullitzer Prize. Another stunning accomplishment in a world where even art can be driven by what is perceived as its market. In its narrative format, its rich description, unusual insight and in its literal production, Tinkers tinkers with the traditional and offers a fresh meditation on the human spirit. I am so glad it snowed all day today.