Download pdf Motherless Brooklyn By Jonathan Lethem –

Lionel Essrog Is Brooklyn S Very Own Self Appointed Human Freakshow, An Orphan Whose Tourettic Impulses Drive Him To Bark, Count, And Rip Apart Our Language In The Most Startling And Original Ways Together With Three Veterans Of The St Vincent S Home For Boys, He Works For Small Time Mobster Frank Minna S Limo Service Cum Detective Agency Life Without Frank Minna, The Charismatic King Of Brooklyn, Would Be Unimaginable, So Who Cares If The Tasks He Sets Them Are, Well, Not Exactly Legal But When Frank Is Fatally Stabbed, One Of Lionel S Colleagues Lands In Jail, The Other Two Vie For His Position, And The Victim S Widow Skips Town Lionel S World Is Suddenly Topsy Turvy, And This Outcast Who Has Trouble Even Conversing Attempts To Untangle The Threads Of The Case While Trying To Keep The Words Straight In His Head Motherless Brooklyn Is A Brilliantly Original Homage To The Classic Detective Novel By One Of The Most Acclaimed Writers Of His Generation

10 thoughts on “Motherless Brooklyn

  1. says:

    What is it about Brooklyn A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Joe Pitt in Half the Blood of Brooklyn Last Exit to Brooklyn Not to mention a hundred different movies Something there must spark the imagination, get at the essence of life Motherless Brooklyn is one of the most solidly crafted books I ve read this year Since it s the end of February that may not sound like much, so I ll throw in December and November of 2017 as well Really, it was just so pleasant to trust in Lethem, with page after page doing fascinating things I was distrustful at first, I admit the protagonist has a serious case of Tourette s Syndrome whiched seemed like an Authorial Big Idea that could go awfully wrong But it doesn t It s handled with aplomb, with sensitivity, with humor with an even hand that gives expression to the experience My mouth won t quit, though mostly I whisper or subvocalize like I m reading aloud, my Adam s apple bobbing, jaw muscle beating like a miniature heart under my cheek, the noise suppressed, the words escaping silently, mere ghosts of themselves, husks empty of breath and tone But a man with Tourette s is not really what this is about, not really This is a homicide, a mystery which our protagonist, Lionel, feels compelled to solve Since his teens, Lionel has worked as a small time muscle for mentor and eventual friend Frank Minna Lionel and Gerald are supposed to be back up support for Frank at a meeting Things go terribly wrong, and the relationships within Minna s Men become fragile and uncertain Together the streets made a crisscrossed game board of Frank Minna s alliances and enmities, and me and Gil Coney and the other Agency Men were the markers like Monopoly pieces, I sometimes thought, tin automobiles or terriers not top hats, surely to be moved around that game board Here on the Upper East Side we were off our customary map, Automobile and Terrier in Candyland or maybe in the study with Colonel Mustard Lionel is a likable hero, Tourette s and all, driven to explain and organize around him He s an observant and humorous narrator, and if he is occasionally led around by his id, he s aware enough to understand it Communication is, of course, a challenge for Lionel I was afraid it would always be played for laughs, or worse yet, for pity, but Lethem has a nice balance between the internal thoughts and the external expression that allows for the occasional laughs with him instead of at him My jaw worked, chewing the words back down, keeping silent Gilbert s hands gripped the wheel, mine drummed quietly in my lap, tiny hummingbird motions This is what passed for cool around here I went in expecting a mystery, and Lethem delivers, certainly But wrapped up in the mystery is a solid, thoughtful portrayal of man who was given the closest thing to family and companionship he ever knew by a low level mobster The mobster, in turn, gets much of his own portrayal, at least from Lionel s viewpoint It ends up being a bit of a bromance, or a non jerk example of the dick fic genre see The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death At one point, I realized with some surprised that I was reading a solid literary fiction kind of book, with beautiful writing and human drama, wrapped up in a mystery The ashtray on the counter was full of cigarette butts that had been in Minna s fingers, the telephone log full of his handwriting from earlier in the day The sandwich on top of the fridge wore his bite marks We were all four of us an arrangement around a missing centerpiece, as incoherent as a verbless sentence Unlike mystery thrillers, it isn t a particularly teeth clenching, anxiety producing kind of book except, perhaps, on behalf of Lionel that requires one to stay up late to read one page Yet there s something quite solid about it, curious, moving, wry and intriguing that let me immerse myself whenever I picked it up I feel like there s also solid re read potential here In fact, I think I will Might even be worth adding to my own library Reminds me of Sara Gran s Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, and that s high praise indeed I ll have to check out The Fortress of Solitude, also by Letham, when I can handle some straight up lit fic.Four and a half EatmeBailey tics, rounding up

