Motherless Brooklyn Author:Jonathan Lethem "Tell your story walking." — St. Vincent's Home for Boys, Brooklyn, early 1970s. For Lionel Essrog, a.k.a. The Human Freakshow, a victim of Tourette's syndrome (an uncontrollable urge to shout out nonsense, touch every surface in reach, rearrange objects), Frank Minna is a savior. A local tough guy and fixer, Minna shows up to take Lionel and thr... more »ee of his fellow orphans on mysterious errands: they empty a store of stereos as the owner watches; destroy a small amusement park; visit old Italian men. The four grow up to be the Minna Men, a fly-by-night detective agency-cum-limo service, and their days and nights revolve around Frank, the prince of Brooklyn, who glides through life on street smarts, attitude, and secret knowledge. Then one dreadful night, Frank is knifed and thrown into a Dumpster, and Lionel must become a real detective.
As Lionel struggles to find Frank's killer--without letting his Tourette's get in the way--he's forced to delve into the complex, shadowy web of relationships, threats, and favors that make up the Brooklyn world he thought he knew so well. No one--not Frank, not Frank's bitter wife, Julia, not the other Minna Men--is who they seem. Not even The Human Freakshow.
All of the Lethem touches that have thrilled critics are here--crackling dialogue, sly humor, dizzying plot twists--but they're secondary to wonderfully full, tragic, funny characterizations, and a dazzling evocation of place. Indeed, Brooklyn--with its charming folkways and language, its unique style of bad-guy swagger and sentimentality--becomes itself a major character.
Motherless Brooklyn is a bravura performance: funny, tense, touching, extravagant. This novel signals the coming of age of a major American writer.« less
An absolutely pitch-perfect post-modern noir. Letham's prose is deeply fractured Brooklyn suffused neo-Chandlerian genius. Great writing, great characters, great set pieces. It's a new classic, a New York masterpiece.
I can't believe this isn't a movie, or a TV series, or at least hasn't spawned a series of books. *googles Lionel Essrog* Oh.
Still, because Lethem is a serious writer, I guess we won't get sequels. I would have loved Lionel Essrog and the Case of the Secret Sliding Door, or Lionel Essrog and the Cannibal Who Liked Cannabis. Why? Because the main character is one for the ages. He's a Tourettes sufferer, flunky for a smalltime operator, now thrust into the role of detective. It's wonderful. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the creator of Monk was influenced by this book.
OK, so read the book before the movie comes out! This book is great!
A really well-done mystery, featuring a protagonist with Tourette's Syndrome. Lionel is an orphan, but when he and 3 other boys are picked at an orphanage to help out a man named Frank Minna, doing odd jobs, his life is changed... Minna's a small-time mobster, but he becomes a father figure to the naive Lionel. And when, years later, Minna is murdered, it's Lionel's unexpected persistence that will lead him to solve the crime - but also lead him into danger from more sides that he even knows of...
The book is really believable - surprisingly so, for one featuring the Mob, a shady Japanese corporation, and a mysterious Zen school... all ties in with violent crime... and it really gives one insight into the inner life of someone suffering from this ailment.
Motherless Brooklyn was heartbreaking. Lethem has an unbelievable grasp of language and dialogue. You feel for the protagonist as a human being, as a person who has real feelings and thoughts and, as someone who has a clear idea in his head of exactly what he must do. Lethem is an amazing writer and every one of his books is worth reading.
I love this book. There are few books that I will read over and over and fewer movies that I will watch after the first screening. I am all about story and this one -- the tale of a "private detective" (mobster) with Tourette's syndrome who has to solve what happened to his boss/caretaker is a great one! But many readers rightly praise what Lethem does with language. As a writer, that is just the icing on the cake for me. You have to read this -- even if you don't like detective stories. I can't gush enough about it.