Jul 17, 2010

Tinkering at Armando's

Armando raced back from Merced and, with a little help from Garth, put together a fine meal of good old fashioned meatloaf.  Just the right menu for a cool fall night spent contemplating a novel whose most vivid settings were in the cold outdoors.  As comfort food, it was the perfect accompaniment for the conversation that followed, with its emphasis on death and dying.  We were especially touched by  Armando's account of the joy and pathos surrounding his mother's recent funeral.

The Book
Paul Harding's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Tinkers, had the virtue of brevity, which compensated for the disjointed narrative style.  According to Doug, after Harding had drafted this story of a dying father's reminiscences about his own father (and son), he shuffled its chapters in order to collapse the generations (and, according to some of us, confuse the reader).  

Our comments were all across the board.  But many reflected an appreciation for Harding's elegance with language, the visceral impact of his story, and the various metaphors (especially that clock!) for our mortality.  Nevertheless, Peter griped about the deathbed obsession with mortality, Garth saw a plot suffused with mental illness, Dan found the story haphazard even though he insisted he read it while sober, and Paul and Tom A were both underwhelmed by the spareness of the story.  

Our voting produced a miserly 4.8--faint praise for such an acclaimed title but certainly in keeping with our mixed feelings about this elegiacal father-son novella.  

Next Up
Glenn gave us several fine choices for September, but the vote came down to a nailbiter between serial murder and magnificent architecture in turn-of-the-century Chicago and the musings of Paul Theroux as he revisits eastern Africa.  With a little prompting from Garth, who clearly felt our political sensibilities have been dulled by too much award-winning fiction, we went with Dark Star Safari.


  1. I'll share my (true) stories about traveling for 6 weeks in Kenya and Tanzania, ranging from having to pull bus ferries across rivers by hand, to getting falciparum malaria and hallucinating vividly. Africa is a fascinating place. I'd go back in a heartbeat.

  2. While it will be good to hear your tales about Africa, please do not share your stories about "hallucinating vividly". I am afraid that if you start down that road, there will be simply too many other stories in the group to fit in one night.