Read Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem FrankMuller Online


A walk on the wild side of Brooklyn's criminal underclass with a hero known as "The Human Freakshow," a would-be detective also answering to the name of Lionel Essrog. Essrog is a victim of Tourette's Syndrome; hapless and veering out of control, he fights himself and his disease....

Title : Motherless Brooklyn
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781402510564
Format Type : Audio CD
Number of Pages : 10 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Motherless Brooklyn Reviews

  • Carol.
    2019-06-17 08:37

    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 more 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

  • Kevin Kelsey
    2019-06-02 08:35

    “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.

  • Jason
    2019-06-26 07:29

    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 more, 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 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 more interesting crime novels I’ve read in a while.

  • Elyse
    2019-05-29 12:41

    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!!!

  • Darwin8u
    2019-06-12 08:55

    “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 stars...I 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.

  • JSou
    2019-06-23 07:41

    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 more 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 more 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!

  • Steve
    2019-06-11 11:38

    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 more 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.

  • Julie Ehlers
    2019-06-15 14:42

    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 more 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!

  • Perry
    2019-06-16 14:33

    “Prince's music calmed me as much as masturbation or a cheeseburger.” Lionel Essrog, protagonist in Lethem's Motherless BrooklynLethem's 1999 literary detective novel set in Brooklyn was a fun read, much more layered and satisfying than the hard-boiled detective novels. The protagonist Lionel Essrog grew up an orphan and was nicknamed "The Human Freakshow" due to his Tourette syndrome. In lesser hands, these verbal tics could have turned gimmicky, but here Lethem fully develops Essrog and makes the reader care about him.Essrog is working for Frank Minna, who has some mob connections and owns a "seedy," "makeshift" detective agency (a front for two-bit organized crime), when Minna is murdered by stabbing. Essrog's suspenseful journey investigating and solving the crime is always intelligent and often risible.

  • Violet wells
    2019-06-20 09:42

    There are more 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?

  • Michael
    2019-06-09 13:45

    Lethem is a master at hip, funny, serious, genre mash-up fiction, and this (IMHO) is his best so far. It's a soft-hearted, hard-boiled, Zen-infused, satirical noir, narrated by a small-time detective with Tourette's. Thankfully this doesn't come across as gimmicky, which it would in less capable hands. The narrator, Lionel Essrog (now there's a Pynchonesque name), uses his condition to think about, well, language itself, as his outbursts often riff on what they're supposed to convey. Sure, the plot itself is pretty formulaic, but that's the point--these characters are trapped in their own genre conventions just as Essrog is trapped in his linguistic ones, which gives his outbursts a heightened sense of liberation and freedom.

  • Jason
    2019-05-28 14:50

    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 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 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.

  • Jan Rice
    2019-06-09 13:39

    And the third time's indeed the charm!Read previously circa 2000 and again several years later. My first read, at least, was as an audiobook.This is the tale of four punks and a hoodIn Brooklyn, New York, tryin' to make good,Mommyless orphanage, no Cub Scouts or den--Instead, Mista Meanor made 'em his men.Once they're abandoned, the center can't hold;Our ticcy hero must be bold (or fold).You follow the thread as the story unspools,Learning who are the wise guys and who are the foolsAnd who, the financial wizards of Zen,And how can our motherless boys become men.In the midst of the noir and the middle of chaos,Can the love and sacrifice yet be the stronger force?Outbursts tics, outcome art, drawing both tears and laughter--The Shakespeare of Tourette's: Lethem's the crafter! Why did I burst into song? Motherless Brooklyn isn't considered poetry. Yet it finally occurred to me that's exactly what it is. The author may have studied up on Tourette's syndrome, but the only way he could have written those verbal tics is as though writing poetry.Look at a sample of what he does with the guy's name alone--Lionel (rhymes with Vinyl) Essrog.Viable GuessrogAlibyebye Essmob--Alibi hullabaloo gullible bellyflop smellafish....Unreliable ChessgrubYessrogEdgerog, 33, seeks EdgeLaughing GassrogLaugh-or-cry EdgelostWell, you had to be there! Context is everything.Before, I gave the book a "3." So, what changed? If the other reads were audio, that could be part of it. One part that, one part lying fallow, one part reading times three, and one part laughing out loud, lol. Throw in one part read for book club, just in case it was too-intense-to-read-alone. And finally figuring out after the reading was done that it's like a musical, the hero launching, genre as trampoline, not so much into music as into weird haiku-ish poetry and manic stand-up, words for drumbeats. Lemme entertain you. Lionel Essrog is a mover and a talker, a word and a gesture, a detective and a fool. Lionel Essrog c'est moi.

