The Pulitzer Prize For Fiction

Paul Harding- 2010

Born: 19 December 1967, Beverly, MA

Awarded for: "Tinkers"

Prize motivation: "a powerful celebration of life in which a New England father and son, through suffering and joy, transcend their imprisoning lives and offer new ways of perceiving the world and mortality "

Field: Fiction

Prize share: 1/1

Books Written By Paul Harding

About Paul Harding

Paul Harding (born December 19, 1967) is American writer, who wrote his first novel "Tinkers" and won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for literature. He was rejected by several firms, but a tiny publishing house took a chance with the novel in 2009.

His manuscript languished in a desk drawer for nearly three years. However, Mr. Harding, not only eventually found a publisher — the tiny Bellevue Literary Press — for the novel, "Tinkers," he also went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Only 7000 copies were initially published but the book garnered positive reviews and gained favor among independent bookstores. Within an hour of the Pulitzer announcement, Random House sent out a news release boasting of the two-book deal it had signed with Mr. Harding late in 2009. A few days later the Guggenheim Foundation announced he had received one of its prestigious fellowships.

The early rejection "was funny at the time," Mr. Harding said. "And even funnier now." Mr. Harding, a onetime drummer for a rock band, is far too discreet to name any of the agents or editors who wouldn't touch his work a few years ago.

But he is quick to praise those who helped "Tinkers" become a darling of the independent bookstore circuit, including Erika Goldman, the editorial director of Bellevue, whom Mr. Harding described as a "deeply empathetic reader"; Lise Solomon, a sales representative in Northern California for Consortium, the book's distributor, who passionately advocated for the novel with booksellers; and the booksellers and critics who embraced the book early on.

Although "Tinkers" sunk under the radar in some quarters (including The New York Times, which did not review it), it made several year-end best lists, including NPR's best debut fiction and The New Yorker magazine's list of reviewers' favorites. According to Nielsen Bookscan, which tracks about 70 percent of retail sales, "Tinkers" sold 7,000 copies before the Pulitzer announcement. Now many independent booksellers are claiming Mr. Harding's victory as their own. "This shows how indie bookstores truly are the ones that can be movers and shakers when it comes to a book," said Michele Filgate, the events manager at RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth, N.H., who raved about the book on Bookslut, a literary blog. As it turns out, it was Ms. Filgate who first told Rebecca Pepper Sinkler, a former editor of The New York Times Book Review and chairwoman of this year's Pulitzer fiction jury, about "Tinkers" at a book-reviewing workshop Ms. Sinkler led in Manchester, N.H., last April. In classes at Iowa Mr. Harding has become an instant celebrity, of course, but also, a reassurance. Marilynne Robinson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Gilead," Mr. Harding's former teacher and now a friend, said last week in her workshop office that she had already repeated Mr. Harding's story several times.


Tinkering - Paul Harding

By Laura Gias

To pass the time waiting at yet another airport gate, I took the book TINKERS by Paul Harding with me. His debut novel, it was published in January 2009 and has 192 pages, a small book indeed, but a forceful, spellbinding and impressive one, a book leading to contemplation and soul-searching. The story tells about a tinker, Howard, a man mending broken pots and pans, a man standing for a vanished lifestyle, when time appeared to run at a slower pace and yet the days were full. Weaving back and forth from the past to the present, it is also the story about another man, the late tinker's son George, who is slowly dying, in the house he built and amidst his family and all his lovingly repaired antique clocks, his entire life achievements if you will. The book deals with the relationship between a father and a son, and although Harding writes in great prose about the subject of the last days of life and impending death, it is truly a comforting book, somehow giving the reader solace by knowing what a rich and fulfilled life the main characters enjoyed. A moving and spiritual story. 13 April 2010. With his book TINKERS Paul Harding won the Pulitzer Price for Fiction today.


Tinkering - Paul Harding

By Dr. Bojan Tunguz

"Tinkers" is a short novel that won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize, the first debut novel coming from a small publishing company to do so in over a quarter of a century. The brevity of the novel and its unassuming publication pedigree belie a very complex and involved work of fiction. The story is set in New England and it deals with an old man at his deathbed who starts to recall his own father - an itinerant paddler who suffered many bouts of epilepsy. The story is filled with many poignant moments, depicting hardships of life in rural Maine in the first half of the twentieth century.

This is not an easy book to read, and it is written in a stream-of-consciousness fashion. The writing has echos of both Faulkner and early Cormack McCarthy in terms of both the style and the themes of poor, rural America from a few generations ago. The book is very literally and certainly not something that you would want to take to the beach or snuggle with in front of a fireplace. Nonetheless, if you are into literature it could provide a valuable reading experience if you are willing to invest some time into going through it with attention to all the narrative details.