Just because a book wins a Pulitzer Prize doesn’t mean you have to enjoy it. There. I’ve said it. And now I feel better. You can probably see where this is going…
I decided to read Tinkers because it won the Fiction Pulitzer Prize in 2010. I figured by reading it, I would somehow become smarter, or at least seem smarter. Things started off well. As with a fine bottle of wine, I’m a sucker for good packaging and presentation. The book is only about 200 pages and comes in a compact form, great for holding. Sometimes I feel like I’m not reading a proper book when I get a large hardcover edition and I can’t fit it snugly in one hand. You know the kind; when you put the book down, that bit of muscle (fat?) between your thumb and index finger hurts. But Tinkers fits snugly in one hand, like a well worn baseball glove, or peas and carrots, or well, a nice glass of cabernet. Let’s go with that.
So I liked the feel. The cover, minimalist. A white backdrop with a few trees clustered in the corner. Simple, pleasing to the eye, artistic. Hmmmm….looking good so far. And the content? Well, like a great top note, Harding grabbed me with his first line, “George Washington Crosby began to hallucinate eight days before he died.”
Harding writes stories from George Crosby’s childhood, stories that center on his father. Crosby’s father was a tinker (or, as Lemony Snicket would say, tinkers is a fancy word for traveling salesman). The stories themselves are interesting, but there is a lot of fluff in between. Okay, okay, it’s probably called something other than fluff in the literary world, like transitional prose or corollary exposition (making stuff up right now). But to me, it was fluff. He’d go on for a page or two about how a clock worked or how something looked. I guess you have to have pretty mad skills to go on so long about something so simple but it kinda bored me.
Maybe if we took that glass of Cabernet and reduced the book to it’s good parts, we’d have an engaging 100 page novella (do those win Pulitzer Prizes?). So I feel a bit contrary to not think this book is the bees knees. Clearly it was well received by many, including some fellow cannonballers. But for me it just gets a “meh.”