I remember reading about this book when it first came out, and feeling very interested (I think it was around the same time as another novel narrated from the point of view of a dog?). Anyway, Mr. Bones is the intelligent, spiritual, philosophical companion of one Willy G. Christmas, a bum with good intentioned. Willy is dying. We get, through Mr. Bones's eyes, the story of Willy's life and death, and the subsequent story of how Mr. Bones must fend for himself. I really loved this book... up until the ending. I mean the very ending, literally the last page and a half. What a disappointment! I still liked it as a whole, though."Patriotism has its role, but in the long run it's a sentiment best kept under wraps. Yes, we Yanks have given the world the zipper and the Zippo, not to speak of zip-a-dee-doo-dah and Zeppo Marx, but we're also responsible for the H bomb and the hula hoop. It all balances out in the end, doesn't it? Just when you think you're top gun, you wind up as bottom dog. And I don't mean you, Mr. Bones. Dog as metaphor, if you catch my drift, dog as emblem of the downtrodden, and you're no trope, my boy, you're as real as they come."I also got a little kick out of the following:...then roused his spirits for a while to talk about his college roommate (the same one who had taken him to the hospital in 1968) -- a guy named Anster, Omster, something like that -- who had gone on to write a number of so-so books and had once promised Willy to find a publisher for his poems...Parksy
Quick read. Interesting look at life through the eyes of a dog.Amazon.comIn Timbuktu Paul Auster tackles homelessness in America using a dog as his point-of-view character. Strange as the premise seems, it's been done before, in John Berger's King, and it actually works. Filtering the homeless experience through the relentlessly unsentimental eye of a dog, both writers avoid miring their tales in an excess of melodrama. Whereas Berger's book skips among several characters, Timbuktu remains tightly focused on just two: Mr. Bones, "a mutt of no particular worth or distinction," and his master, Willy G. Christmas, a middle-aged schizophrenic who has been on the streets since the death of his mother four years before. The novel begins with Willy and Mr. Bones in Baltimore searching for a former high school English teacher who had encouraged the teenage Willy's writerly aspirations. Now Willy is dying and anxious to find a home for both his dog and the multitude of manuscripts he has stashed in a Greyhound bus terminal. "Willy had written the last sentence he would ever write, and there were no more than a few ticks left in the clock. The words in the locker were all he had to show for himself. If the words vanished, it would be as if he had never lived."Paul Auster is a cerebral writer, preferring to get to his reader's gut through the brain. When Willy dies, he goes out on a sea of words; as for Mr. Bones, this is a dog who can think about metaphysical issues such as the afterlife--referred to by Willy as "Timbuktu":What if no pets were allowed? It didn't seem possible, and yet Mr. Bones had lived long enough to know that anything was possible, that impossible things happened all the time. Perhaps this was one of them, and in that perhaps hung a thousand dreads and agonies, an unthinkable horror that gripped him every time he thought about it.Once Willy dies and Mr. Bones is on his own, things go from bad to worse as the now masterless dog faces a series of betrayals, rejections, and disappointments. By stepping inside a dog's skin, Auster is able to comment on human cruelties and infrequent kindnesses from a unique world view. But reader be warned: the world in Timbuktu is a bleak one, and even the occasional moments of grace are short lived. --Alix Wilber -From Library JournalMeet discerning and sympathetic Mr. Bones, a dog who is unconditionally faithful to his troubled master, Willy G. Christmas. Auster's leading human character is once again a tormented writer from Brooklyn who blindly believes in his ideals and willingly chooses to become a vagabond (see, for instance, Leviathan, LJ 7/92). But the real hero is the four-legged creature who follows him on his impromptu journeys and leads readers through the story. Yes, he thinks and he understands, and although he cannot speak, he keenly observes and contemplates the questionable logic of human behavior. The beginning of the story is promising; the middle gets suspiciously trivial but is rescued by a clever and moving ending. This is not the kind of work Auster has been praised for, but it proves his hunger for innovation once again. Timbuktu will undoubtedly provoke mixed responses, but that is the price of originality.Paula
