Friday, February 20, 2009


Paul Harding has an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has taught writing at Harvard and the University of Iowa.

applied the Page 69 Test to Tinkers, his acclaimed debut novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Tinkers is about one of the novel's protagonists, Howard Crosby, coming home late to a family dinner after having had an epileptic seizure while out on his rounds as a peddler in the backwoods of northern Maine, in 1926. His wife, Kathleen, is alarmed by and resentful of his illness, and is not equal to the task of handling it. In a sense, she refuses to accept his condition and in this case has made her four children sit in silence in front of their dinners while they all wait for Howard to come home, as if when he does, their lives will simply restart in a more proper place and time, one where they are not made even more hapless and impoverished than they already are by his affliction. The page occurs just before Kathleen makes the decision to have Howard committed to an asylum, so it represents the book on the brink of the axis around which the plot turns.

By the time they had eaten and cleared the table and changed for bed it was quarter after ten. Kathleen never acted as if anything were wrong. She ignored the four- hour gap during which she made her litter sit before their plates and wait for Howard. When he came into the driveway slumped in the cart, Prince Edward pulling slow but certain, and staggered through the door, she took up with the evening again as if it was five in the afternoon, as if she just slid the five o'clock hour to the nine o'clock one, or took the four hours between them and banished them or tyrannized herself and her children into a type of abatement, leaving each of them and herself with a burden of four extra hours which each would have to juggle and mind for the rest of their lives, first as a single, strange, indigestible puzzlement and then later as a prelude to the night nearly a year later when she and the children again sat in front of full plates of cold food waiting for Howard, waiting for the sounds of the cart and the mule and the jangling tack and that time he never came back at all.
Read more about Tinkers at the publisher's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue