William Gurevitch, aka Willy G. Christmas, is on a journey - a journey to Baltimore to find his four-legged companion a new home; a journey to entrust a beloved teacher with his life’s writings; and, a journey to the place he calls Timbuktu.
“That was where people went after they died. Once your soul had been
separated from your body, your body was buried in the ground and
your soul lit out for the next world… It was called Timbuktu and from
everything Mr. Bones could gather, it was located in the middle of
a desert somewhere… an oasis of spirits.”
Mr. Bones, a mutt Willy rescued from a shelter as a puppy, is both the narrator and a main character in Paul Auster’s Timbuktu. Through prose that, oddly enough, seems perfect coming from an intelligent canine, this book treats readers to a compassionate if somewhat unorthodox view of homelessness and its causes, the world’s cruelties and its kindnesses, the comforts and disappointments of suburban life, and the saving grace of love.
When Willy’s travels end, Mr. Bones begins a journey of his own, one for survival. Along the way he is adopted by children - some merely looking for temporary entertainment, some well-meaning and needy for his unconditional love.
“Thus began an exemplary friendship between dog and boy. In age,
they were only three and a half years apart, but the boy was young and the dog was old, and because of that discrepancy, each wound up giving to the other something he had never had before. For Mr. Bones, Henry proved that love was not a quantifiable substance. There was always more of it somewhere, and even after one love had been lost, it was by no means impossible to find another.”
Eventually Mr. Bones is forced to move on once again. Falling for the attractive veneer of a suburban backyard, he relinquishes his freedom for the comforts of life with a typical American family.
“He had landed in the America of two-car garages, home-improvement loans, and neo-Renaissance shopping malls, and the fact was that he had no objections. Willy had always attacked these things, railing against them in that lopsided, comic way of his, but Willy had been on the outside looking in, and he had refused to give any of it a chance… It might not have been perfect in this place, but it had a lot to recommend it, and once you got used to the mechanics of the system, it no longer seemed so important that you were tethered to a wire all day.”
Fans of Auster's other works may be surprised by the seeming simplicity of this tale, but not by the themes presented and the strength of the ending. Timbuktu is a mostly fun, fast read, with a tongue-in-cheek humor present in many of the passages, such as when Mr. Bones is trying to understand that great American pastime, baseball.
Auster has penned more than a dozen novels, including Man in the Dark, The Book of Illusions and The New York Trilogy. He is also a poet, a biographer, an award-winning screenwriter and an acclaimed editor.
Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Leslie Raith, 2010