  • Kim
    2019-06-08 14:30

    Tell me to do it muffin ass …. to rest the lust of a loaftomb! …. Barnamum Pierogi lug! Meet Lionel Essrog. Viable Guessfrog, Lionel Deathclam, Liable Guesscog, Ironic Pissclam. Lionel is a Minna Man. A full fledged Hardly Boy… A freakshow… A member of Motherless Brooklyn. I love Lionel. Not in my special groupie way. Hold your hats here; I might be growing as a person. Nah. I just really love Lionel’s brain. Peirogi kumquat sushiphone! Domestic marshmallow ghost! Insatiable Mallomar! Did I mention Lionel has Tourette’s? I’ve only met one person with Tourette’s and he wasn’t as lyrical as Lionel. He was a neurology resident. He used to yip and scurry down the hall of the hospital. You always knew when he was on the floor. One time I was in the room with him and he squirted some of that hand soap onto his palm and mid squirt his Tourette’s kicked in and some of the foamy soap ended up in a nurse’s hair ala Something about Mary and we didn’t tell her. (We don’t like nurses very much.) Anyway, that’s my Tourette’s story… on to Lionel and the Minna Men. Motherless Brooklyn wasn’t one of those books that I couldn’t put down, but it was one that will stick with me. Not just because it gave me such lines as Trend the decreased! Mend the retreats! or spread by means it finds, fed in springs by mimes, bled by mangy spies or an insight to what living with Tourette’s might be like but because it’s so human. It’s gritty and what I imagine Brooklyn to be like. I don’t picture quaint neighborhoods, I see steel and dirt and warehouses and underpasses and guys hanging out on stoops with greased back hair and… (I’m not saying this is accurate, I’m saying this is what I see and this is what Lethem gifts me with.) The Minna Men, 4 bedraggled orphans who are taken under by Frank Minna, a two bit hustlin’, Philip Marlowe wannabe. There’s Tony, the quintessential mobster in the making. Danny, the too-cool-for-school b-ball player who is more attitude than words. Gilbert, the brawny, mouthy one and then, there’s Lionel. I loved the sense of these guys. The classic Lost Boys. Lethem does a great job of fleshing these guys out, taking emotions like guilt and concepts like conspiracies and waxing touretticly poetic (yeah, so I made that up…sue me):Is guilt a species of Tourette’s? Maybe. It has a touchy quality, I think, a hint of sweaty fingers. Guilt wants to cover all the bases, be everywhere at once, reach into the past to tweak, neaten, and repair. Guilt like Tourettic utterance flows uselessly, inelegantly from one helpless human to another, contemptuous of perimeters, doomed to me mistaken or refused on delivery. Guilt, like Tourette’s, tries again, learns nothing.And the guilty soul, like the Tourettic, wears a kind of clown face---the Smokey Robinson kind, with tear tracks underneath. Conspiracies are a version of Tourette’s syndrome, the making and tracing of unexpected connections a kind of touchiness, an expression of the yearning to touch the world, kiss it all over with theories, pull it close. Like Tourette’s, all conspiracies are ultimately solipsistic, sufferer and conspirator or theorist overrating his centrality and forever rehearsing a traumatic delight in reaction, attachment and causality, in roads out from the Rome of self. The second gunman on the grassy knoll wasn’t part of a conspiracy—we Touretters know this to be true. He was ticking, imitating the action that had startled and allured him, the shots fired. It was just his way of saying, Me too! I’m alive! Look here! Replay the film!I don’t want to get too into the plot; I don’t feel that that’s what makes this book so great...the writing, the wordplay, that’s where it’s at.

