Timbuktu

  • by Paul Auster
  • Narrated by Joe Barrett
  • 5 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.

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What the Critics Say

"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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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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- Dubi

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.


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- Eleanor Corner

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-11-2009
  • Publisher: Audible Studios