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.
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.
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.
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.
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.