  2. says:

    In detective stories things are always always, the detective casting his exhausted, caustic gaze over the corrupted permanence of everything and thrilling you with his sweetly savage generalizations This or that runs deep or true to form, is invariable, exemplary Oh sure Seen it before, will see it again Trust me on this one Assertions and generalizations are, of course, a version of Tourette s A way of touching the world, handling it, covering it with confirming language This was a very tightly crafted mystery, with a lot of soul, and a wonderful resolution A love letter to the classic detective novel, but also a love letter to loneliness I ve heard some people say that it felt too gimmicky, and to them I d say You re missing the point The parts you thought were gimmicky were just the reality that the character inhabited It s your fault you thought it was meant to be funny, and you might also be kind of an asshole After reading this, in my non expert self diagnosis, I think I may have some very subtle, extremely manageable Tourette s going on When I was a kid, I ticced like you wouldn t believe I d clamp my eyes shut in the middle of conversations and stop talking I d grind my jaw left and right until it ached I d grind my left shoulder blade on my ribs over and over again I only ever did one of these things at a time, and I had no control over them I d grunt repeatedly I d clench various muscles Each new tic would overwrite the previous one It was pretty debilitating back then These days, all I do is clench my right arm really hard when I m stressed, and roll my shoulders a little bit Much better Totally manageable.But yeah, the book is good, you should check it out.

  3. says:

    I used to have a customer with Tourette s Back when I was a teenage supermarket teller, a million and a half years ago, she used to come through my line routinely At the time, I didn t reflect much on her condition other than that I assumed it must be tough for her occasionally, but how tough it really was I considered only in the vaguest sense, to the extent that I considered it at all Sorry, lady, but I was 17 and had a whole slew of 17 year old thoughts to preoccupy myself with She seemed to handle it in stride, though, or least this was my impression of our brief bi weekly interactions I certainly don t remember there being any social awkwardness It probably helped, too, that she never made any apologies for her outbursts.So it was interesting for me, with Motherless Brooklyn, to experience life through the first person perspective of Lionel Essrog, a man with, not only Tourette s, but also its oft accompanying sidekick, obsessive compulsive disorder With the little foreknowledge I have of these syndromes, I m not able to say whether the novel faithfully represents them, but I d like to think it does Aside from the neuropsychiatric issues, Essrog also has a fascinating character history Inexplicably orphaned at a young age, he grows up in a tough Brooklyn neighborhood and is recruited by a low level Italian mobster whose eventual murder serves as the basis for the book s detective story plot Essrog s physical and verbal tics which are conspicuously present throughout the investigation do not impede the reader s enjoyment of the novel, as his internal dialogue remains unhindered by the disorder other than expressing an oncoming urge to shout or tap or straighten or poke , all of which I believe is consistent with the way Tourette s presents in its sufferers What s , Essrog s tics almost endear the reader to him I felt a kinship with the misunderstood, relatively lonely man who is driven by a misguided sense of loyalty in the search for his mentor s killer.Being at its core a mystery crime thriller, Motherless Brooklyn at times falls prey to some of the clich s of the genre, but Lethem succeeds in transcending this label by writing with, I don t know, heart or something Essorg s world, touched as it is by inner city dealings and by mob activity, is still somewhat insular and claustrophobic It s his relationship to the elements of this tiny world, however, that drive his motivations and make this book among the interesting crime novels I ve read in a while.

