Tag Archives: Paul Harding

Review: Tinkers

Tinkers Book Cover

Tinkers
By Paul Harding
Bellevue Literary Press
January 2009
192pp

The Short of It:

A tiny novel that packs an emotional punch.

The Rest of It:

An old man lies on his deathbed, and from it, reminisces about this childhood and his relationship with his father. Simple, yes?

Yes, but Tinkers is not an “in your face” type of story. George Washington Crosby lapses in and out of consciousness as his loved ones wait for the inevitable.  His childhood memories come and go in fleeting, almost ethereal ways. Some memories are more structured than others, but nearly all center around his father Howard, who spent a good portion of his adult life struggling with Epilepsy, which back then, was not a disease that people were familiar with.

After a particularly bad episode, one which leaves George with a bitten hand, George’s mother seeks help in treating this disease. Except, the “treatment” for such a thing back in those days involved a trip to a mental institution. Something that Howard wants no part of since his own father was taken to one when he was just a young boy.

As a tinker, Howard is used to traveling from farm to farm, selling his wares. He is no stranger to travel. So, he loads up his cart and leaves his family, for good.  What George recalls from his deathbed, are the tender moments between a father and his son, but also the darker moments of terror, not knowing or understanding what was happening to his father at the time.

This is a sad story. It has a heavy, weighty feel to it even though it’s such a short novel. Harding’s grasp of the father/son dynamic is gripping and unrelenting at times. The images he paints with words caused me to pause in thought numerous times and it’s left me mentally exhausted. That sounds like a negative comment but it’s really not. Death is an ordeal and losing a loved one certainly takes its toll and that is what it feels like. It’s as if I weathered a storm and now the clouds have passed.  There is a moment of quiet wonder. That is what I am embracing right now.

As a book club book, I think there would be a lot to discuss as far as how Harding presents his ideas, and his writing style in general, but it’s a simple story at heart. Those looking for a book that is heavy on plot, won’t find that in Tinkers, but it’s a rewarding read nonetheless.

Tinkers won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and is Paul Harding’s first novel.

Source: Purchased

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Everybody Loves a Festival: L.A. Times Festival of Books 2010 Recap

L.A. Times Festival Map

On Saturday I attended the L.A. Times Festival of Books. This is an annual event here in L.A. and I have to say, each year it seems to be a bit more popular than the previous year. The crowds always amaze me. So many book lovers all in one place. It made me want to sway to a 70’s song and wave a BIC lighter. Except, I don’t smoke and it wasn’t dark and there wasn’t any 70’s music to be found. That being said, it was still cool. 

For years and years I attended the event but never attended any of the panels. Last year was my first year doing that and it added another level of excitement to the day so I decided to do it again this year. I always feel a little nerdy being around authors that I admire but that’s okay. 

Life Stories Panel

The first panel that I attended is the Fiction: Life Stories panel. This panel included Rafael Yglesias, Paul Harding and Colson Whitehead and was moderated by David Kipen. As you may know, Paul Harding’s Tinkers, just won the Pulitzer for Fiction so there was a great deal of enthusiasm from the audience over the book. Mr. Harding, in sharing his reaction over the news,  said that he was flabbergasted because the book had been turned down by many before getting published. I found his humor charming.

Conversely, Rafael Yglesias had his first book published at the age of 17 and never even finished high school. He’s since wrote several books and although they are all fictionalized to a degree, they do mirror his personal life story (hence the title of panel). 

Colson Whitehead was asked how he could have written such a believable protagonist in Sag Harbor and his response surprised me. I expected him to say that he wrote what he knew, but his response was quite the opposite. He said that he feels compelled to write about what he doesn’t know and that sometimes he gets it’s wrong but that ultimately is comes down to lots of practice. 

David Kipen did a fantastic job. This panel was interesting and the conversation flowed naturally. He pointed out similarities when he noticed them and drew conclusions when possible and he was handsome and funny while doing it. I sort of had a little bit of a crush on him by the end of the panel. 

In Conversation with Dave Eggers

The next event I attended was a conversation between Dave Eggers and David Ulin. I decided to attend this panel because my book club’s pick for next month is Zeitoun and I was hoping to pick-up a little bit of background on it. He didn’t talk too much about his books although he briefly mentioned What is the What when a member of the audience asked him a question about it.

No, this conversation was geared towards the publishing industry, mainly the creation of McSweeny’s and 826. I knew of McSweeny’s but I wasn’t aware of Egger’s tie to it and 826 was brand new to me. It was an interesting conversation that pretty much focused on the importance of writing and what a difference it can make in a young person’s life. Eggers asked if anyone would be willing to volunteer since 826 has a local chapter in Venice, California. If you’d like to learn more about 826 or would like to volunteer (there are chapters all over), click here. 

In Conversation with Yann Martel

For my 3pm panel, I was torn. I had printed off two tickets to two different events. I wanted to see Gabrielle Burton, author of Impatient with Desire but I had just recently reviewed Yann Martel’s Beatrice and Virgil and because his book has gotten so many conflicting reviews, I felt the need to attend his panel to see what he had to say about his book.

Let me tell you, he said many beautiful things during this panel. I was tweeting them the entire time and found myself in awe over him. At one point during the conversation, an audience member stood up and admitted that she at one point thought that Life of Pi was a true story. Everyone kind of squirmed in their seats over it but he said that Life of Pi IS a true story. That “art is true.” I pondered that awhile. At another point in the conversation, he said that “literature puts you in the skin of someone else.” So true. I tried to get a better photo of him, one where he did not look bored but he sort of looked bored throughout the entire conversation although I didn’t get that impression from him at all.  

Michael Silverblatt of KCRW’s Bookworm did a fabulous job of fielding questions and asked several thought-provoking questions of his own. If you are not familiar with him he can seem a bit over-the-top, but I really enjoy his commentary. He also shared that Life of Pi is in production with Ang Lee directing. Hearing all this talk about Life of Pi has me wanting to pick up the book again. I enjoyed Beatrice and Virgil but did not enjoy Life of Pi the first time around. 

The Bloggers

Can you guess what the best part was? Meeting up with other bloggers. I included this photo as it is the only one I had of the group but it’s not the greatest (I look horrid and people are hidden) but then again, I didn’t take it. See how quick I am to blame the nice waitress that took it for us?

Going clockwise from the bottom left:

Mark from Random Ramblings from Sunny Southern CA,  Florinda of The 3 R’s, Thea from The Book Smugglers, Lisa from Books on the Brain (with her oldest daughter who was hiding), Danielle of There’s a Book (along with her husband), Leah’s Mom (forgot your name, so sorry!) and Leah of Amused by Books, Amy of My Friend Amy, Jill/Softdrink of Fizzy Thoughts,  and me.

If you care to know what I bought while there, check out this post.

It was a lot of fun. I wish every day could be spent hanging out with friends, shopping for books and listening to authors you love. Maybe I’ll see some of you there next year.