Skip to main content

Tinkers

What better way to ignore a crisis on the PhD than to slide into a new book that, actually, has successfully executed some of the things I have been aiming for? I hurriedly and somewhat absent-mindedly picked it up in Waterstone's last week. I glanced at the front cover - liked the title, which conjured up outsiders and make do and menders - travellers - and the first line of the back cover synopsis. 'An old man lies dying'. The cover also sold it for me, of a solitary man walking into the distance in the snow; oh, and the fact that it proudly declared that it was the 'Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction'. I have to start, then, by declaring that it is a worthy winner; nay, more than that, I would go so far, in my opinion, and declare it a masterpiece. You see, when I like a book, I love a book and I've never been afraid of saying as much. There's also a coincidence for me in the fact that another of my favourite books is The Solitude of Thomas Cave, by Georgina Harding. No relation to this Harding, I don't think. It got me thinking about it - harding - hardy (another Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy) maybe it is because they convey a hardiness. The cover of Tinkers, which conveys solitude and having to go it alone, is right up my street - and in The Solitude of Thomas Cave, the main setting was the Arctic, where the character of the title lives in a whaling hut for a year as a bet, whilst he whiles away his slowly revealed grief. Tinkers, too, is a gradual revelation of grief, paradoxically, of this dying man - the grieving of a relationship with his father that he had been denied. The first line says it all: 'George Washington Crosby began to hallucinate eight days before he died'. What we are given is a snapshot of a paternal chain of unspoken grief. George is 'a methodical repairer of clocks'. It is a fitting analogy for playing out the wish fulfilment in relation to his father, Howard, an epileptic; George fixes the clocks - 'tinkers' with them - taking each apart and back together - in the same way as he wished he could have repaired his long absent father. It begins in New England, where life is hardy and self-sufficiency means ekeing out a living as a tinker - with his chest of drawers on Prince Edward the donkey - inside which is stored all manner of items. There is no real plot; it is a looking back, yet it avoids sentimentality. In fact the emotions are all the stronger - I would say profound - because of their absence. The prose does all the work here - each word has been lovingly considered by Harding, a former MFA student of Marilynne Robinson, who has in turn graced the cover with her encomium. I won't say any more about the book - I felt so moved by it that I shall return for a second reading - something which I hardly ever do, and which shall have to suffice as the best recommendation I can give.







Popular posts from this blog

Who was Mary Burns?

On 7th January 1863 Mary Burns was found dead from a suspected heart attack. She was 43 years old. Since her death Mary has received barely any attention despite the fact that she spent over twenty years as the common-law wife of Friedrich Engels, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and the co-founder of Marxism.

Born in 1822, Mary was the oldest surviving child of textile dyer and factory operative, Michael Burns, and Mary Conroy, Irish immigrants from Tipperary. Mary’s parents had married at St. Patrick’s in an area known casually as Irish Town, one of few Catholic churches in Manchester at that time. The year of Mary’s birth and her infancy were significant in that Manchester was still dealing with the aftermath of the event that became known as the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, a peaceful protest of the working-classes on the site of St. Peter’s Fields in which several people were killed and hundreds injured. The Massacre occurred when magistrates, alarmed at the size of t…

Booker Shortlist announced

It's been a while... I know. Dog walking on the Downs, a bit of theatre, a bit of baking, a bit of writing etcetera etcetera. I also managed to read two complete books in the past month, which I was so pleased about. I had not read a whole book for about a year. The first was A Lie About My Father by Scottish poet/writer, John Burnside; a very well written memoir about father and son, but like all memoirs, some unreliability I felt. Poignant and tragic in equal measure. Then my husband returned from Cyprus (too hot for me this time of year, I can barely cope with England!) with Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong. He loved it. And then I read it and also loved it. I had originally picked it up several years ago but didn't get beyond Amiens, where the first section is set, but was really glad I did this time around. Another incredibly well written book in the style of a good Victorian! I felt a bit unsure about bits of Elizabeth, in the later section, but I have never learnt so muc…

Good Canary

Forgot to mention that we went to see Good Canary at Kingston's Rose Theatre last week. Star role played by the brilliantly intense Freya Mavor, who plays a speed addict. It's directed by John Malkovich - his UK's theatre directorial debut. Will try and post more about it later.