  4. says:

    I read this often hilarious one of a kind novel many years ago The main character has Tourette s syndrome I must have read this about 10 years ago I ve yet to read another novel crime satire whodunit to boot , with a story centered around Tourette s syndrome No other author wanted to go toe to toe with, Jonathan Lethem, huh Eat S it go F K yourself Thehorrorthehorror..and Icouldabeenacontender is endearing in the most pure Zen in the city Wonderful reviews here on GR s that came before me

  5. says:

    3.5 5 Ziggedy Zendoodah This rip roaring take on the classic detective story features an unlikely hero, a gumshoe with Tourette s syndrome, Lionel Essrog, AKA The Human Freakshow , an intellectually sensitive type, with a bad case of Tourette s Bristling with odd habits and compulsions, his mind continuously revolting against him in lurid outbursts of strange verbiage He is compelled to snap, count, bark, grunt, tap and make strange Vocalizations at inopportune moments, sometimes even with a gun stuffed in his face Lethem makes Essrog s Tourette s brain virtually a character in it s self, as Essrog describes, with almost parental solicitude, the origins and mechanisms of his tics Essrog is one of the Minna Men , one four Brooklyn orphans adopted from St Vincent s Home for Boys by Frank Minna, their limo service detective agency boss who ends up bleeding to death in a dumpster Lionel gets to work to try and solve the mystery of his murder, and has a run in with some unwelcoming and bizarre characters along the way.Lethem s actual plot is hardly crackerjack detective material, the slow pacing and predictable turn of events up to a point are kind of standard issue when it comes to this type of story There are the Mafiosi type, an evil Japanese corporation lurking in the shadows, and a love interest as part of the set up In terms of genre, it plays out like a fusion of fiction and crime caper There is a chandler esque attention to social nuances that jostles with a giddy cartoon comedy, so it does have some originality to an extent Lethem uses the set pieces and dialogue deftly, and pulls off most of Essrog s narrative voice with aplomb And it s in such parodies of the detective novel set piece that Lethem signals his fondness for the genre with a prickly ambivalence Clearly, he s a fan, but one who tries to recognize its weariness after all these years and goes about adding something different He does But it doesn t always work The blueprint from genre fiction is a springboard for something entirely divergent, a story of betrayal and lost innocence, so than an absolute detective story Lethem produces a rambling detective who stumbles gracefully upon solutions rather than rooting them out In Motherless Brooklyn solving the crime is kind of beside the point Instead, this is a novel about the mysteries of consciousness, the dualism Essrog alludes to when he talks about his Tourette s brain as if it were an entity apart from him In a brief poetic interlude, he muses, In Tourette dreams you shed your tics or your tics shed you Essrog is no doubt a character you truly get behind, and root for He makes you laugh, he makes you sigh But behind his character s traits, I didn t find the overall plot that special It had it s moments for sure, with a really good final third But I was still left slightly underwhelmed.One thing Lethem gets spot on, is the novels setting, Brooklyn He really captures the area in the finest of details This had me thinking of Paul Auster s New York set novels But this, as a whole read, like a cross between Thomas Pynchon s Inherent Vice, and a modern day Raymond Chandler lighter in mood Maybe with just a light topping of Don DeLillo Having read a lot of the detective genre in my younger days, this just appeared too commonplace at times It was Essrog and his Tourette s brain that saved the novel s skin So kudos for that.

