Page 7. " George Washington Crosby began to hallucinate eight days before he died. "
Astronomical Clock - Prague, 1410
Creative Commons AttributionAstronomical Clock - Prague, 1410 - Credit: Jay8085; Flickr

George's last eight days correspond to the eight days a standard clock will run before it stops and needs to be rewound. Paul Harding's maternal grandfather repaired clocks; and Harding was his apprentice for a short period.  References to clocks and horology are threaded throughout the book: time as a way of creating order in a chaotic world; time as an important element in the world's philosophies, cultures and science

Page 11. " Nearly seventy years before George died, his father Howard Aaron Crosby, drove a wagon for his living. "

 Tinkers, or traveling peddlers, drove their wagons and carts through sparsely settled rural areas, selling various household goods and mending items that were broken. Howard was a tinker.

Page 15. " Poke your finger into the clock; fiddle the escape wheel (every part perfectly named – escape: the end of the machine, the place where the energy leaks out, breaks free, beats time). "
Anchor and Escape Wheel of a Late Nineteenth Century Clock
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeAnchor and Escape Wheel of a Late Nineteenth Century Clock - Credit: Timwether

The escape wheel is a part of the “escapement”, which is  controlled by the periodic swing of the pendulum or balance wheel. It is powered by a coiled spring or suspended weight that rotates a gear train. The escapement allows the gears to advance or "escape" a fixed amount with each swing, to move the timepiece's hands forward at a steady rate. It regulates the clock’s system, so that it doesn’t unwind uncontrollably.

The jeweled pallets and escape wheel teeth are particularly elegant in this video of a Brocot escapement in a French mantel clock.



Page 16. " This was his aura, a cold halo of chemical electricity that encircled him immediately before he was struck by a full seizure. "
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike22°-Halo - Credit: Andrzej Barabasz (Chepry)
 Epilepsy is a disorder that results from the generation of electrical signals inside the brain, causing recurring seizures, with various symptoms including distortion of sound and images, and bright flashes of light.   Some people simply stare blankly for a few seconds during a seizure, while others have full-fledged convulsions. 
Page 16. " Howard had epilepsy "

Some of the oldest accounts of epilepsy are found in ancient writings from Babylonia and India (Ayurvedic medical system), dating as far back as 2000 BC. The ancient Greeks saw epilepsy as a supernatural phenomenon, the “holy sickness”. Hippocrates, a Greek physician who lived around 450 BC, believed the illness had natural causes. Over the next 2000 years, various theories emerged to explain its cause: epileptics were possessed by spirits or devils (a view popular at the time of Christ); it was caused by a build-up of phlegm in the arteries leading to the head; it was an infectious disease. Hippocrates' view of epilepsy as a brain disorder didn’t become widely accepted until the 19th century.

Page 17. " If, when the patient horologist has finished his attempt and the clock, when thumbed at the great wheel, does squeek and gibber rather than hum and whir with brass logic, this process must be reversed and tried again with calm reason until the imps of disorder are banished. "
Clock Gears in a Chinese Skelton Watch
GNU Free Documentation LicenseClock Gears in a Chinese Skelton Watch - Credit: Hustvedt

 This is the first of four excerpts from The Reasonable Horologist - a book by the fictional Rev. Kenner Davenport, 1783 - describing the mechanics, history and metaphysical nature of clocks and time. 

In Harding's interview with Dave Weich of Powells Books, he describes Davenport as an "amalgam of the old critic Hugh Kenner and the old writer Guy Davenport because they did all these funny little books about automatons and strange things like that. It's a little homage to them, and a way to give the writing access to that strain of thinking.” Guy Davenport’s literary friendship with Hugh Kenner resulted in their collaboration on 2 books in the 1960's, with  Kenner as author and illustrations by Davenport. They both perceived the world in unconventional and visionary ways – ways that linked seemingly unrelated ideas and concepts to create greater insight.

Page 22. " He began formally: My name is George Washington Crosby. I was born in West Cove, Maine, in the year 1915. "

One of the inspirations for Tinkers’ setting is northern Maine, where Harding’s maternal grandfather grew up and lived. Harding’s fictional West Cove, Maine is modeled on towns in the Maine Highlands and Moosehead Lake region: Greenville, Garland, and Dexter.  

The North Woods region of Maine – its remote beauty with lakes and forests, and its harsh climate – bred a down-to-earth individualism in those who lived there, particularly in the early days.

Moosehead Lake, Currier & Ives,1872-1874
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumMoosehead Lake, Currier & Ives,1872-1874 - Credit: University of Southern Maine, Osher Map Library-Hamilton Collection