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Lenny Bruce Is Dead [Paperback]

Jonathan Goldstein
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 1 2010 1552452409 978-1552452400 revised edition
At McDonald's, when I'm throwing out the stuff on my tray, there's a point where I get scared that my wallet could have been on there, too. I always think, as everything is tumbling into the garbage, that I might have tossed my wallet on the tray and forgotten. It always feels possible.

So begins Jonathan Goldstein's first novel, Lenny Bruce is Dead. It's the story of Joshua, a young man who's uncertain about a lot more than the possible loss of his wallet. He might as well be talking about his whole life. Josh is having a hard time finding his way in the world; deciding on a career and keeping a girlfriend are too much to handle, not to mention the fact that after the death of his mother he has moved back into his childhood suburban home to be with his father, Chick. Oh, and then there's the arrival of the Moschiach (inventor of the infamousLove Lotion) to further complicate things.

Lenny Bruce Is Dead walks a tightrope between being searingly funny and poignant - you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll long for Love Lotion (and a Moschiach of your own). And you won't forget Josh - ineptitude, scatological neuroses, urban angst, self-deprecating humour and all.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Goldstein's woeful, funny debut novel is a series of aphorism-capped vignettes, paced at the rate of approximately one scene per paragraph. As these snapshots flash past, protagonist Josh ages rapidly from child to onanistic teen to depressive adult, mourning the death of his mother and the loss of a series of vividly described girlfriends along the way. Throughout, descriptions of Josh's suburban-anytown Jewish upbringing and job at local fast-food franchise Burger Zoo, while peppered with scatological and Portnoy's Complaint-esque sordidly sexual details, often achieve a level of nuance that's poetic and almost profound. In the latter third of the book, Josh's preoccupation with a Hasidic neighbor and the "Rebbe's Kosher-style Love Lotion" that he begins to experiment with grow repetitive and confusing. But "This American Life" contributing editor Goldstein has a knack for imagery ("He was crying on the floor, pulling toilet paper off the spool with both hands like he was climbing a rope") and ear for hyper-realistic dialogue, making him a writer to watch. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


'Jonathan Goldstein is one of the funniest and most original writers I can think of. Anything by him is better than anything by just about anyone else.' – David Sedaris

'An incredibly strange but redeemingly funny novel.' – Esquire

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AT MCDONALD'S, when I'm throwing out the stuff on my tray, there's a point where I get scared that my wallet could have been on there, too. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing Nov. 23 2002
Anybody who's ever heard this author on This American Life would have high hopes for any novel he writes, but unfortunately Lenny Bruce is Dead just doesn't live up to his potential.
However, I recently read his second book, "Schmelvis", and it's extraordinary. It's not a novel but rather a sort of road trip memoir. It's about a documentary Goldstein worked on about Elvis Presley's Jewish roots (yes, believe it or not, the King was a Hebe) and it is brilliant. He and a film crew, a chassidic jewish Elvis impersonator named Schmelvis and a wacky Rabbi went to Memphis and Israel looking for evidence. Hilarious, touching, fascinating, all at the same time. I'd recommend that Jonathan's fans run, don't walk, and pick up "Schmelvis". Much more in the spirit of This American life than Lenny Bruce is dead, although his novel does have its moments so you might want to read that as well.
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2.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Disappointment April 18 2002
Interesting, experimental novel by one of my favorite "This American Life" essayists. Folks familiar with that show will recognize the storytelling style: three- or four-sentence paragraph/chapters, each presenting a new idea, are bounced off each other in very rapid succession. The effect is sometimes ironic, sometimes not. Unfortunately, this device may be better suited to radio than it is to the page, and while there are some powerful moments the book comes off as more of a gimmicky exercise than anything else. The relentless cleverness (although the writing isn't terribly funny) make the book seem pretty far removed from actual human experience. It's also bogged down by an undergraduate sensibility about sex, and by a lot of odd metaphors that don't go anywhere. I can imagine this style being successfully applied to the novel form, but I don't think Goldstein's done it here.
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1.0 out of 5 stars What was that about? Jan. 30 2002
Many times I wanted to put this book down but kept telling myself it would get better. It never did. This book was one of the most confusing and perplexing peices I have ever read.
It tells the story of a young man's life and experiences with his parents, religion and girlfriends by throwing disjointed paragraphs together. In one paragraph Goldstein may be describing a moment with a girlfriend while in the next paragraph he jumps to some totally unrelated topic. These unconnected snipets of memory go on for 200 pages and causes much frustration for the reader. It is a book that has nothing to offer as the ending is unconclusive. A waste of time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A very different and wonderful discovery Feb. 6 2002
I picked it up this book because my friends were raving about it and I had heard Goldstein's hilarious radio pieces on This American Life. The narrative voice makes this novel so original and distinct. Goldstein's imagery made me stop reading at times and just think about the power of language. He is a very talented man. He notices everything so tenderly, from a dirty napkin on a table to a girl's funny face. This is an introspective novel about the reflections a man has when his mother dies. It is fragmented, but it almost has to be. It's so beautiful, I could only take it one paragraph at a time. For those who love literature only!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Painful, thoroughly inadequate style Oct. 18 2002
By A Customer
This author is well known for his radio writing and I was curious what the novel would be like. It is simply so light weight and smirking as to be hard to endure. I realize one shouldn't expect much from a book like this, but it seems to me novel writing must take more effort than was expended here. I also can't help but note that the Open Letters review excerpted here seems to me a bit incestuous. Nothing wrong with having friends give you rave reviews, mind. What are friends for, no?
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