Using third-person omniscient narrative voice but through a point of view of a dog Auster gives us an account of a personal tragedy of a dying vagabond schizophrenic poet Willy G. Christmas and his only friend and confidant Mr Bones, his old faithful.The novella opens with Willy's imminent death and a struggle to find his old schoolteacher to entrust her with his writing and to ask her to find Bones a new home.None of his efforts, however, yields success; Willy passes on leaving Bones on his own.In this both funny and heartbreaking story we see Bones wandering about streets, change homes, adopting new owners.Auster's honest and authentic doggy's voice offers a sharp depiction of society, its cruelty and hypocrisy.It is a masterfully written fable that reads like a social drama where dog is really the underdog, a happy family a utopia, and true friends a rare commodity. Will Bones trade his freedom for a comfort of a home or join Willy in Timbuktu “Where the map of this world ends, that's where the map of Timbuktu begins”?I enclose a passage from the book that tickled my linguistic appetite: “Mr. Bones understood. He always understood what Willy said to him. This had been the case for as long as he could remember, and by now his grasp of Ingloosh was as good as any other immigrant who had spent seven years on American soil. It was his second language, of course, and quite different from the one his mother had taught him, but even though his pronunciation left something to be desired, he had thoroughly mastered the ins and outs of its syntax and, grammar.”Scott
A dog's eye view of this world and a few decent folks in it. Auster steps down from on high and gives us a nice little novella.Stephanie "Jedigal"
This didn't entirely work for me. It's told from the point of view of the dog, Mr. Bones, in third person. Mr. Bones' crazy original owner, Willy, spends the end of his life as somewhat of a hobo (yep, a hobo in modern America, sure we still have them), and dies apparently of a respiratory condition far from their 'home'. At least the first half of the book focuses mostly on Willy's eccentricities, and although we are seeing them from the dog's POV, it just seems that the book is "about" Willy all through that section. Then Willy dies, and we see what becomes of Mr. Bones. From this point on the story is more enjoyable for me. The ending, although sad, works well. And I agree that although Auster's dog is completely different from the more familiar Jack London style canine - it does reflect at least part of my experience of what a dog's consciousness and priorities might be like - the heart of a dog. I'm not sure Auster's purpose in the long beginning - I fear that he wanted to use Willy's character to make some points about our society through Willy - but it just seemed too much. And it didn't allow us to REALLY get to know Mr. Bones much, so I was JUST beginning to become attached to Mr. Bones as a character as the book is coming to a close. Still, this is a SHORT book, and I don't regret the time spent with it, just think it could have been better.Matthew Fitzgerald
Paul Auster, “Timbuktu”I opened this slim Auster novel with memories of vague disappointment with his New York Trilogy, which I seemed to enjoy less with each “installment.” I liked the first book well enough, but they seemed to become progressivity less coherent, more experiments with style, like reading a cubist novel whose goal is to be richly cubist, story be damned. I wasn’t interested in more of that, so I was pleasantly surprised that within the first few pages, the simple, unpretentious prose of Auster drew me in, as did the unique perspective of Mr. Bones. At once joyfully innocent and lucid, and at other times brimming with all-to-human self-consciousness, Mr. Bones is our window into the pretty mundane and ordinary world made extraordinary because of his unique perspective, unencumbered by the doubt and over-analysis and fear and knowledge that comes with being human. Mr. Bones is nakedly emotional: his love for his master Willy, his searching for a new home, his genuine hope, and the compromises with the world and his own memories he has to make along the way. The book overall is an enjoyable melancholic read that reverberates with the loss of Willy, but unfortunately, Willy is the most interesting character in the book. Through Mr. Bones’s memories, we learn a lotf of crazy, interesting things about Willy. But once he’s gone – and that happens early in the book, so I don’t feel that I’m giving anything away – there are no new characters to connect with. Even the family Mr. Bones finally finds himself with are heavily characterized, strongly if briefly given some interiority, but within pages the characters disappear, that building goes nowhere, and the book ends. Perhaps these narrows rays of light cast on stifled suburban desperation are what Auster wants us to see, fleeting glimpses of minor tragedies, so we can appreciate an eccentric and free outsider like Willy, who for all his problems is clearly a good person who lived with hope, both in his own abilities and the world? Or perhaps the author just ran out of steam and lazily wrapped up the book without attending to such minor details as character or satisfying conclusions? Or maybe it’s both, and you get what you put into this slim, enjoyable, yet authentically slippery and opaque novel. That’s just Auster.Jim
