The manuscript for Paul Harding’s first novel, Tinkers, accumulated dozens of rejection letters and sat in a drawer for nearly three years. Eventually Bellevue Literary Press, a tiny, not-for-profit imprint affiliated with a New York mental health institution, paid him a reported $1,000 advance and released the book in 2009. It garnered some word-of-mouth interest but was ignored by key taste-makers like the New York Times, just as it had been ignored by all the big publishers. And then – can you feel the back-of-the-neck prickle of an underdog story coming together? – the book was selected as a surprise finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. It went on to win the award. The last time a novel from a small independent press had won a Pulitzer for fiction was A Confederacy of Dunces in 1981.
Enon, Harding’s second novel, has a lot in common with Tinkers. It shares the same setting, some of the same characters, and a preoccupation with clocks, time, flora, fauna and the machinations of memory and grief. This common ground between the two books has the effect of raising Enon’s stakes.