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Timbuktu

Narrated by: Joe Barrett
Length: 5 hrs and 42 mins
Categories: Fiction, Literary
4.5 out of 5 stars (3 ratings)

Non-member price: $39.11

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Publisher's Summary

Meet Mr. Bones, the canine hero of Paul Auster's remarkable 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.

As an added bonus, when you purchase our Audible Modern Vanguard production of Paul Auster's book, you'll also get an exclusive Jim Atlas interview that begins when the audiobook ends.

©2000 Paul Auster (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"After reading Timbuktu, we ramble through our world with reawakened senses and newly alert minds. This is the Auster magic." (Paul Kafka, Boston Globe)
"A novel of haunted love whose themes loop around one another like glowing coils, connecting gracefully beneath Auster's clear prose, eliciting the fanciful and the tragic." ( San Francisco Chronicle)
"[ Timbuktu is] held aloft with audacity and brilliant, idiosyncratic language....It's risk-taking and brazen energy suggest a writer on the verge of an even more rewarding leap into the air of his own uncharted territory." ( Chicago Tribune)
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perfect and beautiful

oh to be able to hear the voice of my own beloved dog so clearly

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  • Dubi
  • 10-11-2014

Should I Have Said Gehrig?

There's an old joke about a man taking a dog into a bar claiming his dog can talk. To prove it, he asks, "How is life?" Dog says, "Rough!" "What's over our head?" Dog says, 'Roof!" "Who's the greatest ballplayer ever?" Dog says, "Ruth!" The bartender throws them out. On the sidewalk, the dog turns to the man and says, "Should I have said Gehrig?" The joke works not only because we're surprised to learn the dog can really talk, but also because we know dogs respond to humans in other ways -- we buy into the the joke because it's perfectly reasonable for the dog to bark out answers that sound like "Ruff!" right on cue.

Paul Auster's stock in trade in language. He is (rightly) not concerned with scientific rigor. So his main character, a dog named Mr. Bones, has a fluent understanding of English (almost fluent -- for some bizarre reason, he mangles the word English itself -- and he can't speak, only comprehend English). It's not that I'm unwilling to buy into this metaphor (although I do resent being told to do so within the text -- I can get it on my own). But as a longtime dog owner and lover, I would have found it far more interesting for Mr. Bones's understanding of humans to be based on reality -- empathy, emotion, body language, social hierarchy.

Nevertheless, as a longtime dog owner and lover, I was thoroughly enjoying Auster's short novel through its midpoint, willing to suspend my disbelief over Mr. Bones's language skills. That's because the story, despite being told from the point of view of the dog, was about a man, his owner. It even made sense that he could understand what his owner was saying after lifelong companionship with him. Willy is an interesting character. I wanted to know more about how he came to be a lost soul, and I wanted to hear more of his rants, the high point of the book being the two extended rants Auster allows him to give us.

I was also looking forward with anticipation to Willy locating his mentor, an English teacher, whom he hoped would care for Mr. Bones after his imminent death. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the story takes a wrong turn when Willy dies, leaving Mr. Bones to seek new owners on his own. I fully understand what Auster was doing by having Mr. Bones find owners who are the opposite of Willy. I just found it overly facile, and not nearly as interesting as Willy himself or the prospect of Mr. Bones (and me) meeting the English teacher.

In short, like the talking dog who chose Ruth over Gehrig, Auster chose to pursue the wrong owners to take in Mr. Bones, abandoning Willy and his teacher.

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  • Eleanor Corner
  • 18-12-2014

Dismal and depressing

What could Paul Auster have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

The character of the dog lacked authenticity. It would have been better had the author not imposed so many human attributes onto Mr Bones, e.g., dream content, conversations, capacity to predict outcomes of human relationships.

What about Joe Barrett’s performance did you like?

His narration was the only reason I gave the book three stars as he was believable, varied his pace appropriately, and matched the characters.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Pamela Dale Foster
  • 28-11-2014

Man and Dog, Heart and Soul

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Timbuktu. The book told the story of Willy and Mr. Bones which was happy and sad. Willy went to an animal shelter and chose a dog who he trusted to grow up and become his protection. Mr. Bones was just a puppy when chosen by Willy and he grew to become much more to Willy then just his protector.

Willy would go home to Brooklyn at times, to visit his mother but never stayed too long. The winter was a special time to go home because of the cold. Otherwise, he lived mostly on the streets of Brooklyn. There was a time he had to go to Baltimore, Maryland but he would need to get back to his home after he accomplished one task.

Willy wasn't feeling too well and the other homeless people started to beat him up, take his belongings and his money. That was when he thought about getting Mr. Bones. I love the name that Willy chose for his dog. Mr. Bones tells the story, Timbuktu. That's because Willy would never stop talking and Mr. Bones knew everything about him.

He told Mr. Bones about an English teacher who believed in him so very much. Her name was, Bea Meadows. She encouraged Willy to express himself through his writing. Willy had never had anyone who took an interest in him like Bea Meadows did.

Willy earned a full scholarship to attend a college in California. His major was writing and poetry. Poetry was always his favorite.Unfortunately, in Willy's junior year, his thoughts and actions pointed to a mental breakdown. His mom was called.

