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Motherless Brooklyn [Download] ➾ Motherless Brooklyn By Jonathan Lethem – Thomashillier.co.uk 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 Toge 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. carol. carol. 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 uit 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 toneBut 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 uncertainTogether 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 MustardLionel 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 himMy jaw worked chewing the words back down keeping silent Gilbert’s hands gripped the wheel mine drummed uietly in my lap tiny hummingbird motions This is what passed for cool around hereI 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 sentenceUnlike mystery thrillers it isn't a particularly teeth clenching anxiety producing kind of book except perhaps on behalf of Lionel that reuires one to stay up late to read 'one page' Yet there's something uite 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 ficFour and a half EatmeBailey tics rounding up


  2. Kevin Kelsey Kevin Kelsey 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 manageableBut yeah the book is good you should check it out


  3. Jason Jason 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 outburstsSo 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 killerBeing at its core a mysterycrime thriller Motherless Brooklyn at times falls prey to some of the clichés 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. Elyse Walters Elyse Walters 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 Sit go F#K yourselfThehorrorthehorrorand Icouldabeenacontender is endearing in the most pure Zen in the city Wonderful reviews here on GR's that came before me


  5. Steven Godin Steven Godin says:

    355Ziggedy ZendoodahThis 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 servicedetective 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 wayLethem'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 esue 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 underwhelmedOne 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. Darwin8u Darwin8u 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 screwballsThey 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. Zoeytron Zoeytron says:

    Well shoot  Despite the many 4 and 5 star reviews from my GR buddies I failed to get a grip with this one  At first the ticcing touching tapping mirroring and counting by Lionel Essrog aka Freakshow was entertaining and funny  But soon it became tiresome and repetitive to me  And then I felt bad because I could make it stop it by putting the book aside a resolution that was not available to  Lionel  There is some clever writing in here and a scene set in a Japanese restaurant that is hilarious  But all in all it was just a poor fit for me


  8. Julie Ehlers Julie Ehlers 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


  9. Violet wells Violet wells says:

    There are laugh out loud moments in this novel than in anything I’ve read for ages Lionel the orphaned aspiring detective with Tourettes is an adorable character Lethem helps us understand that we all have Tourettes to some extent Insomnia is a variant of Tourette's the waking brain races sampling the world after the world has turned away touching it everywhere refusing to settle to join the collective nod The insomniac brain is a sort of conspiracy theorist as well believing too much in its own paranoiac importance as though if it were to blink then doze the world might be overrun by some encroaching calamity which its obsessive musings are somehow fending off” The prose is consistently dazzling – often making you see the familiar with a fresh enlightening dew on it – and the plot is gripping from the word go What’s not to like?


  10. Jason Jason 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 uickly 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 characterHere'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 clichéd 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 twist Apart 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


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