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Tinkers [Hardcover]

Paul Harding
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What is a great novel? What is great writing? April 18 2010
By Schmadrian TOP 1000 REVIEWER
It goes without saying that any review is a subjective opinion. It's a -potentially- qualified observation as filtered through the person's experiences and biases. Precision and accuracy aren't exactly guaranteed aspects of the process.

Yes, there are guidelines of sorts...but even these lack any surety.

Which is why divergent opinions are common.

'Tinkers' is a novel that certainly sets itself up to be divergent. If you read the blurbs on the back cover, the consensus is that it's no wonder at all that Paul Harding won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for this début. Unfortunately, I can't be part of that consensus...even though I can appreciate what he produced here: great writing (within its intent) yet not a 'great novel'.

For me, a 'great novel' provides an exemplary reading experience. Encompassing notions such as being 'transportive'. 'Illuminating'. 'Thought-provoking', 'elegiacal', 'moving', 'inspiring'...but most of all, 'entertaining'.

'Tinkers', on the whole, was not 'entertaining'. Nor was it, but for rare instances, hardly any of the other descriptives I've provided. (Let me say that Mr. Harding's talents shone best -for me, I'm just saying for me- when he was less purposefully artsy-fartsy and more direct. Less with the 'ephemeral', more being 'genuine'. Indeed, when the author is efficiently direct...especially in a storytelling vein...and not obtuse, when he doesn't faff about, weaving lofty thoughts in the air, the tale shines so much more brightly. Best example of this? The final thirty-or-so pages.)

It is a fine piece of work. Distinct, original...mindful of Life.

But as much as it possesses these attributes, it's also murky, disjointed and a challenge to grasp.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tinkers Jan. 2 2012
By M. Yakiwchuk TOP 500 REVIEWER
Although it's only 207 pages long, Tinkers took me almost two weeks to read. As other reviewers have mentioned, the story is non-linear and the author avoids using quotation marks for character dialogue - a convention which can sometimes create confusion. One of the biggest challenges when reading this book, is figuring out if the author is writing about what is actually happening, or a character's thoughts/imagination/hallucinations. There is one section in the middle of the book where Harding is writing about the protagonist's father, but occaisionally returns to the son (who is 80 years old and dying) without mentioning either persons name. This can be confusing.

Aside from having an interesting style, is Tinkers worth reading purely for entertainment? In a word: No. Harding's abstract, artistic, and detached style of writing make his story seem unreal. Unlike other "great" books I have read, like Moby Dick and War & Peace, Tinkers didn't make a strong impression on me. Harding's descriptions of situations and environments are too abstract, and his filling-in of the psychological and emotional states of his characters too sparse. I found many of the stories in the book completely unbelievable, as if they were imagined by a writer and never happened.

So, why not one star? Well, for a start I finished the book. And though I didn't like it, it's unusual enough that I never found reading it to be a chore. If you have something you've been wanting to read, I recommend reading that first. If you're looking for something different from what you've read before, then you could do worse than giving Tinkers a try. 2/5
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Haven't been able to finish the book May 16 2011
By krung
I'm a voracious reader and can usually get through a book in 2-3 days, 1 week max, but after several weeks, can't be bothered finishing this book. It isn't poorly written, but parts of it are written in a style I can't stand.. think Life of Pi. If you liked that kind of rambling, you won't mind tinkers.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fully deserved the Pulitzer Nov. 2 2010
Harding takes being in the moment to a whole new level of writing. The novel unfolds as a series of tableaus alternating between a father and son in the distant past, and the son dying as an old man in the present. The novel is driven not so much by plot as by character development and the writing, which at times is akin to the best of contemporary poetry. A mandatory addition to the required reading list for first year college courses on contemporary American literature.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tinkers Jan. 6 2012
By Pithy
Truly one of the best in fiction. Not particularly plot driven but a dream. For me it is what a book does best. Evocative, curious, contemplative. A fine writer.
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