Book info

The Clock Winder (1996)

The Clock Winder (1996)
Author
Rating
3.75 of 5 Votes: 3
ISBN
0449911799 (ISBN13: 9780449911792)
languge
English
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publisher
ballantine books
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The Clock Winder (1996)
The Clock Winder (1996)

About book: Noting the relationship between my goodreads friends and acquaintances, and Anne Tyler makes me wonder. Is Jane Austen some sort of token? We have to like somebody who writes about domesticity, so...Is that it? Tyler does indeed write about domesticity. Ordinary people living ordinary lives, mostly in their very ordinary houses. She does this fantastically well and I can't really imagine a more important job a writer could have.But maybe it is despised precisely for being the things I think are so important. I am astonished by how many people I think should know better who have never read anything by Tyler. She describes ordinary cares and heart break, ordinary despair and ordinary hope with a light touch that makes you realise that she loves all that she brings to the page. She is all-knowing and all-understanding with a modesty that makes her slip by unnoticed by those that need literature to be brash, experimental, obscure or difficult. I am tempted to define the thing people call literature, whilst scorning that which they see as not falling into the genre, as something that IS putdownable. If that is so, then Tyler most dismally fails to make the grade. What a relief.---------------------I've given up trying to understand why it is that the amount that this author moves me is inversely proportioned to what I have to say about her. I have no idea how to do justice to her way of making ordinary failed people quicken one's heart.Let me quote a little instead.Matthew, whose mother is a dreadful piece of work, asked if Elizabeth finds her hard to put up with. 'No, I like her,' she said. 'Think what a small life she has, but she still dresses up every day and holds her stomach in. Isn't that something?'And there I sat, as I read this, in my quite small life, and resolved to dress better. Though I rather think I draw the line at holding my tummy in.Matthew recalls his brother, Tim, who shot himself as Elizabeth attempted to take away the gun - well, I think it was all his own work.Then a new picture slid in, clicking up from the back of his head: Timothy quarreling with Elizabeth. Only what was it about? Had she broken a date? Refused one? Shown up late for something? All he remembered was the it had happened on the sunporch, over the noise of a TV western. 'If you persist,' Timothy said, 'in seeing life as some kind of gimmicky guided tour where everyone signs up for a surprise destination -' and Elizabeth said, 'What?' Seeing what?' 'Life,' said Timothy, and Elizabeth said, 'Oh, life,' and smiled as fondly and happily as if he had mentioned her favourite acquaintance. Timothy stopped speaking, and his face took on a puzzled look. Wispy lines crossed his forehead. And Matthew, listening from across the room, had thought: It isn't Timothy she loves, then. He hadn't bothered wondering how he reached that conclusion. He sat before the television watching Marshall Dillion, holding his happiness close to his chest and forgetting, for once, all the qualities in Timothy that were hard to take....He forgot them again now, and with them the picture of Timothy triumphantly cocking his pistol and laughing in his family's face. All he saw was that puckered, defeated forehead. He cleared his throat. He felt burdened by new sorrows that he regretted having invited.I am appalled to report that I once had to defend Anne Tyler against the charge that she was like Jane Austen. P-leeassse. It isn't just that Austen is a vastly inferior writer technically, and a less careful observer of life, but Austen is a social critic, a judge. She has an opinion which is the whole point of what she does. Tyler couldn't be more the opposite, I don't think I've ever read anything as moving as Tyler, which never gives you the least teensiest inkling into what the author thinks. She strikes me as God-like in this sense and more so than any writer I've read. Isn't that something?

The blurb of this book quotes several reviews calling the authoress "a magical writer", "funny" etc. Perhaps some of her other books may be all that and more, but I found this book unfinishable, if that's a word. (And if it wasn't, it is now.)True, she evokes dysfunctional families very well, and if stultifying family dynamics are your thing, you'll enjoy it. Having been raised in one myself, they're not mine; I had enough of that thirty years ago. I've waded through more than half of this book without feeling that anything really happens, in spite of several large happenings. Even a shooting ends up being treated as a non-event (and very unbelievably so). The first page is dated 1960, but there is absolutely nothing in the story itself that evokes the years of change and ferment in which I personally grew up. It could have taken place in the forties, or the eighties, or yesterday; placing that date so prominently at the head of the text seemed like yet another pointless gesture on the part of the authoress. The narration clanks and clatters along like an overloaded frieght train, deadening everything, and I was left with the sensation of sitting and waiting...for something, anything. Godot, perhaps? I do not wait patiently at the best of times, and neither the story nor the writing was enough to engage me. By the time Elizabeth runs away home again, I simply didn't care about her or anyone else in this deadly dull tome.If this is "magical writing," it must be very grey magic indeed.
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Reviews
Veronica Zundel
What joy - a hitherto undiscovered (by me anyway) Anne Tyler - and just when I had a book token to spend!This story of a dysfunctional (though rich) family, and the effect on them of being 'taken over' by a new 'handyman' (who is in fact a woman, lives in similar territory to many of her other novels: the way family cultures work and their response to the introduction of a new element. That doesn't make it any less absorbing or memorable. I shall shed a tear on the day when I discover that there aren't going to be any new Tylers any more.
Nadeya
Ancora una volta la Tyler mette in scena la vita bizzarra e nevrotica di una famiglia americana che, in questo romanzo, viene in contatto per puro caso con una ragazza altrettanto bizzarra, annoiata e con un forte senso di disagio per le regole e le convenzioni. I già fragili equilibri interfamiliari vengono meno ma il legame con la nuova arrivata sembra, inspiegabilmente, non potersi dissolvere.La lettura procede spedita, senza mai annoiare, grazie ad una straordinaria qualità di scrittura e al sense of humor che accompagna anche i momenti più malinconici. Ma nella parte terminale del romanzo la tensione narrativa si sgonfia ed il finale è abbastanza deludente nella sua banalità.Anche se non è tra i romanzi più riusciti di questa grande narratrice, resta comunque una lettura piacevolissima.
Molly
The characters are portrayed to be "quirky" but instead come off as second rate soap opera stars. The title of the book adds a non-existant air of mystique that was found to be of little relevance to the story; metaphorically or literally. The "climax" of the story is rushed, lacking any true tone of foreclosure, as though the author herself grew as bored writing the book as this reader did of reading it. The ending of the story lacked coherance; suddenly changing to the perspective of a character hardly mentioned throughout the rest of the book.[return]Although in retrospect, it can be admitted that the swarming of cicadas in the final chapter would make a very dramatic scene in a B-rated horror movie; however, they lacked any place in this story except for very modest symbolism, with horrid timing. If they were meant to represent the inner demons of the Emersons (as I suspect they were) then they would have been much better suited in a chapter that has a more direct connection to the problems the Emerson's faced.
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