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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Cindy

This is a moving and unsettling picture book that isn't for young children. A dog whose homeless master dies seeks a place to call home and to understand what it means to live.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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