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

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.

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.

Lucrezia

Il primo libro che leggo di Auster , esperienza senza dubbio positiva ... Si potrebbe definire un on the road tutto particolare.... A narrare la storia in questo caso però è un cane. Tale Mr Bones (che bel nome per un cane, devo dire , fa molto chic). Mr Bones non è un cane qualsiasi, è dotato di un ' Intelligenza non comune per la sua specie, e anche di una notevole dose di saggezza e di senso pratico; quello che manca al suo padrone, ma più che padrone compagno di vita, William Gurevitch,logorroico filosofo e moderno scrittore Beat, che si è fatto ribattezzare Willy G.Christmas, a seguito di una bizzarra annunciazione/visione natalizia, ( di cui non voglio svelare nulla) dopo essersi fatto tatuare su un braccio babbo natale. Willy ha una missione , un vocazione , un compito nella vita ,definitelo pure come vi piace, e vale a dire: "E’ tutto quello che ho sognato, Mr. Bones. Migliorare il mondo. Portare un po’ di bellezza negli angoli grigi e monotoni dell’anima. Ci puoi riuscire con un tostapane, ci puoi riuscire con una poesia, o tendendo la mano a uno sconosciuto. Non importa la forma. Ecco, lasciare un mondo un po’ migliore di come l’hai trovato. E’ la cosa più bella che possa fare un uomo." E cosi il giorno di natale in particolar modo , ma tutti i giorni dell' anno effettivamente, Willy si mette le gambe in spalla e accompagnato dal suo fedele compagno cerca di rendere il mondo un posto migliore, sbronzo o in preda ad uno dei suoi attacchi di schizofrenia, inutile dire che troppe volte gli va storta, ma qualche volta gli va anche bene. Sempre senza un soldo in tasca, costretto spessissimo a dormire al addiaccio o a digiunare la maggior parte delle volte, nonostante tutto Willy continua la sua missione... Finché un giorno lui e Mr Bones sono costretti a separarsi, e dopo una mirabolante sogno reincarnazione di Mr Bones , questo riprende le sue peregrinazioni da solo alla ricerca di una nuova vita. Sulla sua strada difficoltà di ogni genere, ma nonostante tutto nei suoi sogno potrà sempre avere l' appoggio del suo compagno di vita, che lo consiglierà, nel suo bizzarro modo, sulle scelte migliori da fare:"Willy annui.- adesso vado,- aggiunse,- ma prima voglio solo ricordarti una cosa che potresti avere dimenticato-. Si era già alzato in piedi e aspettava che le porte si aprissero.- te la ricordi Mami-san, Mr Bones?-Sicuro che la ricordo. Per chi mi hai preso?-Bene... Hanno tentato di uccidere anche lei. Le hanno dato la caccia peggio che a un cane,e per salvarsi non ha avuto altra scelta che fuggire. Anche gli uomini possono essere trattati come cani amico mio, e a volta devono dormire nei fienili e nei prati perché non hanno altri posti dove andare .Prima di compiangerti troppo , ricorda almeno che non sei il primo cane a restare solo."Così, nonostante tutto, Mr Bones continuerà il suo viaggio, finché non deciderà di raggiungere il suo padrone nella terra dei suoi sogni Timbuctù. Un posto magico e favoloso dove finalmente i cani e gli uomini possono a parlarsi da pari a pari e dove Willy e lui non potranno più essere separati ...

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.

Keith

Auster's "Timbuktu" sat on my shelf for years and I'm not really sure why. Once I picked it up I found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable read.The novel chronicles the last months of the life of Mr. Bones, a dog with quite amazing insight into not just other dogs, but into the emotional drives of the various people he encounters. At its heart, "Timbuktu" is a parable about loyalty and true unrequited love - told most poignantly in the stark distinction between Mr. Bone's love for Willy and Polly's lack of a real connection with her husband. Auster's use of that foil technique is quite well done and not at all heavy-handed.Although Auster's written word in "Timbuktu" is sparse and simple, there are many moments of brilliance (even though spoken by a dog!). His chronicling of Mr. Bone's every move is so well-done that any dog-owner, or any canine observer, will nod their head in wonder at how he so poignantly captures the exact motions and mannerisms of the mutt.And you must love a book that ends by both making you want to cheer and to cry.

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.

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.

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.

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.

liz

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...

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.

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

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