  • Nathan
    2019-06-14 11:27

    Every few months a book gets past my quality control screening. I ought to stop beating myself up over that fact. Generally I am happy to outsource my opinions about books not yet read to smarter people; I must have lapsed this time out, tempted by the $0.3333 price tag for a recognized yet unknown author with a sexy name. I had a strong desire to drop this text at page 30, but my inexperience with positively negative reviews naively committed myself to reading the whole damn thing merely for the sake of the authority which such completionism would grant this here review.First-person novels are difficult to write well and even more difficult for me to enjoy--the claustrophobia and extreme constriction of the novelistic world, squeezed as it is through a pair of unknowing eyes, tends toward a poverty of possibility. Contemporary novels, should they be deemed literary--and there is no clear evidence that Motherless Brooklyn be intended as a non-genre novel--cannot employ a first-person narrator without taking into account the realism brought to bear during the modernist period of literature--the consciousness-realism of Woolf, Faulkner, Joyce, et al. What Lethem fails to do, and what causes this reader to choke, is to integrate the protagonist and the first-person narrator into a coherent unity. The narrator who says "I" appears in the text as something distinct from the character whose experiences are recorded by that "I"; this "I"'s position of enunciation is never accounted for--i.e., why is he telling us this? The protagonist has Tourette's Syndrome, but apparently the narrator does not. The echolalia is always faithfully recorded within the dialogue, the narrator frequently describes physical Tourettic tics, but nothing of Tourette's appears among the words of the narrator. Being as Tourette's has a linguistic form of appearance, one might desire that the novelist make something novelistic out of this clay, that some wild dance of language might appear, that something echoing "meaningfulness" might be intimated among the meaningless barking of the Tourettic compulsion. Instead, what we get is a meaningless and relentless reminder that the protagonist has Tourette's even if the novel would suggest that he may just as well not have had Tourette's. Lethem's tic is as meaningless as Essrog's.Perhaps this meaninglessness is intentional; that Essrog's meaningless bursts of language are a microscopic echo of the macroscopic meaninglessness of the contemporary novel. Or some similar bullshit. Such-like I've not come across since being bored silly by American Psycho in the mid-90's. Lethem provides, perhaps, a tip of the hat towards saving his primary imagery by occasionally half-heartedly suggesting similes for Tourette's--paranoia, generalizations, insomnia--but such reminders that we are reading a novelist's creation only press home the dullness with which he works his material. In other words, if you are fascinated by the spectacle of Tourette's Syndrome and think that a novelist might have an imaginative insight into the experience--"How does it feel?"--you will want to look elsewhere. Motherless Brooklyn is an opportunity wasted.__________An excellent response to my review and comments below, can be found in Friend Drew's review.

