Tuesday, September 1, 2009

243. Timbuktu – Paul Auster

August 2009
History: This book, or novella, was published in 1999. The title of the book comes from the concept of the afterlife as proposed by Christmas, a self-titled poet, who believed it was a beautiful place called Timbuktu. A major running theme in the book is Mr Bones' worry that dogs will not go to Timbuktu, and he won't see Willy again after death.
The novella also draws on themes of existentialism, finding purpose in one's life, and a meditation on late 20th century America.
Plot: This is the story of Mr. Bones, a smart, sensitive dog who tries to survive on his own after homeless Willy Christman, the man he had been with since he was a pup, dies of illness and despair. Bones knows that if he doesn't find a new caring master within a short amount of time he will most definitely not survive. Dogcatchers, constables, the hyprocitic humane societies, some cruel humans, and Chinese restaurant owners are just examples of the dangers that a lone dog has to face in a big city like Baltimore. After several initially promising episodes with strangers and an exhausting journey that takes him into Northern Virginia Bones eventually finds a family that is good to him. But they go on vacation, leaving him at a kennel, and he becomes sick. So sick, that he escapes, and heads onto the highway, with the desire of being with Willy again.
Review: Auster has always written about sharp reversals of fortune, and the subject of this novel - a mongrel dog named Mr Bones, whose master is nearing death - offers wonderful scope to explore the theme. Auster's triumph is that we never doubt for a moment that the dog can reason like an intelligent child and understand human speech. This broadly comic tale offers glimpses of a profound and humane wisdom glinting beneath its assured surface. This is a story cleverly told to humans from the point of view of someone that knows “what” is happening among all those things that surround him but that he doesn’t know “why”.
Opening Line: “Mr. Bones knew that Willy wasn’t long for this world.”
Closing Line: “With any luck, he would be with Willy before the day was out.”
Quotes: “So, while the dog part of him waited on the corner, the fly rose into the air and flew into the air and flew down the block,, chasing ater the ambulance as swiftly as his wings could carry him.”
Rating: Okay.

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