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"Enon" by Paul Harding

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After his stunning, Pulitzer Prize-winning debut Tinkers, Paul Harding follows up with Enon, and it is a companion-piece to his first novel, in more ways than one. It continues the narrative of the same hard-pressed Crosby family, it contains more of the baroque symbolism from the first book – clockwork imagery figures prominently – and the prose is again so artistic and rewarding, that I simply remain in awe of this author. This is rather more than I’d hoped for after Tinkers.

Enon plumbs the depths of Charlie Crosby’s drug-addled grief and despair in a manner reminiscent of Thomas De Quincey. Charlie has lost his adored thirteen year-old daughter Kate in a traffic accident. Anger and grief rule his life for the next year, and he greases the skids with a frightening slide into drug abuse. This bald exposition does nothing to describe the book, though; along with unfolding Charlie’s story, Mr. Harding engages us in a level of thought, of imaginative speculation, that I don’t see other writers attempting.

For instance, an old, spinsterish woman’s house, and more particularly a unique tall clock within the house, become in Charlie’s fevered imagination, the very heart of Enon, Charlie’s home town, and where he still lives. In a particularly lurid
bout of delusion, Charlie saws a hole in his living room wall so that the addle-pated math functions he has scrawled on the wall can flow into it, as though it is a black hole, and maybe is late daughter can somehow be materialized in the process. The episode of the hole occurs while a hurricane bears down on Enon, and while the macro-winds of destruction blow through the town, Charlie loses consciousness while holding a wand attached to his vacuum cleaner, which runs all night in his hand.

This is the sort of construct to which we’re treated in Enon. The author paces the wildness and terror of Charlie’s deterioration beautifully. We are everywhere challenged to comprehend yet another new image, and try to decide whether it reflects everyday fact, or some chimera of Charlie’s mind. By no means do I intend to warn readers off of this high accomplishment – on the contrary, it’s stunning, well worth your time and effort. It’s as breathtaking in its way as Tinkers, and for me, there’s no higher compliment to be paid.

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