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

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.

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.

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.

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).

Jose Vera

El libro narra la historia de Mister Bones, un perro chusco que entiende el idioma inglés a la perfección; aunque no puede hablarlo y hay conceptos puntuales que se le escapan.Mister Bones es el compañero de Willy G. Christmas; un vagabundo con problemas mentales, poeta desconocido y un moribundo que perdió la oportunidad de ser un escritor famoso; o en todo caso medianamente famoso.Auster escribe este libro desde el punto de vista de Mister Bones, como es que este perrito observa el mundo y los cambios que se van dando en su vida. La historia se inicia con las últimas horas de Willy; los sentimientos de Mister Bones al respecto, como encara la muerte de su amo y único amigo desde que es un cachorro casi ciego.Mister Bones luego pasa por dos amos mas, Henry Chow y la familia Jones, cada una con su dosis de aventuras y desventuras, siempre desde el punto de vista de un perro vagabundo.Auster logra atrapar con esta historia fácilmente, la narración fluye sin tropiezos y las descripciones te llevan de la mano de un sótano maloliente donde Willy esta creando su "sinfonía de olores" a un bosque casi paradisíaco donde Mister Bones es una pieza crucial en un juego de tensiones familiares.Sin embargo, lo más saltante de este libro es la propia actitud de Mister Bones; Auster logra plasmar a lo largo de todo el libro lo que ha un perro lo hace el mejor amigo del hombre; el amor incondicional y la empatía por sus amos. A cada encuentro, en cada familia con la que vive; Mister Bones es el retrato perfecto de un perro fiel que sólo desea agradar a sus amos y ser feliz con ellos.Es un libro que merece ser leido y disfrutado de inicio a fin; es la odisea de Mister Bones para llegar a aquel lugar donde va estar con Willy, es el viaje de Mister Bones a Tomboctú.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ...

Sarah

An interesting idea, but carried out in that self indulgent (Vonnegut?) way I don't dig so much. If you like Vonnegut and Kerouac and the stream of consciousness chapter in Ulysses, you might find that aspect of the book worthwhile. The thing that I liked best about the book ended up being the the thing that bugged me about it in the end - the "from the dog's point of view" take, and the question of whether dogs dream and whether or not they understand what we say. It started out fairly promising - the smell symphony was an interesting thought - but ultimately he was not internally consistent about it. Which drives me nuts... Sometimes he paid attention to what really goes on in a dog's brain, and sometimes he was just clearly a middle aged dude looking through a dog's eyes. The other thing that bugged me was that he used the stream of consciousness/point of view of an insane guy to regress into wordplay that was so self referential and circular that it detracted from the story. He was trying to do the "fool" thing, I think, but he did not do it as well as, say, Laurie King did in To Play the Fool.

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.

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