Sunday, June 19, 2016

TIMBUKTU by Paul Auster

Mr. Bones is a dog who understands spoken English.  His beloved master, Willy, is a homeless alcoholic with health problems, both physical and mental.  Mr. Bones doesn’t judge Willy for his shortcomings but rather judges everyone else by how clueless they are about a dog’s needs and wants.  When Willy passes on to “Timbuktu,” a euphemism for heaven, a weary and grieving Mr. Bones has to fend for himself.  Gone are the unplanned meanderings that Mr. Bones enjoyed with Willy.  He attaches himself to a new young human companion who has to hide Mr. Bones from his father.  Mr. Bones escapes this imperfect situation and moves on to a family that provides a doghouse and good eats but leaves him at a posh kennel during a family vacation.  Mr. Bones and Willy were inseparable, and now Mr. Bones is a different sort of lesser family member—a pet.  I’m not sure exactly how to interpret this story.  On the surface, this is a dog story or maybe even a buddy story, but deeper down I suppose it’s a story of unconditional love and loyalty between two individuals, regardless of species or gender.  It is obviously more than just an homage to our canine companions; it’s a statement about friendship and perhaps how life with a constant good friend, even if food and shelter are not always available, is more fulfilling than a life with creature comforts. For Mr. Bones, at least, the struggle to find love is a much more daunting task than scrounging for food and a warm, dry place to sleep.  I suppose we can apply this struggle to people as well, but that analogy only goes so far.  The ending, for example, was a disappointment for me, concluding with a whimper rather than a triumphant roar. 

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