Cover image for Timbuktu : a novel
Title:
Timbuktu : a novel
Author:
Auster, Paul, 1947-
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Henry Holt, 1999.
Physical Description:
181 pages ; 22 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780805054071
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

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

The always surprising and astute Auster (New York Trilogy; Mr. Vertigo) wrings one of his most poignant, immediate novels from the mind of an intelligent mutt named Mr. Bones who faces the crisis of a lifetime in the death of his deranged master and best friend. Mr. Bones does not talk, but he understands even the ravings of Willy G. Christmas, a "genuine, dyed-in-the-wool logomaniac" who has dedicated his life to serving as the earthly manifestation of Santa Claus through sporadic acts of kindnessÄwhen he's not drinking, wandering or writing poems. Willy initially adopts Mr. Bones as a measure of protection from life in the streets. But the two form a much deeper bond as constant companions through travels all over the country and winters in Brooklyn. As the novel opens, Willy is coughing up blood, realizing that his days are numbered; he and Mr. Bones have embarked on a mission to Baltimore to deliver a suitcase full of Willy's writings to an old teacher. After death comes for Willy, he continues to appear in Mr. Bones's dreams from the afterlife the dog knows as "Timbuktu." Mr. Bones's new existence is frightening and strange as he finds himself involved with children and members of mainstream society more subtly and deeply disturbed than his dear old friend. In this brilliant novel, Auster writes with economy, precision and the quirky pathos of noir, addressing the pernicious ubiquity of American consumerism, the nature of love and the core riddles of ontology. Above all, though, this is the affecting tale of a special dog's place in the universe of humans and in the fleeting life of a special man. Agent, Carol Mann. 60,000 first printing; author tour. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Meet 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. There is something plain yet mysteriously intricate beneath Auster's trademark smooth writing. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/99.]ÄMirela Roncevic, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.