Timbuktu

ISBN: 0312263996
ISBN 13: 9780312263997
By: Paul Auster

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About this book

Mr. Bones, the canine hero of Paul Auster's astonishing new book, is the sidekick and confidant of Willy G. Christmas, a brilliant and troubled homeless man from Brooklyn. As Willy's body slowly expires, he sets off with Mr. Bones for Baltimore in search of his high school English teacher and a new home for his companion. Mr. Bones is our witness during their journey, and out of his thoughts, Paul Auster has spun one of the richest, most compelling tales in American fiction.

Reader's Thoughts

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).

Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly

I failed to connect with this book not because it isn't well-written (it is) or it has a boring story (the story is interesting, unique and with a bittersweet ending). Paul Auster wrote this novel from the point of view of a dog (named Mr. Bones) and if you are a dog-lover, reading this can make you cry at some points.The problem (with me), however, is that I also love dogs. I love to eat them. My parents were both hunters (when I was young). With his gun, my father would come home with exotic catch like birds, bats, monitor lizards, etc. which my mother would turn into delicious dishes (even small birds, for instance, she'll chop into little pieces--bones and all--and turn into her version of ). While mother was a stay-at-home mom, she also knew how to "hunt." She would trap stray dogs at the ground floor of the house where we lived and butcher them. Then we'll have a feast of dog meat (my favorite) and (for the skin). I watch her and her helpers expertly tie up the dog, smash its skull, burn it whole in a skewer to remove its hair and body ticks, then open it up with sharp knives.This was when we transferred to the province many years ago. When we were still living in the city, however, we had a pet dog. My parents didn't know what to do with it after they've decided to live in the province as bus operators (then and now) wouldn't agree to take animals aboard their vehicles (we didn't have a car then). What my parents did, therefore, was to butcher our pet, turn it into a big of which we took with us on our trip towards our new home.I'm sure that dog is now in Timbuktu (the dog heaven).

Will Byrnes

** spoiler alert ** Mr. Bones is living a dog’s life. He is almost a peer to his master Willy G. Christmas. Willy is a kind-hearted, but damaged man, a child of holocaust survivors. Given to delusions, and writing poetry, he is homeless and in failing health. The road trip here is a walking journey to Baltimore, home to Bea Swanson, beloved high school teacher. He wants to offer to her his mass of unpublished writings, and to find Mr. Bones a home before his swan song. According to Willy, on the other side of death lies Timbuktu, a place where everything is wonderful. The story is told in the third person omniscient, but really we are seeing the world through the eyes of Mr. Bones. Bones is not your typical dog. Although he lives in a world of scent and likes his bit of tail, he is a thoughtful critter. He is doggedly loyal to Willy, staying with him to the end. Auster takes things a bit beyond, as he likes to do. Bones not only thinks like a person, he dreams like one. Maybe his dreams are more like detailed premonitions. In one he transforms into an insect, then flies along with an ambulance to the hospital where Willy ultimately passes.Willy does pass on, so Bones has to make his way in the world alone. He tries hunting with minimal success, finds a meal ticket via a lonely Chinese boy named Henry Chow. The boy is afflicted with a father who hates dogs, and, most unsettling to Bones, he lives above a Chinese restaurant. He heads for the hills after dad finds out, and finds his way into a nice suburban home. The mom, Polly, and her young daughter, Alice, love him, as does the little boy, Tiger. But the home is not entirely happy and dad, Dick, is not thrilled about having a hairy animal around his pristine home. Even though his life has moved on, Bones is still visited in his dreams by the love of his life, Willy, and by the story’s end, he is facing his own demise. Can dogs be admitted to Timbuktu as well as people?This may sound like a grim tale. It is not. It is a character portrait, of a dog and his man. A love story, with commentary on poetry, dreams, artistic ambitions, identity, what is important in life, with some observations about life in general and people in particular. I remain perplexed by the odd item or two, but this was an engaging, enjoyable read. Good book, good book, good.

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.

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.”

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.

Lisa Guidarini

I don't read a lot of books about animals. I love animals and I love books, just not mixed.But what I do love is author Paul Auster. When I saw he'd written a book about a man and his dog that was it. Sold!I'm stealing Amazon's review/the PR blurb, because it says it all so well (and I'm feeling lazy):"Meet Mr. Bones, the canine hero of Paul Auster's remarkable new novel, Timbuktu. Mr. Bones is the sidekick and confidant of Willy G. Christmas, the brilliant, troubled, and altogether original poet-saint from Brooklyn. Like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza before them, they sally forth on a last great adventure, heading for Baltimore, Maryland in search of Willy's high school teacher, Bea Swanson. Years have passed since Willy last saw his beloved mentor, who knew him in his previous incarnation as William Gurevitch, the son of Polish war refugees. But is Mrs. Swanson still alive? And if she isn't, what will prevent Willy from vanishing into that other world known as Timbuktu?Mr. Bones is our witness. Although he walks on four legs and cannot speak, he can think, and out of his thoughts Auster has spun one of the richest, most compelling tales in recent American fiction. By turns comic, poignant, and tragic, Timbuktu is above all a love story. Written with a scintillating verbal energy, it takes us into the heart of a singularly pure and passionate character, an unforgettable dog who has much to teach us about our own humanity."If you love animals - dogs, especially - as much as I do you may get all weepy - as I did. I loved it.

matt

I really enjoyed this. Not a peekaboo pomo mind fucker, not an overblown lament. A sincerely good story told from the view of a dog and his wonderfully crackpot owner. I got into it.