  • Drew
    2019-06-03 11:49

    Is Jonathan Lethem a genius? A virtuoso? (to use the terms used ad naus. in The Loser) I think not. Is Motherless Brooklyn a work of genius? Also no. But that doesn't mean it isn't still awesome.Lethem's deconstruction of the detective novel is painfully obvious. He fashions his protagonist by stripping him of one of the most recognizable traits of the hard-boiled private eye--laconism. Lionel Essrog doesn't have a way with words; they have their way with him. Every time he questions someone to get information about Frank's death, he runs the risk of his brain making him say something compromising. So that's sort of a new angle. And Lethem's riffs on the tics and fits of Tourette's are usually funny and/or illuminating and very rarely tiresome. I got a word out of it that will probably be useful sometime, too--Zengeance. I guess my definition of it would be a cross between witnessed karma and schadenfreude. So here's the big question: if Lionel's Tourette's is so unmanageable, so compulsive, than why is the narrative voice relatively free of tics? Nathan says that Lethem is ignoring an industry standard and leaving a lack of unity between Lionel's character and the narrative voice, which is ostensibly supposed to be Lionel's. I read it differently, though. Let's be honest here: do we really want to read a novel that is truly written, through and through, in the voice of someone with Tourette's? It might be interesting, but it would probably be too frazzled and discontinuous to contain all the other elements that Lethem clearly wants his story to contain. More than that: Lethem wants to give Lionel the verbal grace that he deserves, whether his thought-patterns realistically would look like that or not. It's not strange for an author to use a more elevated style than that of his characters, although it may be a little strange to try and pull it off in the first person. This case is less carelessness and more a willful rejection of something that came before, just as Lethem rejects normal detective-novel conventions in favor of something a little more wrinkled and faded.But here's why this isn't just a genre work, or an anti-genre work:- Lionel's loss of innocence at finding out the true nature of Frank Minna, as well as the nature of just about every other character in the novel. No hard-boiled protagonist ever has any innocence left by the time we meet him; including this aspect could be read as anti-genre but the deftness and sincerity with which it's handled indicate a book that goes a little further than mere spoof or homage or deconstruction.- Matricardi and Rockaforte, two aging mobsters that skirt around the edges of the story and never become major characters. These two guys are symbols of a number of things that no longer exist, and seem like characters straight out of one of the more conventional Delillo novels, maybe Underworld. But even though they get very few pages, they get fully realized in those few pages, which is something I feel you won't get from your standard detective novel or detective-novel-parody.- Frank Minna himself. Hard to elaborate on this one without giving any spoilers, but suffice it to say that though most characters in this novel are more than they seem (not surprising), Minna is both more and less (surprising).- Lethem never bends over backwards to set up parallels between Tourette's and anything else, beyond doing stuff like describing NY as Tourettic. But it strikes me that Lionel's quest to find Frank's killer mirrors his quest to find a cure, a balm, or treatment for his Tourette's. Both are things that corrupt and decay you from the inside out, things you could devote a lifetime to and never come close to finding the answer. Is the plot a little predictable? Maybe. The style a little too lightweight? Maybe, but only if you come in expecting real weight. I think Lethem is capable of weight, but it's not on display here. But that turns out to be fine.And Nathan, the only similarity I catch between Motherless Brooklyn and American Psycho is the mini-essay on Prince (AP has mini-essays on Whitney Houston, Huey Lewis and the News, and Genesis).

  • Alison
    2019-06-25 14:40

    Motherless Brooklyn is a beautifully written novel about a complicated man named Lionel Essrog who is an orphan and a sufferer of Tourette's. As we all know about Tourette's, the syndrome causes you to spurt out words (sometimes profanity) during periods of stress in order to ease an internal undying mental angst. Lionel also suffers from OCD and the infinite need to count mix words in his head and regurgitate them in order to sort through the chaos that is everday life for a hood in Brooklyn, New York.Lionel is a Minna man, a supposed brainless strong-arm for a man named Frank Minna. When Minna is killed, this story becomes a classic detective novel, as Lionel takes it upon himelf to solve the case of his dead boss, mentor, and father-figure." I cut the sandwich into six equal pieces, taking unexpectedly deep pleasure in the texture of the kaiser roll's resistance to the knife's dull teeth, and arranged the pieces so they were equidistant on the plate. I returned the knife to my counter, then centered plate, candle, and drink on the table in a way that soothed my grieving Tourette's. If I didn't stem my syndrome's needs, I would never clear a space in which my own sorrow could dwell."I love this book because it's set in NYC and romanticizes (in the way that makes your mouth water for a pepperoni-and-provolone hero with peppers inside) and villifies Brooklyn at the same time. The dialogue reminds me of an old Humphrey Bogart movie--The Big Sleep (the R. Chandler novel was quoted more than once in the book) or the Maltese Falcon, or even, the more contemporary movie (loathed by many, liked by me) "Brick." It was similar to "The Curious Incident..." in that it was a mystery told from the perspective of a mentally handicapped protagonist--and by walking in his shoes we learn more about what it would be like to suffer from the syndrome ourselves.The character of Essrog was also a bit reminiscent of Nic Cage in the movie "Matchstick Men" but much more loveable and complex. This novel was BORN to be a fantastic movie (as now being filmed by/with Ed Norton? (thanks Beth). Can't wait to see it. It would also make a great series of novels.

