29+ quotes from Tinkers by Paul Harding

Quotes from Tinkers

Paul Harding ·  192 pages

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“I breathed the book before I saw it; tasted the book before I read it.”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“What of miniature boats constructed of birch bark and fallen leaves, launched onto cold water clear as air? How many fleets were pushed out toward the middles of ponds or sent down autumn brooks, holding treasures of acorns, or black feathers, or a puzzled mantis? Let those grassy crafts be listed alongside the iron hulls that cleave the sea, for they are all improvisations built from the daydreams of men, and all will perish, whether from the ocean siege or October breeze.”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“When his grandchildren had been little, they had asked if they could hide inside the clock. Now he wanted to gather them and open himself up and hide them among his ribs and faintly ticking heart.”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“Howard had a pine display case, fastened by fake leather straps and stained to look like walnut. Inside, on fake velvet, were cheap gold-plated earrings and pendants of semiprecious stones. He opened this case for haggard country wives when their husbands were off chopping trees or reaping the back acres. He showed them the same half-dozen pieces every year the last time he came around, when he thought, This is the season - preserving done, woodpile high, north wind up and getting cold, night showing up earlier every day, dark and ice pressing down from the north, down on the raw wood of their cabins, on the rough-cut rafters that sag and sometimes snap from the weight of the dark and the ice, burying families in their sleep, the dark and the ice and sometimes the red in the sky through trees: the heartbreak of a cold sun. He thought, Buy the pendant, sneak it into your hand from the folds of your dress and let the low light of the fire lap at it late at night as you wait for the roof to give out or your will to snap and the ice to be too thick to chop through with the ax as you stand in your husband's boots on the frozen lake at midnight, the dry hack of the blade on ice so tiny under the wheeling and frozen stars, the soundproof lid of heaven, that your husband would never stir from his sleep in the cabin across the ice, would never hear and come running, half-frozen, in only his union suit, to save you from chopping a hole in the ice and sliding into it as if it were a blue vein, sliding down into the black, silty bottom of the lake, where you would see nothing, would perhaps feel only the stir of some somnolent fish in the murk as the plunge of you in your wool dress and the big boots disturbed it from its sluggish winter dreams of ancient seas. Maybe you would not even feel that, as you struggled in clothes that felt like cooling tar, and as you slowed, calmed, even, and opened your eyes and looked for a pulse of silver, an imbrication of scales, and as you closed your eyes again and felt their lids turn to slippery, ichthyic skin, the blood behind them suddenly cold, and as you found yourself not caring, wanting, finally, to rest, finally wanting nothing more than the sudden, new, simple hum threading between your eyes. The ice is far too thick to chop through. You will never do it. You could never do it. So buy the gold, warm it with your skin, slip it onto your lap when you are sitting by the fire and all you will otherwise have to look at is your splintery husband gumming chew or the craquelure of your own chapped hands.”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“I just wish that you had made it beyond the bounds of this cold little radius, that when the archaeologists brush off this layer of our world in a million years and string off the boundaries of our rooms and tag and number every plate and table leg and shinbone, you would not be there; yours would not be the remains they would fine and label juvenile male; you would be a secret, the existence of which they would never even be aware to try to solve.”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“Howard resented the ache in his heart. He resented that it was there every morning when he woke up... He resented equally the ache and resentment itself. He resented his resentment because it was a sign of his limitations of spirit and humility, no matter that he understood that such was each man's burden. He resented the ache because it was uninvited, seemed imposed, a sentence, and, despite the encouragement he gave himself each morning, it baffled him because it was there whether the day was good or bad, whether he witnessed major kindness or minor transgression, suffered sourceless grief or spontaneous joy.”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“Howard thought, Is it not true: A move of the head, a step to the left or right, and we change from wise, decent, loyal people to conceited fools? Light changes, our eyes blink and see the world from the slightest difference of perspective and our place in it has changed infinitely: Sun catches cheap plate flaking--I am a tinker; the moon is an egg glowing in its nest of leafless trees--I am a poet; a brochure for an asylum is on the dresser--I am an epileptic, insane; the house is behind me--I am a fugitive. His despair had not come from the fact that he was a fool; he knew he was a fool. The despair came from the fact that his wife saw him as a fool, as a useless tinker, a copier of bad verses from two-penny religious magazines, an epileptic, and could find no reason to turn her head and see him as something better.”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“...I will be no more than a tint of some obscure color, and to their great grandchildren nothing they ever know about, and so what army of strangers and ghosts has shaped and coloured me until back to Adam, until back to when ribs were blown from molten sand into the glass bits that took up the light of this world....”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“…and the only thing common to all of this is that I feel sorrow so deep, it must be love...”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“Your cold mornings are filled with the heartache about the fact that although we are not at ease in this world, it is all we have, that it is ours but that it is full of strife, so that all we can call our own is strife; but even that is better than nothing at all, isn't it? And as you split frost-laced wood with numb hands, rejoice that your uncertainty is God's will and His grace toward you and that that is beautiful, and part of a greater certainty, as your own father always said in his sermons and to you at home. And as the ax bites into the wood, be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world, even though you have done nothing to deserve it. And when you resent the ache in your heart, remember: You will be dead and buried soon enough.”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“When it came time to die, we knew and went to deep yards where we lay down and our bones turned to brass. We were picked over. We were used to fix broken clocks, music boxes; our pelvises were fitted onto pinions, our spines soldered into cast works. Our ribs were fitted as gear teeth and tapped and clicked like tusks. This is how, finally, we were joined.”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“There was a moment of sorrow, disappointment, and deep love for his son, whom he at that second wished had had a chance of real escape. Never mind why or whether or who or what consequence or ramification--the wake of sorrow and bitterness and resentment you would trail behind you, probably mostly for me--I just wish that you had made it beyond the bounds of this cold little radius, that when the archaeologists brush off this layer of our world in a million years and string off the boundaries of our rooms and tag and number every plate and table leg and shinbone, you would not be there; yours would not be the remains they would find and label juvenile male.