Louise

** spoiler alert ** I thought I'd give Auster a try, he's another name that crops up a lot, all favourable.I went for a small book, and from the reviews I'm lead to believe this isn't his usual type of thing...I enjoyed it, would prob rate it three and a half stars....it was a nice book...Tools from the point of view of Mr.bones the dog, who lives on the streets with Willy, who is dying, and then with a few other people.Whilst the p.o.v of animal is not original, it was done well, lots of references to smell rather than sight, which made it seem more authentic.I might give one of his bigger books a go now.

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.

Eman

در مقایسه با کتاب های دیگر آستر مثل سه گانه ی نیویورک، کشور آخرین ها و هیولا این کتاب به یک شوخی تینیجری شبیه بود. نمیدانم جایی خواندم یا از کسی شنیدم که آستر این داستان را برای دختر(یا پسر) خودش وقتی که سگ خانواده آستر(اسپارکی) در حال مرگ بوده نوشته و با توجه به اینکه در سه گانه هم قبلا از آستر این رفتار دیده شده بعید بنظر نمی رسد که حقیقت داشته باشد. در آنجا هم نویسنده، خودش و خانواده اش (البته به همراه سگ خانواده) را به نحوی وارد داستان می کند که برخواسته از دید پست مدرن آستر است. .تیمبوکتو اگر نام آستر را نداشت کمتر خوانده می شد و مسلما از کارهای خوب او نیستنکته این جاست که چرا این کتاب بعد از چاپ دوم( نشر افق) از پیشخوان کتابفروشی ها جمع شد و تجدید چاپ آن توسط وزارت ارشاد متوقف شد؟!!! ما که نفهمیدیم

Lily So-too

I once read this novel by Paul Auster, perhaps 5 years ago.It was highly recommended by a great poet friend which to me has become part of the story because the recommendation felt like it was an inculcation to a mystical spell without which I would wander restlessly through eternity like I never wore my own skin. Reading Timbuktu did turn out to be exactly that necessary and urgent and I am grateful to Richard for forcing its presence into my consciousness.I loved it(as far as I can love a novel). It opens a doorway into the life of an equally compassionate and disenfranchised man named Willy G. Christmas who happens to be homeless. The story is told through the eyes of someone who is completely in love with him and cannot see nor understand every aspect of his disconnect with reality and humanity. This creature, also a misfit in human society is the only narrator who could do justice to the as yet unrevealed(unreveled) humanity in Willy G., because of the ardency with which he loves his friend.To my mind, this is a novel about a love so giant that even the most difficult circumstances can't kill the love. Yes, when the troubling times come, Willy G. Christmas' best friend actually does doubt in him, does doubt in his sanity and his goodness, does wonder why he loves Willy so much. Why is it so important to recognize this epic struggle with love over a homeless man who almost no-one in this(type of) culture would value?I believe that this book is fundamentally asking the questions of why we value some people and some animals more highly than others. I believe that this book is a devastating exploration of hierarchical valuation, told in the form of a pleasant and oft hilarious parable about a man and his dog. That the story is told through the loving eyes of a dog(be this accurate or not about what dogs really see in entirety)is necessary. Even Willy G. Christmas' mother does not love him but of course, his dog does.I've probably made the book sound far more depressing and far less exciting and interesting than it is. It so happens that the adventures of these misfits are gut-belchingly tragicomic, causing me to remember the experience of the book as one which caused me to laugh until I cried, mainly. It also caused me to further travel into my experience of who matters to me and why, it caused me to consider questions of image, beauty, sanity, intelligence, communication skills and unpasteurized imagination as a landscape of places in which i might or might not value the life of another who lives beside me(or underneath or above me) on this planet while I live. Although I already had the proclivity to have these questions when I began the book, I found the experience of feeling the questions while reading Timbuktu, deeply satiating.As a reader, I've not often found a writer who asks me from where my love for people arises nor where it goes, in the form of a story about a person(and a dog)who most people would ignore the existence of out of fear that we too would become unloved and unwanted. The questions of dispossession which Auster wrestles with in this work are lovely, as would be stars, buried in a sky of dirt. What has grown in me from this seeding is a greater capacity to recognize and value life on earth in all of its myriad forms.I also want to make a note here about the fluid, ridiculous chain of events which could only make sense if you had been there for each one, as a style of communicating these life questions about who is worthy of love or attention. In this manner anyone who enters the vortex of the book with an understanding that life will continue to shift unpredictably, based on a necessary revision of "what we know" has the capacity to personalize this difficult set of experiences and therefore have compassion for them. Auster normalizes the non-normal experiences of his characters, displaying his own broad sweep of human compassion, through setting a contextual tone which is endemic to the every day rhythms of living.

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.

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.

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