December 12, 2018

A Dog Tale

Author Paul Auster and his daughter, Sophie, were strolling on Seventh Avenue in Brooklyn one day when they spotted a woman standing beside a skinny, scruffy, fearful, “completely ravaged” golden-yellow dog. Around its neck hung a sign: “Please adopt me. I need a home.”

The mutt was shivering with fever, his nose bleeding from a beating he had received from some bad men. “But there was something that drew me to him, a kind of human gaze in the eyes,” says the author of 15 books and films such as “Smoke” and “Lulu on the Bridge.” Auster promptly adopted the dog and named him Jack, after the hero of his favorite Elizabethan novel, “The Unfortunate Traveler.”

The canine hero of Auster’s latest novel, too, is an unfortunate traveler, a kind of Wandering Jew, Auster says. In “Timbuktu” (Henry Holt, $22), Mr. Bones plays Sancho Panza to his master’s Don Quixote; Willy Christmas, nee Gurevitch, is a homeless, schizophrenic writer, the son of Holocaust refugees who expires and leaves Mr. Bones to fend for himself in a world where “a dog alone [is] no better than a dead dog.”