  6. says:

    Tourette s is just one big lifetime of tag, really The world or my brain same thing appoints me it, again and again So I tag back Can it do otherwise If you ve ever been it you know the answer Jonathan Lethem, Motherless BrooklynA kinda egg sandwich surprise, hardboilded detective novel I m still a bit unsure of what exactly was all tossed in is that lemongrass Zen masters Check Tourette s Check Man crushes and awkward touches Check check Prince or the Artist Formerly Known AS Prince Also, check check checkaramadingdong Look fair weather readers, I like Lethem see four starsI couldn t stop at three , just like I like Chabon Actually, almost exactly like I like Chabon There is a certain dance, jig, and Brooklyn hipster style to both their writing, complete with their shared fetishes comic books, vinyl chairs, bad hair, crappy cars, carnival food, odd screwballs.They seem to be barycentric binaries or orbs ORBiting the same point in space two prose vultures circling the same diseased zip code of literary space time So, yes, I enjoyed it But also felt like I was robbed a bit, like a bit of the potential for this novel got skimmed off into some dark, back room, and I was left holding less than a royal flush I was treated to a comic when I wanted a novel, a girl when I wanted a woman, a joke when I wanted a koan.

  7. says:

    Have you read Motherless Brooklyn yet If not, what are you waiting for I mean, sure, the idea of an orphaned private detective with Tourette s Syndrome sounded a little strange to me too, possibly even depressing, but as it turns out this novel is anything but depressing It s hilarious And exciting The book begins with a car chase, which is exactly the sort of thing that seems like a terrible idea to me, but I was riveted and that feeling didn t let up The aforementioned orphaned detective is one of the best characters I can ever remember encountering in any novel anywhere I really want to read of Jonathan Lethem s books now, but I don t see how even he could live up to the high bar he s set here In any event, I m happy I finally read this one now Definitely in my top 3 for 2017 so far, and possibly in my top 10 novels of all time Yay Motherless Brooklyn

  8. says:

    Frank Minna was a small fish in a big city pond full of piranhas and scum He was nimble, though good with angles His best move was when he recruited four young guys from the local orphanage, before they were old enough to shave, to be errand boys These young bucks were eager, loyal assistants that somebody dubbed Motherless Brooklyn Frank treated them to bigger boy delights like twenty dollar bills and bottles of beer for their efforts, and they just stayed on staff as they got older and useful They were not typically involved in anything all that bad, but an element of shadiness did exist under the table, dark alley, undercover kind of stuff.The most memorable character from a cast chock full of them was Lionel Essrog He was the biggest and lumpiest of Frank s boys Beyond Lionel s bruiser enforcer looks was the fact that he had Tourette s He always made Frank laugh with his verbal tics and twitchiness It s gratifying to find, though, that Lionel is not entirely defined by his condition He had a hale and hearty interior life just below the surface.As the fast paced storyline develops, Lionel and a colleague witness a terrible, unexplained act perpetrated against Frank Each of the boys, now Minna Men , reacts in a different way, mostly grabbing for power and prestige while trying to appear helpful Lionel is the one most willing and able to actually figure things out He proves to be surprisingly effective at gathering information and piecing together clues, all the while navigating his way through the Tourettic minefield The inner workings of the guy s mind were fascinating to see This is one of those books that arbiters of such things would call a genre buster It certainly works as a mystery action crime thriller But it has legitimate lit cred, too It won some national book critics award, after all I liked the mix, but then I m the kind of guy who d have no trouble washing a deep dish pizza down with a fine Barolo wine.Something else a real reviewer would say, I m sure, is that the place is a character, too Lethem did a great job of bringing Brooklyn alive Maybe he was helped by the fact that we ve seen so much of urban jungle life in movies, but I had a clear picture in my head of the surroundings each step of the way All in all, it s a fast and enjoyable read, with a different kind of protagonist to pull for A solid 4 stars.

