George Crosby lies dying. He is an old man who retired and then became a clock repairman for 30 years. As he dies, he remembers the life of his father, who was a tinker—a traveling salesman of household items in the rural wilds of Maine—and an epileptic. In a way, of course, George also tinkers, with clocks.
This novel’s writing is truly astounding. Harding has a way of examining ideas and objects down to the bone. At other times, musings seem almost hallucinogenic. I wasn’t sure I understood the point of view, though. If all of the novel is from the point of view of George, as most reviews of the book seem to imply, how does he know what happened to Howard, his father—or is he imagining a life for his father?
To me, the novel seems to be about both men, in particular, about the circumstances that led to George being raised without his father. In the hard primitive life of backwoods Maine, George’s mother is resentful and cold. It is his father who is more considering and thoughtful, but a poor provider who might stop to weave pallets of grass instead of selling his goods. After a particularly bad epileptic attack, the only one witnessed by the Crosby children, George’s mother decides to have their father committed.
This novel was difficult for me to read, because I was so interested in some aspects of the plot that I glanced over some of the gorgeous prose or couldn’t concentrate on it (not my usual approach). The prose is the point of this book, however, and the meditations it evokes.
I believe this book is related to another book that also bought. I can’t remember if it is the sequel to the other book, or the other book is a sequel to it. I’ll be interested to see if reading both books enlightens me more.