On the surface this an episode—well, maybe three episodes—of The Littlest Hobo or something of that ilk only it’s been written by Paul Auster so it has to have a twist. And the twist comes mostly through the dreams Mister Bones—great name for a dog—has (or, in one case, a dream within a dream or it might’ve been a vision within a dream … may have to read that bit again). The dog understands English fairly well—apparently all dogs do and if only their jaws were wired differently we’d be living in a very different world—but being unable to ask questions sometimes his ideas are a bit off the mark. It doesn’t help that his owner has had an epiphany/breakdown, renounced his Jewish roots, changed his name from William Gurevitch to Willy G. Christmas and become—for most of the year at least (he winters with his long-suffering mother) a vagabond determined to do good wherever and whenever he can. Mister Bones is devoted to him. Several years on, which is where the book takes up the story, Willy is not a well man. In fact Mister Bones fully expects this to be his last day on earth. But he has one last job to get done, if only he can muster the strength: find his old schoolteacher Mrs. Swanson and hand over his dog to her. As the day goes on the chances of him doing that get ever remoter and Mister Bones reconciles himself to having to go it alone. Which is what happens. And he ends up attaching himself to two other people before we get to the end of the book, hence the feeling it’s like The Littlest Hobo.What sets the book apart, of course, is the writing, especially in the first section. We’re used to getting inside the heads of animals—e.g. Look Who’s Talking Now—so there’s nothing new there and Auster does a good job with the character of Mister Bones but the real delight is Willy especially when he goes off on a rant that lasts several pages and all I could think as I was reading it was that it must’ve been so much fun to write and if the book is ever filmed whoever gets to play Willy will have a ball with that monologue; it was practically worth the price of admission alone. A small extract:That’s American know-how for you. It keeps coming at you, and every minute there’s new junk to push out the old junk. You’d think we would have caught on by now, wised up to the tricks they pull on us, but people can’t get enough of it. They cheer, they wave flags, they hire marching bands. Yes, yes, wondrous things, miraculous things, machines to stagger the imagination, but let us not forget, no, let us not forget that we are not alone in this world. Know-how knows no borders, and when you think of the bounty that pours in from across the seas, it knocks you down a peg or two and puts you in your place. I don’t just mean obvious things like turkeys from Turkey or chili from Chile. I also mean pants from France. I mean pain from Spain and pity from Italy and checks from Czechoslovakia and fleece from Greece. Patriotism has its role, but in the long run it’s a sentiment best kept under wraps. Yes, we Yanks have given the world the zipper and the Zippo, not to speak of zip-a-dee doo-dah and Zeppo Marx, but we’re also responsible for the H-bomb and the hula hoop. It all balances out in the end, doesn’t it? Just when you think you’re top gun, you wind up as bottom dog. And I don’t mean you, Mr. Bones. Dog as metaphor, if you catch my drift, dog as emblem of the downtrodden, and you’re no trope, my boy, you’re as real as they come. It has apparently been adapted for the stage.The book’s title comes from Willy’s concept of heaven:“Where the map of this world ends, that’s where the map of Timbuktu begins.” In order to get there, you apparently had to walk across an immense kingdom of sand and heat, a realm of eternal nothingness. It struck Mr. Bones as a most difficult and unpleasant journey, but Willy assured him that it wasn’t, that it took no more than a blink of an eye to cover the whole distance. And once you were there, he said, once you had crossed the boundaries of that refuge, you no longer had to worry about eating food or sleeping at night or emptying your bladder. You were at one with the universe, a speck of antimatter lodged in the brain of God. Mr. Bones had trouble imagining what life would be like in such a place, but Willy talked about it with such longing, with such pangs of tenderness reverberating in