  • Mattia Ravasi
    2019-06-04 12:48

    Video-review: in my Top 20 Books I Read in 2015: story short: possibly the best detective novel ever written, certainly one of the best novels of the last twenty years. A beautifully orchestrated hard-boliled story that smells of pavement, incense and White Castle burgers, one that manages to be mercilessly real, breath-takingly beautiful and deeply deeply emotional. And don't make me start on the narrator because that's pure genius.

  • MyleenHollero
    2019-06-14 09:55

    "eat shit, dickyweed"

  • Sandra
    2019-06-22 10:35

    Prima di tutto mi unisco a chi prima di me ha criticato la discutibile scelta della traduzione del titolo in italiano, che sarebbe stato preciso se fosse stato tradotto letteralmente dal titolo americano, Brooklyn senza madre.E' un giallo con caratteristiche peculiari: la trama gialla c’è, c’è l’omicidio di Frank Minna, un piccolo boss italoamericano invischiato con la mafia e con affari made in Japan; c’è uno dei suoi Uomini, Lionel Essrog, soprannominato Testadipazzo, che si improvvisa detective per scoprire chi l’ha ucciso; ci sono tanti strani personaggi di contorno, che caratterizzano la storia come fosse una pellicola cinematografica (a proposito, ho letto che c’è un progetto di trarre un film da questo libro, che secondo me è adattissimo allo scopo), magari di Woody Allen. Ma andando avanti con la lettura, l’attenzione del lettore non è concentrata tanto sulla trama gialla, ma sui protagonisti: Lionel Essrog e la sua sindrome di Tourette. Ignoravo l’esistenza di questa malattia ossessivo compulsiva caratterizzata da tic verbali, consistenti nella emissione di parole senza senso, disarticolate, e fisici. L’elemento drammatico della storia emerge dalle pagine del libro: Lionel, malato di Tourette, è cresciuto in un orfanatrofio di Brooklyn, solo, senza amici, fino a quando non viene “adottato” da Frank Minna, un boss mafioso di Court Street. E’ già difficile andare avanti deriso dagli altri, come un testadipazzo; figuriamoci mettersi a fare il detective!Lethem riesce ottimamente a stemperare il lato drammatico con i toni fantastici, a volte surreali, dell’incontenibilità linguistica e corporea di Lionel Essrog, personaggio verso il quale si prova un mix di tenerezza ed affetto, che non impediscono di trattenere un sorriso per gli effetti sbalorditivi che le sue ossessioni, che puntualmente compaiono nei momenti meno opportuni, provocano su chi si trova di fronte. Un personaggio con il quale si rimane invischiati, con le sue frasi sconnesse, i colpetti alle spalle, i baci e le sue ossessioni numeriche.E dunque non potrei classificare il romanzo come un giallo o un noir, non è catalogabile in una categoria precisa, se non in quella di un bel romanzo di uno scrittore eclettico e talentuoso.Il mio primo incontro con Lethem è stato positivo, ora ho da leggere quello che dicono sia il suo capolavoro, “la fortezza della solitudine”.

  • Garythe Bookworm
    2019-05-29 11:51

    Lionel Essrog is an unforgettable character. Like all fictional detectives he has one defining characteristic; something which sets him apart: Lionel has Tourette's Syndrome. This turns out to be an asset for him when he sets out to find his mentor's killer because everyone assumes he is stupid. What works for him as a detective unfortunately undermines his effectiveness as the protagonist and narrator. The virtuosity demonstrated by Lethem, as he joyfully strings syllables together for Lionel to spurt, becomes a distraction as the story unfolds: Imagine the incessant clickety-clack of Miss Marple's knitting needles in your ears or Philip Marlowe blowing smoke rings in your face.I found myself reading Lionel's utterances out loud to more fully appreciate them. This just made a thin plot thinner. I wish Lethem would resurrect Lionel for a sequel, another story grounded in Brooklyn but without the constraints of the detective genre, because both Lionel and the borough where he lives came vividly to life. I just talked myself into giving this three and a half stars.