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“كل شئ موجود ليفنى، الغريب أن يوجد شئ لم يفنَ بعد.”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“Who was the greatest business man ever. . . The greatest salesman? Advertiser? Who? . . . It was Jesus. . . Jesus was the founder of modern business. . . he picked up twelve men from the bottom ranks of business and forged them into an organization that conquered the world!”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“Howard thought, Is it not true: A move of the head, a step to the left or right, and we change from wise, decent, loyal people to conceited fools? Light changes, our eyes blink and see the world from the slightest difference of perspective and our place in it has changed infinitely...His despair had not come from the fact that he was a fool; he knew he was a fool. His despair came from the fact that his wife saw him as a fool...and could find no reason to turn her head and see him as something better.”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“I was just thinking that I am not very many years old, but that I am a century wide. I think I have my literal age but am surrounded in a radius of years. I think that these years of days, this near century of years, is a gift from you. Thank you. Now, let me read you something to get you back to sleep.”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“God know my shame as I push my mule to exhaustion, even after the moon and Venus have risen to preside over the owls and mice, because I am not going back to my family—my wife, my children—because my wife’s silence is not the forbearance of decent, stern people who fear You; it is the quiet of outrage, of bitterness. It is the quiet of biding time. God forgive me. I am leaving.”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“Perhaps, Howard thought, the curtains and murals and pastel angels are a mercy, a dim reflection of things fit for the fragility of human beings.”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“There is my father whispering in my ear, Be still still still. And yet you change everything. What was the marsh like, waiting for the storm before you came and kneeled in the water? It was nothing. Watch after you leave the water, now cold and regretful, miles from home, certain of the belt on your backside, the cold shoulder, the extra chores; watch. Watch the water heal itself of your presence--not to repair injury but to offer itself again should you care to risk another strapping [...].”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“And as the ax bites into the wood, be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your souls means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world, even though you have done nothing to deserve it.”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“Everything is made perish; the wonder of anything at all is that it has not already done so. No, he thought. The wonder of anything is that it was made in the first place. What persists beyond this cataclysm of making and unmaking?”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“اطمئن، لأن الألم الذى يعتصر قلبك والحيرة التى تتملكك يعنيان أنك لا تزال على قيد الحياة، ولا تزال بشريا، ولا تزال مفتوحا على جمال العالم، بالرغم من أنك لم تفعل شيئا لتستحقه. وعندما تستاء من الألم الذى فى قلبك، تذكر: ستموت وتدفن قريبا.”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“إن قدر الإنسان ألا يكون مرتاحاً فى عالمه.”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“Howard thought, Is it not true: A move of the head, a step to the left or right, and we change from wise, decent, loyal people to conceited fools? Light changes, our eyes blink and see the world from the slightest difference of perspective and our place in it has changed infinitely.”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“Perhaps, Howard thought, the curtains and murals and pastel angels are a mercy, a dim reflection of things fit for the fragility of human beings. Whenever he looked at the angels in the family Bible, though, he saw their radiant golden halos and resplendant white robes and he shook with fear.”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“On the seventh day, Howard turned off the trail and sat by the river and smoked a pipeful of tobacco that he had packed for the hermit. As he smoked, he listened to the voices in the rapids. They murmured about a place somewhere deep in the woods where a set of bones lay on a bed of moss, above which a troop of mournful flies had kept vigil the previous autumn until the frosts came, and they, too, had succumbed.”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“That she made a point to eat only the gristliest chicken bits, the burned biscuits, the mealiest potatoes, while she complained that his children were, variously, weak-minded, hysterical or sickly, and seemed to imply that such afflictions were the result of the lack of a good piece of steak or a new bonnet, was only circumstance; were she installed on a throne at a twelve-course banquet table teaming with all of God's creatures brought from both air and field, trussed and roasted and swimming in their own succulent juices, she would heap her plate with the most exquisite victuals and lament that his feeble offspring were the way they were because they had it too well and what they really needed was a vat of cold porridge and a tureen full of dirt.”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“My father would say, The forgotten songs we never really knew, only think we remember knowing, when what we really do is understand at the same time how we have never really know them at all and how glorious they must really be.”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


“Light changes, our eyes blink and see the world from the slightest difference of perspective and our place in it has changed.”
― Paul Harding, quote from Tinkers


About the author

Paul Harding
Born place: The United States
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