Cover image for Timbuktu : a novel
Timbuktu : a novel
Auster, Paul, 1947-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Henry Holt, 1999.
Physical Description:
181 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Central Library
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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.

Author Notes

Paul Auster was born on February 3, 1947, in Newark, New Jersey. He received a B.A. and a M.A. in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University. In addition to his career as a writer, Auster has been a census taker, tutor, merchant seaman, little-league baseball coach, and a telephone operator. He started his writing career as a translator. He soon gained popularity for the detective novels that make up his New York Trilogy. His other works include The Invention of Solitude; Leviathan; Moon Palace; Facing the Music; In the Country of Last Things; The Music of Chance; Mr. Vertigo; and The Brooklyn Follies. His latest novels are entitled, Invisible and Sunset Park. In addition to his novels, Auster has written screenplays and directed several films. He is the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a French Prix Medicis for Foreign Literature.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Auster is intrigued, profoundly so, with loners, misfits, and vagabonds, especially men who have been seduced and abandoned by the muse of poetry. Variations on this figure abound in his previous novels, and he may have revealed their source in his memoir, Hand to Mouth (1997), when he portrayed H. L. Humes, a promising novelist who, after losing his ability to write, performed marathon improvisational monologues. Auster's new fictional hero, the nomadic would-be writer and saint William Gurevitch, who rechristens himself Willy G. Christmas and vows to do good after an epiphanic moment in front of the television, is, like Humes, a spellbinding ranter. We come to know Willy in all the shabby splendor of his wild volubility, good intentions, and extreme ineptness through the adoring eyes, ears, and nose of his best friend and boon companion, Mr. Bones, surely one of literature's most eloquent dogs. Not only does this impressive canine understand English, he also sees deeply into the human heart, and his chronicle of Willy's last days is full of compassion and love. After his master's demise, Mr. Bones sets out in search of a new home on a journey that can only be described as spiritual. Auster is in fine form. Willy's delirious spiels are ingenious, funny, and poignant, sounding at times like the lyrics of Tom Waits or the jam-packed prose of Stanley Elkin. Mr. Bones, on the other hand, is a paragon of lucidity. He is also patient, loyal, self-sacrificing, and loving, a veritable doggy bodhisattva intent on bringing cheer to as many lonely people as he can before he moves on to the next world, Timbuktu, and rejoins his master. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Abridged from Auster's 1999 novel of the same name, this wrenching but misguided production follows an existentialist dog named Mr. Bones who finds meaning through self-annihilation. Adopted by a suburban family after the death of his homeless master, Willy, Mr. Bones realizes that life as a pet in a rule-bound bourgeois world can never replace the necessary role he played in Willy's life. He decides to rejoin his old owner in Timbuktu--as the afterlife is known to him--by running into traffic. He ran toward the noise, toward the light, toward the glare and the roar that were rushing in on him from all directions. With any luck, he would be with Willy before the day was out. Goschke's moving portraits of the bedraggled Mr. Bones, the complexity of her textures, the subtlety of her lighting and her ability to distill a precise moment from Auster's clotted prose make for a visually striking book. Unfortunately, the picture-book format and trim size will surely turn off those eager to put their lap-sit years behind them, while the abundance of text (in a hard-to-read, stencil-like font) short-circuits any resemblance to a graphic novel. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Another original novel from Auster, whose protagonists are Willy G. Christmas and his dog, Mr. Bones. Together they travel on an important mission to Baltimore to find Willy's old teacher. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.