  9. says:

    Maybe I ve just been lucky picking out some incredible books lately, but I feel like a lot of them are my new favorite , or one of the best I ve read this year , but I really have to say it again for Motherless Brooklyn Lethem s writing style had me from the beginning, and the story, being told from the perspective of Lionel Essrog, a man with Tourette s Syndrome was fascinating It reads like a mystery detective novel, but really, it s so much than that.Also, it was just one of those books that I could identify with on a somewhat personal level Even though my son is autistic, and doesn t have Tourette s, there were some similiarites that really hit home It kind of opened my eyes to why he was echolaliac I mean for awhile, before speech therapy, the only words my son Treston would say would be words just spoken to him I ve always just been curious as to why he has to come and tap me five times on my knee or shoulder before trying to communicate Reading this book kind of gave me an inside look at why these things happen, since I ve always just wanted to ask Treston what he s thinking, but at the same time, knowing he s not able to answer me Lionel s story just put these characteristics into real life situations, and not just textbook answers It kind of gave me hope that Treston can have a somewhat normal life not that I want him to become a Minna Man or anything , but when he gets older he will be able to have friends and relationships even if they re dysfunctional, but really, who doesn t have some of those Wow, I know that s a lot to take from a so called detective novel, but really, it s that good I highly recommend this one

  10. says:

    Way too gimmicky About Motherless Brooklyn Newsday calls Jonathan Lethem one of the most original voices among younger American novelists while Entertainment Weekly describes him as one of our most inventive, stylish and sensous writers I strongly disagree I think these organiztions have confused originality with gimmickry Goodreads interviewed Jonathan Lethem in their November newsletter I d never heard of him I checked out a couple of his books at the library, one for me, one for my wife, with the idea that we d trade That trade never happened neither of us liked what we read I even picked the one whose dustcover summary seemed most interesting New York detective agency, members killed, Brooklyn underworld, hitmen, mob funding, Japanese profiteers.Lethem attempts something in Motherless Brooklyn that seems very original His main character has Tourette s syndrome, with a comorbidity of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder OCD His Tourette s causes him to choke, rhyme, stutter, invent, and swear through words, while his OCD causes some minor ritualistic touching and balancing of his environment It s through this character s perspective that we quickly cruise through 311 pages.After a few chapters the novelty of storytelling through Tourette s syndrome become overworked The vocal tics aren t heavy handed and don t obstruct the flow, but it becomes routine and predictable Lethem doesn t experiment with Tourette s Instead, it s the same rhyming and kluging together of hot words the character, Lionel, can t get out of his head We learn a little what it s like to have Tourette s, and perhaps it was Lethem s intent to hammer the same vocal repititions to prove the insidiousness of Tourettes, but in the end, Lionel is a very flat, predictable, and unsympathetic character.Here s a list where I think gimmickry replaces originality Remember, any 2 or 3 or 4 of these options together, though highly stereotyped already in the detective genre, could make a run at a good novel But here, in Motherless Brooklyn, all the stereotypes are piled together in clich d suffocation It s as if Lethem handled too many ingredients, causing a gallimaufry of overused tastes, smells, and sights The hook is a double murder, both agents in a small detective agency Immediate confusion and suspicion among the agents Dead man s wife leaves town in a hurry All agents grew up together in an inner city orphanage, hence the title motherless As kids, they start working for the mob The oldest orphan marries a beautiful woman, becomes leader, acts as father figure Maffia represented by 2 stereotyped old Italian gangsters, always meeting in the same safehouse There s a Russian hitman, physically enormous, dumb, and has no speaking parts A zen budhist school seems to be a front to something illegal The detective agency seems to be a front to something illegal Lead character falls in love with a zen student Zen student inbetween boyfriends, but has experience dating Tourette s Most action takes place at night Tough black cop from Harlem Surveillence, from a car, from foot Tie to crooked Japanese businessmen Throughout there s a description of New York City s tough underbelly Interstate car chase In hostility bullets fired Escape Beautiful woman suddenly reappears Car crash Gunpoint Unsuspected appearance of long lost brother Clues build until the end Climax is what you expected, but with an obligatory minor twistApart from the formula above, I didn t really think the writing was all that inspired there was not enough background to empathize with any of the characters the connections in the plot weren t put together as if there was an overarching vision they were frayed as if Lethem just began writing one day and suddenly ended up with a book that should have been combed by a better set of publishers and the climax seemed rushed and tenuous USA Today called this book hugely ambitious I would call it hugely overrated.No new words from this book.