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Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem

Motherless Brooklyn (original 1999; edition 2000)

by Jonathan Lethem (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,078791,798 (4)152
Title:Motherless Brooklyn
Authors:Jonathan Lethem (Author)
Info:Vintage (2000), 311 pages
Collections:Books I've Read
Tags:fiction, mystery

Work details

Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem (1999)

  1. 60
    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (jeanned)
  2. 30
    The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (InvisiblerMan)
  3. 20
    The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (InvisiblerMan)
  4. 20
    Men and Cartoons: Stories by Jonathan Lethem (Smiler69)
    Smiler69: A great collection of short stories by the same author.
  5. 20
    Chinaman's Chance by Ross Thomas (Bookmarque)
    Bookmarque: Murder & deceit in the underworld...no one has tourette's but it's a great read.
  6. 10
    Not Me by Michael Lavigne (ehines)
    ehines: Not me is a different kind of novel than Motherless Brooklyn, but with a very similar spirit. The subject matter is more serious, but the protagonist is a comedian, with an attitude quite similar, to my mind, to the narrator of Motherless Brooklyn.
  7. 10
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  8. 00
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  9. 00
    The Madman's Tale by John Katzenbach (jeanned)
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    Pop. 1280 by Jim Thompson (Darco)

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» See also 152 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 77 (next | show all)
Wow, what a novel. I can see why some readers think that the resolution of the crime was too perfunctory and tacked on in the last chapter, but to me it feels just right. Lionel's interior story was so much more interesting to me than the crime mystery. And the final sentence couldn't have been better! I'll be pondering on Lionel Essrog for a long time. Edward Norton has written the screenplay (set in the 50's) and will direct and star in it. I think he could do a brilliant job, but as a big fan of the book I wish the script stuck with the 1990's setting. Also, knowing that an important part of the Lionel character is his size, I can see Vince Vaughn in the part - big, twitchy, compulsive, melancholy. Edward Norton would be a good fit for Frank Minna. When I really, really, really love a book I can't help casting it. ( )
  badube | Mar 6, 2019 |
Lionel Essrog, the orphan car boy and amateur detective of Motherless Brooklyn, has a unique narrative voice. Afflicted by severe (and un-medicated) Tourette's syndrome, he has uncontrollable urges to vocalize meaningless phrases, touch people without permission, and to make objects symmetrical. Nonetheless, he spins an intriguing murder mystery tale, centered around the death of Frank Minna, the small-time operator who rescued him and his friends from a Brooklyn orphanage and gave them jobs as his posse--the Minna Men. I don't typically read whodunits, so it is difficult for me to evaluate this one according to the standards of the genre, but it definitely kept me reading. ( )
  akblanchard | Feb 1, 2019 |
Narrator has Tourette. Could not stand the constant interruptions. Stopped after ~20 pages. ( )
  Richj | Nov 8, 2018 |
this is entirely unique to anything i've ever read, and it manages to do that without being pretentious or experimental. truly a feat. i've never read a main character with tourette's before, and in the first person it was really eye opening. i have no idea if this is an accurate representation at all of what it's like to live with tourette's but it was fascinating to me. the plot was also engaging and interesting and kept me turning pages. his writing is pretty close to exquisite over and over again, and was excellent throughout. this is my first jonathan lethem and i'll definitely be reading more. the more i think about this book the more brilliant it seems.

"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 wold never clear a space in which my own sorrow could dwell." ( )
  overlycriticalelisa | Jun 29, 2018 |
According to an old book list, I read this in 2003. This would have been shortly after I first joined Readerville, my first (and always most beloved) foray into online book discussions—or really any kind of book discussion with a wider group of people than my own circle of friends. This was a much-loved book there, and I distinctly remember finding it on the table at Housing Works for $3 during a restless book-browsing lunch hour and being so happy to snap it up. The thrill of the hunt! Which has, in fact, never diminished no matter how many books and galleys I have piling up. Anyway, I remember liking the book but not much more than that, and am thinking that this is one I'll probably reread at some point. ( )
1 vote lisapeet | May 22, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 77 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jonathan Lethemprimary authorall editionscalculated
Buscemi, SteveNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Context is everything. Dress me up and see. I'm a carnival barker, an auctioneer, a downtown performance artist, a speaker in tongues, a senator drunk on fillbuster. I've got Tourette's. 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.
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Ik ben een schreeuwende carnavalsvierder, een veilingmeester, een straatartiest, een mystiek brabbelaar, een senator die brooddronken is van zijn eigen lange redevoeringen.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Motherless Brooklyn is a Jonathan Lethem novel published in 1999. It is a detective story set in Brooklyn. Lethem's protagonist has Tourette syndrome, a disorder marked by involuntary tics.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375724834, Paperback)

Pop quiz. Please complete the following sentence: "There are days when I get up in the morning and stagger into the bathroom and begin running water and then I look up and I don't even recognize my own _." If you answered face, then your name is obviously not Jonathan Lethem. Instead of taking the easy out, the genre-busting novelist concludes this by-the-numbers string of words with toothbrush in the mirror.

This brilliant sentence and a lot of other really excellent ones compose Lethem's engaging fifth novel, Motherless Brooklyn. Lionel Essrog, a detective suffering from Tourette's syndrome, spins the narrative as he tracks down the killer of his boss, Frank Minna. Minna enlisted Lionel and his friends when they were teenagers living at Saint Vincent's Home for Boys, ostensibly to perform odd jobs (we're talking very odd) and over the years trained them to become a team of investigators. The Minna men face their most daunting case when they find their mentor in a Dumpster bleeding from stab wounds delivered by an assailant whose identity he refuses to reveal--even while he's dying on the way to the hospital.

Detectives? Brooklyn? Is this the same Lethem who danced the postapocalypso in Amnesia Moon? Incredibly, yes, and rarely has such a departure been pulled off with this much aplomb. As in the "toothbrush" passage above, Lethem sets himself up with the imposing task of making tired conventions new. Brooklyn accents? Fuggetaboutit. Lethem's dialogue is as light on its feet as a prize fighter. Lionel's Tourette's could have been an easy joke, but Lethem probes so convincingly into the disorder that you feel simultaneously rattled, sympathetic, and irritated by the guy. Sure, the story is a mystery, but Motherless Brooklyn could be about flower arranging, for all we care. What counts is Lionel's tic-ridden take on a world full of surprises, propelling this fiction forward at edgy, breakneck speed. --Ryan Boudinot

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:13 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Lionel Essrog has always respected Frank Minna, who helped him out when he was young, and when Frank is found dead, Lionel and his friends, the Minna Men, scour the streets of Brooklyn in search of the killer.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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