  • Chloe
    2019-05-29 15:41

    I have been on a bit of a mystery bender lately and I'm not quite sure what to make of that. Perhaps it's the return to the overcast North-West that sends me wanting to plumb the depths of human behavior. The gray skies and early sunsets bring out a curiosity about people's inner darkness which is always matched, measure for measure, by the capacity for redemption. Toughs with no visible qualities reveal a fierce dedication to recently killed compatriots. Prima facie immorality is revealed to be a cover for a rigid adherence to a moral code, something that seems necessary while swimming through the murky waters of crime and violence. Something within that pleases me to no end.Which makes reading a Jonathan Lethem mystery even more satisfying. Few authors are as capable of writing with such exquisite skill as Lethem. It doesn't matter whether he's writing elegies to Philip K. Dick's lost genius or interviewing Bob Dylan, every word the man writes is one that I find myself increasingly compelled to read as though I, too, suffered from the OCD compulsions that drive Motherless Brooklyn's hero, Lionel Essrog. Lionel suffers from Tourette's Syndrome, a malady that, in the hands of a lesser writer, would quickly devolve into an extended stereotype and free-form fecal farce.Yet with Lethem we get to peer inside Lionel's head as he tries to ride herd on his tics, struggling to avoid the triggers that will send him on a long and winding rant, all so that he can discover the identity of his mentor's killer. Along the way we are treated to a classic Lethem take on music and how Prince is the musical equivalent of Tourette's. I am, to be honest, quite taken with Lionel in a way that I haven't been since meeting Oskar in Jonathan Safron Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Though more than a couple decades separate these two characters they are, at the least, spiritual kin. Both meander the unfamiliar streets of Manhattan searching for clues to a father figure now gone, and you want to let both of them into your apartment for hot cocoa.That is not to say that Motherless Brooklyn is all mental illness and sunshine. No, there is a classic story of murder, greed and ambition that swirls within the larger themes of faltering old crime families and the unspoken apartheid that builds walls across blocks of this New York borough. In short, this is Lethem at the top of his game and a book that is not to be missed.

  • Bastet
    2019-06-10 11:38

    Desde La conciencia de Zeno, de Italo Svevo, andaba buscando una novela entretenida, bien narrada, con un personaje atrayente, y por fin la he encontrado. Quise agenciarme Huérfanos de Brooklyn desde que leí una reseña elogiosa en un blog, y aunque me costó mucho dar con un ejemplar, la espera ha merecido la pena. Es imposible aburrirse con esta novela; el misterio sobre quién ordenó matar a Frank Minna, el protector de los cuatro huérfanos que le ayudan en sus trapicheos, se mantiene hasta el final. Lionel Essrog, más conocido como Engendro, protagoniza varios momentos descacharrantes a lo largo de las páginas. Tiene el síndrome de Tourette y cuando se pone nervioso ladra asociaciones de palabras inconexas y le da por toquetear el hombro de quien tenga enfrente, un gesto reflejo que da lugar a reacciones comiquísimas. Valoro mucho el humor en la literatura, y esta novela de Jonathan Lethem me ha hecho reír a carcajadas.La traducción es correcta, aunque tiene algunos lapsus como intercambiar los nombres de dos personajes y que alguien esté «apretujado en el asiento de una repisa» (sic); lo curioso es que no es la primera vez que me encuentro en una novela a alguien sentado en una repisa. Puesto que Huérfanos de Brooklyn está descatalogada (o al menos lo estaba en 2011 cuando la leí), sería deseable que el editor encargara una corrección antes de reeditarla, pues faltan bastantes comas en los vocativos y hay unas cuantas erratas y usos incorrectos. Ojalá se reedite y muchos más lectores puedan disfrutar de los desparrames verbales de este detective touréttico que tiene los entresijos bien puestos.