his voice, that the dog eventually gave up his qualms. Tim-buk-tu. By now, even the sound of the word was enough to make him happy. The big question though is: Do dogs go to … well, Timbuktu?Once Willy and the dog part company the tone of the book changes and no one he meets is really able to fill Willy’s shoes. Thankfully for him—and for the reader too since Willy is by far the most interesting character in the book—his master appears to him in several dreams, dreams in which Mr Bones can talk and ask some of the all-important questions he couldn’t ask in the real world.You could read this book to your kids and they’d enjoy it but they’d also miss so much. It’s not a children’s book but it does feel like one quite a lot of the time—I guess that’s inevitable when you write from a dog’s perspective—but there’s a lot more happening here. All the ontological stuff will go whoosh! over the heads of the kids and also the sly commentary on the divisive nature of the USA. The good thing is that this is a book you could read as a twelve-year-old and enjoy and then pick up in your thirties and enjoy all over again. It’s Auster-lite and it’s nice to see he has a light side.Simon Cleveland
Are you in the mood for something sentimental? How about a book on the sadness of a dog's existence? Paul Auster has taken a simple idea to a whole other level of reality and in the process has created a work that would transform human perception of the average canine awareness. Yet, I have to say the story was a bit much for me to swallow. Don't get me wrong, I love dogs (heck, I wrote `The Basenji Revelation' after all) and sometimes I wonder what they feel, think and dream. I had a dog and know for certain that it understood me (I hope not to the degree of Timbuktu's main character). But then the dog died and now I change the radio channel when I hear a sentimental melody which brings forth the memories of us walking together down the street (I still can't get over the fact that my dog suffered the heart condition that eventually killed it). Yes, I change the channel and quickly drain the pan of overflowing nostalgia, which is what I should have done long before reaching the final pages of Timbuktu (Well, what can I say, I love Mr. Auster's writing style). The story is written from the perspective of a dog by the name of Mr. Bones and follows up with its experiences as it looses one master, finds another, then a third, before it finally succumbs to the desire to escape the pain of its miserable, sickly existence in exchange for the chance to go Human Heaven called Timbuktu (Oh, the beauty of fiction). If you love dogs and have recently lost one, this book will warm up your heart and then perhaps help you with your grief (although I'm still angry at Fate for the loss of my little pooch).Sarah
This was a relatively short book and a quick read. Timbuktu is told from the viewpoint of Mr. Bones, who is a dog. He is a dog who hangs out with (as an equal) with his schizophrenic vagabond caretaker, Willy. This doesn't sound like it will turn out good, and I read on with a feeling of dread of what would happen, since I am a dog lover and really cannot stand when harm comes to animals. A friend of mine recommended this to me though, and she is also an animal lover, I trusted her not to steer me wrong.All in all, this book gives a touching portrait of the love between a human and a dog. Mr. Bones can understand English, and he also understands ways in which humans work: their lonliness, their ambitions, their dreams. It is told in the manner of an adventure story because Mr. Bones encounters a number of characters along the way and is treated differently by each of them. It was enlightening to read a book told from an animal's viewpoint because Mr. Bones relates his frustrations at not being able to communicate his feelings and physical ailments to those who would be able to help him. This is one intelligent dog, and it makes me wonder how true this dog's viewpoint is to those who reside all around us. Mr. Bones truly is an unforgettable character.Sadie
“Timbuktu” is the story of Willy G. Christmas and his dog, Mr. Bones. The tale is told from the dog’s perspective. He describes the life of Willy Christmas as they roam the streets of Baltimore searching for the home of Willy’s high school English teacher. Willy hopes to give Mr. Bones to his teacher, as he is dying and does not want to leave Mr. Bones to the streets. Willy is a mentally and emotionally troubled soul who has a history of mental illness and drug abuse. Mr. Bones is his only friend. As the tale unfolds, we explore the nature of the relationship of man and man’s best friend. Mr. Bones is forced to decide whether to follow his nature and remain loyal to Willy after his death or accept a new companion in order to survive. The story is, at its heart, an exploration in adaptation and growth.I found this book to be predictable and flat. The character names were trite and a constant reminder of the author’s lack of creativity. Although Auster uses a lot of sophisticated language to create depth in the narrative, he fails to develop depth of character and plot. This book is not appropriate for a younger reader because of the use of fowl language and drug references. I could only recommend it for a more mature reader who is looking for something accessible and not too thought provoking.Michelle
