What you want to do is… write as clearly and straightforwardly and precisely as you can about things that are truly mysterious. – Paul Harding, 2009, interview with Christopher Lydon on Radio Open Source.
Paul Harding was born in 1967; but he could have been born in 1867 or 1467, such is the range and depth of his interests and influences. The American Transcendentalists – Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman – “are the patron saints of the book and of my writing, and of my brain… their issues are still relevant now” he told Christopher Lydon. Literary influences include Thomas Mann, Henry James, and William Tyndale’s English translation of the Bible in 1536. Harding was a drummer with the rock band, Cold Water Flat (1990-1996), and has spent years reading the theologies and philosophies of, among others, Karl Barth (1886-1968) and John Calvin (1509-1564).
Harding’s close relationship with his maternal grandfather – a native of northern Maine, fishing companion, and master of clock repair – is also deeply influential. “All of the more lyrical descriptions of the water and the trout, and the moon and the boats, and mayfly hatches and bats striking at fishing flies in Tinkers, are derived from fishing West Branch Pond, and occasionally Big Lyford Pond nearby” says Harding [Edgar Allen Beem’s review of Tinkers, in DownEast Bookshelf].
Music, art, literature, philosophy, theology, horology, and the character of northern Maine – these influences and experiences are important in Harding’s life. They are threads, lightly woven into the story, characters and landscape of Tinkers.
Harding grew up and currently lives in Massachusetts. He graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has taught writing at Harvard and at The University of Iowa Writers Workshop.
Tinkers is his first book; it was awarded the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In his interviews and book readings, he is plain spoken, but deeply thoughtful, with an engaging openness, generous laugh and sly wit.