  • Jessica
    2019-06-12 15:32

    I'd always planned on really loving this book, not sure why or how that started but it was probably when Fortress of Solitude came out and I really loved that (really loved the first half, anyway) and a bunch of people told me Motherless Brooklyn was even better. It sounded like something I'd like a lot, so I've tried every few years since then but could never make it in past the beginning. This time, though, I did, and read the whole thing pretty quickly and without too much groaning or whining or carrying on.I feel unkind giving this two stars and thought about three, but my ratings don't pretend to be fair and I dock a point for disappointed expectations. This book wasn't unpleasant to read but I just didn't get the pleasure from it that most people seem to, that I'd planned in advance for myself. The descriptions of Carroll Gardens and other locations were good, and Lionel Essrog was a reasonably sympathetic, interesting narrator. However, the Tourette's stuff got old, which I could see was the point, but that didn't make it any less tiresome. It's like the old problem of trying to write about someone being bored without the book being boring: you have to be a genius to pull that off, and for me it didn't happen here. I get how my having to slog through the same redundantly self-reflexive thoughts and predictable actions over and over is supposed to mimic Lionel's own frustration with his disorder, but I didn't feel like it gave me an enhanced view of what having Tourette's might be like; it was just a drag at a certain point, and felt more like authorial shtick than a genuine character's tic.This all would've totally been fine except that I didn't find the storyline particularly interesting. I didn't care much if he solved the mystery, and when he did there wasn't anything satisfying or particularly compelling about it for me. None of the characters had ever interested me much, so I didn't care if anyone lived or died and wasn't invested in what they'd done in the past or might do next. Nothing in the book surprised me or revealed anything I was excited to know. But I didn't dislike it, and only got severely annoyed with it once (on page 283, when Lethem destroys what's been a great scene by concluding with an infuriating bit of nineties-era pseudo-comedic schlock that makes the whole book seem like a lame sitcom pilot and turns Lionel into a cardboard character complete with a lame catchphrase).Most other normal warm-blooded human beings love and cherish this book, so clearly there's some part of me that's just dead inside. Counter to my high expectations and best intentions, Motherless Brooklyn and I just didn't really connect, and while it wasn't a bad book at all I didn't especially like it, so my rating stands: "it was ok."

  • Abby
    2019-06-24 11:49

    My words begin plucking at threads nervously, seeking purchase, a weak point, a vulnerable ear. That's when it comes, the urge to shout in the church, the nursery, the crowded movie house. It's an itch at first. Inconsequential. But the itch is soon a torrent behind a straining dam. Noah's flood. That itch is my whole life. Here it comes now. Cover your ears. Build an ark.“Eat me!” I scream.Or more often, “Eat me, dickweed!” Meet Lionel Essrog, undoubtedly the only fictitious gumshoe with Tourette's syndrome and the unforgettable protagonist of Jonathan Lethem's remarkable genre mash-up. Hard-boiled detective novel? Parody? Meditation on language and the working of the brain? Literary tour de force? Yup. When I read “Motherless Brooklyn” fifteen years ago, I admired but didn't love it. This time around, I admired it even more but Lethem's inventiveness, humor and linguistic virtuosity still engage the brain more than the heart, at least for this reader. ”Uncle Batman! Unclebailey Blackman! Barnamum Bat-a-potamus!” “Ziggedy zendoodah... Pierogi Monster Zen master zealous neighbor... Zazen zaftig Zsa Zsa go-bare... Zippity go figure.”“Flip-a-thon! Fuck-a-door! Flipweed! Fujisaki! Flitcraft! Nun-fuck-a-phone!”It's hard not to root for Lionel. His verbal outbursts, along with touching and counting compulsions, make him “Freakshow” to his compatriots but Lethem never makes him a laughingstock even when the manifestations of his disorder are hilariously funny. Lionel and three other orphans (“all of motherless Brooklyn”) were plucked as teenagers from St. Vincent's Home for Boys by small-time gangster Frank Minna to work for his car service/detective agency. When these “Minna Men” are unable to prevent Frank's murder, Lionel doggedly sets out to avenge the loss of the only father figure he has ever known and gets tangled up with a Zen center, for-real Brooklyn mobsters, a Polish giant, a powerful Japanese corporation and oh yes, a girl or two. The noirish plot gets pretty convoluted and silly but don't they all? Lethem isn't going for a classic of the genre; he's turning the genre inside-out. And while he's at it, he's putting a corner of my hometown on the literary map. That's worth a star from this Brooklyn chauvinist. But even after two readings and despite one of my favorite titles ever, I haven't been able to register even a flutter of love for “Motherless Brooklyn.”