Loved this book. As a "special" dog-lover myself, this book attributes all of the thoughts, feelings, heart and hope that I like to think dogs possess as well. Mr bones is a great character. Take away the fact that he is a dog, and you've probably never reads about somone who is so "good" and loyal.Will now be a favoriote of mine to recommend to any dog-person.Rob Charpentier
Is it fair to sum up an author based on the merits of having read only two of his books? Whatever you personally may feel is fair, I feel as if I've tried my best to understand the hype and adulation surrounding this author but what I've read of him so far just doesn't impress me much. However, I will admit the fault is most likely mine in that I tend to be more of an opportunist when buying books, whatever is on sale and primarily secondhand. In this way, I've managed to choose only this authors remaindered and less popular works. I've yet to come across a copy of his apparent masterpiece "The New York Trilogy." I still have hope that I might run into it one day and keep an eye out for it when combing through bookstores. Until that day happens, I can't say much more about this author.Murasaki_neko
This book is written with an amazing sense of detail. The style is gritty and very visual. The person who lent it to me loved it, and so did several other people in a book club I belong to.I think this is just not a book for me. It is written from the point of view of a dog, and is full of descriptions of smells and bodily fluids, and I frequently found myself grossed out. I also ended up skipping over pages of rambling monologues from the dog's master, and the book is so short that those ramblings make up a good portion of it. I was relieved when I finished.I can't fault the writing despite my personal feelings about the story, and I would definitely be willing to read other books by the same author.Fausto
** spoiler alert ** Ante todo es una novela original, al mostrarnos los pensamientos de un perro, que además comprende el lenguaje humano. Comparando con la otra novela de Auster que he leído “El palacio de la luna”, ésta me parece mejor que Tombuctú, pero tiene algunos aspectos similares, como son los personajes y las historias excéntricas.Tiene 2 partes muy diferenciadas. En la 1ª cuenta su vida con su primer amo Willy, personaje estrafalario, poeta y vagabundo. Esta parte me parece más floja, se mezclan los pensamientos del perro, y las acciones, los delirios y las absurdas ideas de su amo. Lo mejor es el grado de amistad y compenetración que tienen ambos protagonistas. Otro de los aspectos que más me han gustado son los sueños del perro, en el primer sueño nos cuenta como es el final de Willy.En la última parte nos cuenta como es la vida de Mr. Bones en solitario buscando alguien como amo. El perro se da cuenta de otra vida distinta de la que había tenido, conoce el cariño de los niños, la vida familiar, las disputas familiares y las comodidades. Pero también echa de menos a su primer dueño, la libertad de su espíritu y el afán de aventuras de su juventud.Para los que tenemos perro, es una lectura muy curiosa al darnos unos hipotéticos pensamientos sobre las conductas humanas, y como tienen “calados” a los humanos con simplemente olernos. Refleja muy bien la novela la importancia del olfato, haciendo una metáfora fenomenal (esta metáfora la recuerdo de un documental sobre el comportamiento animal), al comparar los olores como si fuera un periódico, donde tiene información de todos los seres, humanos y animales. En definitiva, una buena novela con algunos altibajos, y con fragmentos interesantes.Mi nota: 6.Carrie
I enjoyed this short novel quite a bit. The narrator is Mr. Bones, the canine companion of a homeless man named Willy G. Christmas. I found Mr. Bones to be a much more engaging character than Willy, so the first half of the book, which is heavy on background re: Willy G. Christmas, was a bit slow for me.I'm glad I stuck with it though, because this book is well-written and has a simple poignancy to it. I can't really articulate in shorthand what I enjoyed about the book, but it was a refreshing change of perspective, well-written, and I read it in what amounted to about a day. Definitely worth the few hours of your time it takes to read it.