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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.
7 of 8 people found this review helpful
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 of 2 people found this review helpful
A great book for dog lovers & non-dog lovers. Not too sentimental but very touching & has humorous moments. I thoroughly enjoyed it
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
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.