  • Jonathan Peto
    2019-06-02 14:52

    I enjoyed this story quite a bit. I have no idea if the main character, Lionel Essrog, is portrayed accurately or well, since he has Tourette's Syndrome, but it's interesting, as well as funny and sad at times. It's a detective story, a spoof perhaps, but not an obnoxious send-up. The genre's cliches are not included for cheap laughs; they are put to good use.Lionel's boss is murdered at the beginning. And then they're off and running! Brooklyn, a Russian killer, mafioso, small time hoods, Japanese Zen, Japanese corporations and of all things, Maine and the Artist Formerly Know as Prince.I don't think the book quite lives up to the claims of some of the critics. It was not a deep meditation about language. That was fine with me, I guess. There's reflection, but for the most part, it does not overwhelm the plot.Other reviewers apparently saw what was happening from a mile away. Hey, I haven't read a lot of mysteries. The climax was not perfect, the mystery was not an enigma wrapped in a wet noodle or whatever, but it was enjoyable, except next time, Lionel should get the girl.

  • Sharyl
    2019-06-14 11:49

    Lionel Essrog is one of the most endearing, sympathetic, and intriguing characters I've come across in a novel. Lionel is presumed by many to be less than bright simply because he has Tourette's syndrome, but oh, there is so much going on in Lionel's head. Despite his difficulties in socializing and conversing, Lionel becomes an unlikely detective in this mystery plot. Motherless Brooklyn is more than a mystery novel, though. It's also the story of how a man unravels the truth about what has been going on in the backdrop of his life, how he was manipulated into his place, back when he was an orphaned child. I admire the way that Jonathan Lethem can create such a different, authentic sounding narrator. Not only that, he created some very funny moments in this dark story. And now--I'm simply going to have to touch all of Lethem's novels...I'd recommend this one to anyone.P.S. I found it intriguing that Lionel is into Prince.

  • David Lentz
    2019-06-27 12:52

    Lionel Essrog must rank as one of the most original narrators of a novel in contemporary fiction. He deals in good faith with his Tourette's syndrome, gently educating us, amid the harsh and brutal reality of Brooklyn. Essrog is a kind of existential orphan in a motherless city. He is consumed with finding order, patterns, balance, symmetry and controlling urges to scream his innermost sensibilities in public. His friends call him "Freak Show" and yet he has one of the most endearing narrative voices in modern fiction -- gentle, highly intelligent, vulnerable and humane, like Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse Five. Essrog rides through New York's subways noting how they offer a structure and canvass for irrepressible, subterranean human expressions like his. The protagonist seeks and finds the hidden gems of beauty that lie well hidden in the harsh starkness of the city. The characters like the city are original and real with freakish overtones which stop short of stereotypes. The novel is steeped in the language, street culture and underground economy that is Brooklyn. The plot is entertaining, the dialogue is authentic and the octopus joke is hilarious. The author does a great job weaving an intricate plot structure of apparently unconnected forces that come together naturally and masterfully. The word play through Essrog's Tourettic sensibilities were lyrical, poetic and even Joycean in places. I really enjoyed this novel's gritty urban realism and its flashes of real comic wit from a highly talented and inventive writer. This is a great piece of contemporary literature that's a genuine pleasure to read.

  • Alex
    2019-06-08 14:43

    A modern noir with the hook that its narrator has Tourette's, Motherles Brooklyn is terrifically entertaining all the way through. It feels smaller than my other Lethem, The Fortress of Solitude, which keeps it from a five-star rating for me, but it's an awfully good time.Tourette's is on every page, and while it all feels like Lethem did a lot of research and is fairly depicting it, it also feels overwhelming - so much so that at one point one gets the sense that Lethem has stepped into the narrative to excuse himself: talking about Tourette's, Lionel explains, is itself a Touretteish tic. I'm a little surprised this hasn't been made into a movie yet. One would think actors would be pushing each other aside to play Lionel. I'm not saying I'd be totally psyched to see it - it seems like an invitation to scenery-chewing - just saying it seems likely. And indeed IMDb tells me that it's somewhere in development hell, with Ed Norton possibly attached. Of course, Ed Norton. (Update: oh hey, it got made, Norton directed it, Bruce Willis (!) plays Lionel. Out in 2019.)

  • Infada Spain
    2019-06-13 09:43