Friday, May 7, 2010

Tinkers: A Prize-Winning DNF

Prize-winning books get my attention, especially if the prize is the Pulitzer. When Tinkers by Paul Harding won last month, you could almost hear the collective "Huh?" ripple through the book blogging community. For the record, my money was on Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann.

Shortly after the announcement, I clicked over to my library website and was not surprised to find they didn't own a copy. Inter-library loan came to the rescue (there was just one in the entire system) and, less than a week later, Tinkers was in my hands.

Tinkers is a small, slim book (only 191 pages) about a dying man's last days. While lying on a hospital bed in his living room, tended by various family members, George Washington Crosby's mind journeys back to his childhood in New England.
George Crosby remembered many things as he died, but in an order he could not control. To look at his life, to take the stock he always imagined a man would at his end, was to witness a shifting mass, the tiles of a mosaic spinning, swirling, reportraying, always in recognizable swaths of colors, familiar elements, molecular units, intimate currents, but also independent now of his will, showing him a different self every time he tried to make an assessment. (page 18)
After 70 pages, I was enjoying the writing, but not fully engaged with the characters or the story. Others have praised the book, but I was not in the mood to appreciate the quiet style. Perhaps my new stack of books was distracting me. In any event, this seems to be a classic case of "right book, wrong time".

Other opinions:

(may I add yours?)


  1. Only 191 pages? Maybe I'll squeeze it in somewhere. I'm with you on the 'award-winning books get my attention'. Else I probably would have never known Tinkers existed. Have you ever read Marilynne Robinson? Her style is pretty quiet, but it was too quiet for me. So if it's anything like that, I'm not too sure Tinkers and I will be friends. But I shall give it a try at some point.

  2. I am currently reading an award winner and am not at all interested. I'm thinking of stopping halfway through.

  3. Wave the white flag.

    I told R about the bookshop with miles and miles of books. He looked scared that we may end up there one day!

  4. I'm sorry to hear that you could not get into the book. I'm torn between wanting to read it (and since it's only 191 pages?) and some of the not-too-enthusiastic review for it.

  5. I will read this at some point, but I'm not a fan of quiet books so may have the same outcome as you. Fingers crossed I'll make it to the end!

  6. I think one has to be in the mood for these quiet, introspective books. This one is on my list to read because it won the Pulitzer...thanks for the comments on it...I'll know now to read it when I want one of these types of reads.

  7. I've found that I like more Pulitzer winning books than Booker winning novels. And I can totally relate to the 'right book, wrong time' sentiment. I've put down perfectly good books because I'm not really in the mood for them.

  8. I can see why your new books would be so distracting! I haven''t heard of this one, but the actual storyline sounds a little depressing to me.

  9. I've read other award winners (cough...Olive Kitteredge...cough) and was thoroughly unimpressed. So don't feel bad. The fact that Let the Great World Spin didn't win is a highway robbery in my opinion.

  10. Susi - Yes, I've read Robinson. My book club discussed Housekeeping quite a few years ago, and I had much the same experience as with Tinkers - beautiful writing, but not much engaged with the story (at least I finished that one!) I bought a copy of Gilead at the library book sale last summer and am waiting for the right time. Interesting to note that Colm Toibin is also described as 'quiet', yet I love his books/stories and feel totally vested in them...

    Beth F - Go ahead and quit! Life is too short, and I'm embracing Diane's 'read the best books first' philosophy.

    Darlene - The white flag is waved! Oh, take R to The Strand - he might enjoy it, too.

    Irisonbooks - Go ahead and give it a try. I would have stuck with it if the books in that pile weren't calling so loudly!

    Farmlanebooks - At least this is short. I know you aren't a fan of these quiet books, so choose your time carefully...

    Wendy - I usually try to read the Pulitzer winners, but wasn't in the mood for this just now. The writing is beautiful, so I'll probably give it another try. Good idea to make sure you're in the right mood before attempting this...

    Kals - I generally do better with the Pulitzers, too. This isn't a bad book...just the wrong time for me.

    Vivienne - Those new books were just too distracting - lol! Hope to give this another try at some point.

    Sandy - I was majorly disappointed when Let the Great World Spin didn't take the prize, but I did love Olive last year ;-)

  11. Sorry this did not work for you JoAnn. I have read about 75 pages and so far am loving the writing. I agree that not much happened so far, but I find the writing wonderful. Hope to finish it this weekend sometime as I have (2) other books going as well...LOL

  12. Isn't it interesting when a book that is obscure wins??? The premise sounds interesting but if it wasn't speaking to you then what can you do??? You never know, you may pick it up again at a later date and enjoy it.

  13. I'm sorry it didn't work for you. I have to pick it up today (I ordered it from my local bookstore) so we'll see.
    Re: Mrs. Craven, you might try ordering it either from Persephone directly, or try which has free shipping on its lovely British books, or, also a great source for imports. Good luck- I think you'd like it a lot!

  14. Maybe another day and in another mood you might like it.

  15. I had never heard of this one prior to its win. I'll be honest--I have zero desire to pick it up!

  16. I often gasp a "huh?" when I read a book which has won the Newbery, and lately, the Pulitzer. Not even the premise of this sounds good to me. However, I am anxious to read Let The Great World spin which I coerced my book club into reading for June.

  17. Hi Joanne, just wanted to pop in and wish you a Happy Mother's Day!

  18. I have an ARC of this book, which has buried somewhere at the bottom of the pile. I didn't get into it and put it aside after page 15. I'm reading Let the Great World Spin, but that, also, doesn't really engage me either. A group of mothers who lost their sons to Vietnam War meet up for breakfast. One of them thought the tightrope walker is her son. Huh? Maybe I need to pursue it more?

  19. Diane - Will look forward to your review, and I agree that the writing was wonderful!

    Staci - That's how I sometimes find hidden gems, but not this book at this time...

    Marie - I'll look forward to your thoughts on Tinkers. I think an order to Persephone or Book Depository will be placed shortly!

    Zetor - Maybe... you never know.

    Reviewsbylola - If it's not calling, don't bother ;-)

    Bellezza - Will look forward to your thoughts on Let the Great World Spin. Once it's available in paperback, I'll recommend it to my book club, too.

    Kaye - Aww, thanks! And Happy Mother's Day to you, too.

    Matt - That storyline is just a part of Let the Great World Spin. There are so many others and the way the author weaves them together is fascinating!

  20. Sometimes that happens with prize winners- you want to like them but somehow it just doesn't work.

    Thanks for your fair assessment.

  21. Booksnyc - And I really wanted to like this one! Oh well, maybe another time...

  22. My book club read this last year and came to the consensus that there was no (or little) storyline at all, just beautiful prose. I guess you can't win them all!

  23. Whitney - I keep thinking I'll get back to this one day, but it just hasn't happened....


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