The book is tinkers by Paul Harding. (His debut novel, BTW and, no, the title was not capitalized) The story drew me in from the start and the prose kept me reading. Like this description of a dismantled clock: "Such a crooked and flimsy device could only keep the fantastic hours of unruly ghosts." At times his style reminded me of Ray Bradbury's, the kind of short, crisp sentences that leave a minty-fresh taste in your mouth: "Lightning crawled down the mountain and drank at the water, lapped the shallows with electric tongues..." So creative. I read with a pen poised to bracket particularly inspiring passages.
I admit that I was both puzzled and encouraged by the success of this book because it bent and broke a lot of rules that we all learned in Writing 101 at the School of Hard Literary Knocks. Here are some observations that wouldn't normally get past the editor's desk or would otherwise work against its success:
- Multiple POV & tense changes. The kind that have you backtracking to figure out whose head you are in at the moment.
- Long sentences. I mean long. Stream-of-consciousness long. One sentence had 386 words and 30 commas. And two question marks, which did little to impede the sentence, since it did not actually come to a stop at either one.
- Lack of punctuation. I finally realized that the capitalized word in the sentence meant someone was speaking at that point, sans those helpful quotation marks.
- Sentence structure. Some had so many clauses that I forgot the point before the end.
- Small publisher: Bellevue Literary Press, a small 3-year-old, non-profit affiliated with New York University's School of Medicine. What are the odds they would produce a Pulitzer winner? The last small publisher to do so was in 1981.
- Time travel. Not really - it just felt that way, with the main character's hallucinations transporting him back to his childhood and further, and back again.
- Long passages from a manual on clock repair. I understand that these were important to the story and paralleled his father's writings, but they began without warning. Just a slight indent of the paragraph, and me momentarily scratching my head.
- Slight overuse of a few favorite words. The words 'sibilant' and 'boreal' and 'arboreal' were used several times. I didn't have a problem with them (they are ethereal and slightly sensual) but it registered that my editor would have pointed it out and asked for a word change because they were very distinctive.
All in all, it's a remarkable, ground-breaking book. I will read it again and force myself not to highlight or mark sections, but to absorb it all together as a solid entity. Do you have a book that has made you wonder how the author got away with major rule breakage?