Willie went back home and his mom did get Willy help. He had schizophrenia which became evident when he talked to people who were not there, he would have delusions, hear voices and start getting angry and upset for no reason at all. Willy would take his medications sometimes and other times not.

Willy's mom and dad escaped from Poland during WW11. They were so happy when Willy was born. They had great hopes for Willy. When Willy's dad passed away, his mom never lost hope for her Willy, never. She just could never figure out if Willy was better when on his medication or off.

Sometimes, when Willy would begin to have a breakthrough of his schizophrenic behavior, Mr. Bones would patiently wait until he would finally slump against the building and he would cuddle up very close to Willy and put his head on his leg so that Willy would begin to stroke him and this would help to calm Willy. Mr. Bones loved to be stroked by Willy too. They loved each other so much, that Mr. Bones never left Willy's side and Willy would always watch out for Mr. Bones. He was Willy's best friend, like a marriage, when a couple would declare, until death do us part.

The book Timbuktu, has left an imprint on my heart. I do enjoy reading about how animals can and do change someone's life. What would have happened to Mr. Bones if Willy had not went to the shelter that housed many other dogs too? The day Willy took Mr. Bones to his forever home, would have been Mr. Bones last day at the shelter. The narrator did a great job. The book was an easy listen and a short book. I was able to listen to it in one sitting. I would encourage other's to read Timbuktu. Timbuktu is actually a special place for Willy and Mr. Bones. There were many facets of life that evolved with the reading of, Timbuktu. The plot remained consistent throughout the book. However, be sure that this is your type of story you would be interested in before purchasing.


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  • Kazuhiko
  • 11-11-2014

You don't need to be a dog-lover to enjoy this one

Or, maybe it is easier for a non-dog-lover, like me (I own cats), to enjoy this book. The unrealistic premise that this dog fully understands the human language did not bother me once I got pulled into the story. The silly, tragic, depressing, wonderful, sad, and at times hopeful aspects of the complicated animal called human are depicted so naturally in this book. I am sorry that I did not know anything about this author till I listened to this book. So, I put a couple of his books on my wish list. The narrator was perfect for this too.

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  • BookReader
  • 13-11-2014

Mr. Bones

Any additional comments?

Timbuktu is just under six hours of listening, read by Joe Barrett. The story is written from the point of view of a dog, Mr. Bones. The dog is not a lovely Labrador Retriever, as pictured on the cover. Mr. Bones is a Heinz variety, of unknown heritage. That said, the story of a dog’s loyalty is a fun read (listen). The dog’s owner, Willie Christmas, of somewhat questionable character, is dying. The two converse … well, Mr. Bones ’thinks’, Willie talks. But, Mr. Bones understands pretty much everything said and has his own doggie interpretations. The tale progresses through Mr. Bones’ thoughts as he and Willie journey to Boston and someone Willie hopes will take care of Mr. Bones when the grim reaper calls. Any dog lover will get a bang out of this unique perspective. Got this audiobook via one of Audible.com’s Daily Deals. Enjoyed.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 13-03-2015

Sad ending

I love these types of books with the dog as first person. This one had a sad ending and wasn't resolved.

2 people found this helpful

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  • BENJAMIN
  • 18-04-2020

Compassionate, clever, thought provoking

I loved it. I listened to the entire book today. I wish that it was longer.

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  • TiffanyD
  • 20-09-2019

Maybe other Paul Auster novels have more to them?

Paul Auster is one of those "great American (male) novelists" I hear well-read people talk about but whom I've never read. I thought I'd start with this short novel narrated by a dog. There were parts of it I liked. His relationship with the woman who took him in was well crafted. And I was pleased when the dog was neutered and it seemed like we were heading towards a "woe is me" monologue on the importance of male genitalia, and instead got basically, "I barely noticed the difference." But this book didn't have a lot of the "stick" factor for me. Once I was done with it, I barely gave it a second thought. I also struggle with particular narrator, who is not my favorite for reasons that might have less to do with his narration skill and more to do with the fact that I had a hard time with the first thing I heard him read, A Prayer for Owen Meany.

If you want literary fiction about a dog, here you go. If you are already a big Paul Auster fan, obviously read this. For anyone else I'd give a pretty half-hearted recommendation.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-09-2018

Moving story for dog lovers

I was very moved by this wonderful story, so much so I’ve purchased a hard copy for my 12 year old granddaughter. A must read for dog/animal lovers.

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  • SJ Smith
  • 23-05-2017

Disappointing

The author obviously either bored himself to much to bother to end it or he couldn't produce an ending. Either way it was a real disappointment. Don't waist your time with this story.

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  • Fiona
  • 20-01-2012

Beautiful

A great book for dog lovers & non-dog lovers. Not too sentimental but very touching & has humorous moments. I thoroughly enjoyed it

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  • Manda N
  • 30-12-2017

For dog lovers everywhere...

I’m writing this review several years after listening. I still remember the story with absolute fondness, a must for dog lovers everywhere. A delight and wondrous Paul Auster read.