First Person

Second coming

Topsfield-based drummer-turned-novelist Paul Harding, who shocked the literary world when his debut, “Tinkers,” won the Pulitzer, returns with his sophomore novel, “Enon.”

Paul Harding.
Ekko von Schwichow
Paul Harding.

It’s become exaggerated over the years, this story about how [Tinkers] was rejected by every publisher in the universe. The reality is that I met with a copious but common amount of rejection. I received some rejection letters that said nobody wants to read quiet, metaphysical novels. One of them actually said nobody wants to read a novel written from more than one point of view. I wrote a metaphysical, contemplative, more-than-one-point-of-view novel.

Had the Pulitzer not happened, its worldly career would have still exceeded my wildest expectations. The day it came out, it was briefly noted in The New Yorker. I think pretty much every American newspaper reviewed it more or less favorably. Then, in the middle of April [2010], we won the Pulitzer. That was like the world turning inside out, like those cartoons where your eyes jump out of your head and your brain comes flying out.

I started Enon in March 2009, a few months after Tinkers came out. I got this articulated silhouette of an exaggerated hill studded with headstones. At the top of the hill was a guy sort of creeping along. I just knew that was Charlie Crosby [grandson of the protagonist of Tinkers] and at the bottom of that hill his daughter is buried.  


What I’ve realized is that I could not be less interested in autobiography. I could not be less interested in myself, but I could not be more interested in the fact that I am a self. So the Enon cemetery is the cemetery in Wenham, where I grew up. I just try to write things that are beautiful, which is not to say things that are pretty. Basically, what I want to do with my reader is break your heart and blow your mind. As a writer, I want to reproduce the things I most love when I read.   

  — As told to Rachel Deahl

Interview has been edited and condensed.

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READ AND GREET Enon will be released September 10, with a talk that day at Cambridge’s Harvard Coop and other events on the following days in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Go to for details.