I drip for the beauty of words, not sobbing, heaving tears, but slow wet salt that leaves a trail on gristled cheeks. Tinkers
often reads more like a poem than a novel, holding extended passages describing nature or recollection in huge, meandering sentences that carry meaning and feeling like a swollen river delivers silt. It is not an easy read.
Harding contemplates the tenuous borders of time, and the uncertain edges of reality. Life, existing under a lid, is limited, endangered
This is the season—preserving done, woodpile high, north wind up and getting cold, night showing up earlier every day, dark and ice pressing down from the north, down on the raw wood of their cabins, on the rough-cut rafters that sag and sometimes snap from the weight of the dark and the ice, burying families in their sleep, the dark and the ice and sometimes the red in the sky through trees: the heartbreak of a cold sun.
The underlying nature of life, of reality lies just beyond our grasp
The true essence, the secret recipe of the forest and the light and the dark was far too fine and subtle to be observed with my blunt eye—water sac and nerves, miracle itself, fine itself: light catcher. But the thing itself is not forest and light and dark, but something else scattered by my coarse gaze, by my dumb intention. The quilt of leaves and light and shadow and ruffling breezes might part and I’d be given a glimpse of what is on the other side;
It is clear that what we see is not all there is.
George has lived an orderly life, but now, at 80, he is dying. We follow along with his recollections. How do parents connect to children through generations? Where is permanence? George sees himself in a framed set of tiles, moving pieces about and pondering what will happen when the frame is filled and there are no empty spaces left.
I will remain a set of impressions porous and open to combination with all of the other vitreous squares floating about in whoever else’s frames, because there is always the space left in reserve for the rest of their own time, and to my great-grandchildren, with more spaces than tiles, I will be no more than the smoky arrangement of a set of rumors, and to their great-grandchildren nothing they ever know about, and so what army of strangers and ghosts has shaped and colored me until back to Adam
George, who repairs clocks, has a fear of impermanence that is matched by his tinker father, Howard, who in turn contemplates the passing of his own father, a minister succumbing to madness.
It seemed to me as if my father simply faded away. He became more and more difficult to see…He leaked out of the world gradually, though. At first, he seemed merely vague or peripheral. But then he could no longer furnish the proper frame for his clothes…the end came when we could no longer even see him, but felt him in brief disturbances of shadow or light, or as a slight pressure, as if the space one occupied suddenly had had something more packed into it, or we’d catch some faint scent out of season, such as the snow melting into the wool of his winter coat
But it is not death alone that gives birth to dissolution. Howard contemplates a separation short of passing
So there is my son, already fading. The thought frightened him. The thought frightened because as soon as it came to him, he knew that it was true. He understood suddenly that even though his son knelt in front of him, familiar, mundane, he was already fading away, receding.
This held particular sting for me, as my youngest is fluttering away to college in a few short weeks, and I contemplate the space she leaves behind.
Can these generations come together somewhere? What is there behind the mask of nature? Is time rock-solid or vaporous? A transcendentalist’s spirit clearly moves in Harding. His language celebrates nature while trying to see beyond the curtains.
The weaver might have made one bad loop in the foliage of a sugar maple by the road and that one loop of whatever the thread might be wound from –light, gravity, dark from start—had somehow been worked loose by the wind in its constant worrying of white buds and green leaves and blood-and-orange leaves and bare branches and two of the pieces of whatever it is that this world is knot from had come loose from each other and there was maybe just a finger width’s hole, which I was lucky enough to spot in the glittering leaves from this wagon of drawers and nimble enough to scale the silver trunk and brave enough to poke my finger into the tear, that might offer to the simple touch a measure of tranquility or reassurance.
He shifts his perspectives from George to Howard to lesser characters, and includes in his tale entries from what I took to be a series of lectures by Howard’s pastor-father, and entries from a supposed book on Horology. Some might find these troublesome as they definitely interrupt the narrative flow, but they did not seem too intrusive to me.
If you are looking for action, you would be better served looking elsewhere. There are
events in the book, but this is mostly a contemplation of time, life and the nature of existence, moving for the poetry of its language and stunning for the depth of its moving waters.
I was blown away and am in need of repair.