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Motherless Brooklyn Paperback – Jul 1 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (July 1 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571226329
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571226320
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 222 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (163 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #661,502 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4.2 out of 5 stars

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By C. K. Lidster TOP 50 REVIEWER on Dec 15 2014
Format: Paperback
Jonathan Lethem is up there in the heavyweight rankings, with Denis Johnson, Michael Ondaatje, Ron Hansen, Michael Chabon, Thomas Pynchon, Don Delillo, and of course, the undisputed champion of English prose, Cormac McCarthy. Lethem's always had speed and heavy hands -- I might as well beat the hell out of this metaphor -- but like a lot of talented kids, he got his start in the ghettoes of genre, writing beautifully crafted, high-concept/low-pretense science fiction.

Some truly great novelists have created classics of crime, horror, fantasy, and science fiction that transcend genre: Philip K. Dick's 'A Scanner Darkly', Dashiell Hammett's 'The Maltese Falcon', Richard Price's 'Lush Life', and Neal Stephenson's 'Anathem' are fine examples. With 'Motherless Brooklyn', Lethem showed off those heavy hands to score a 1st Round KO and take the title -- the National Book Award, one of the big ones. Only the Pulitzer Prize carries more prestige, and not by much. He was free of the ghetto, writing big-'L' Literature.

The beauty of this new-found freedom was that Lethem could write science fiction, and show up in the Literature section, as one of many respected subcategories called Speculative Fiction. When Cormac McCarthy wrote 'No Country For Old Men', he wasn't slumming in the crime-fiction ghetto, he was writing the kind of Crime Fiction that exists just across the border from Mickey Spillane's hometown, a twin city just inside Literature's jurisdiction, sometimes home to Paul Auster. 'The Road' -- which won the Pulitzer -- may have seemed like pure post-apocalyptic science fiction, but again, it's 'Speculative Fiction' in the case of a writer like McCarthy... and it's sure as hell Literature.
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By A Customer on May 11 2004
Format: Paperback
Lionel Essrog is the center of attention in this riveting novel by Jonahtan Lethem--he (Lionel, not the author) has Tourette's Syndrome, that unfortunate and uncontrollable desire to shout, bark, and curse. As if that weren't enough premise, add to this the fact that poor Lionel ends up working for a small-time mobster who runs a limo service. I was expecting something along the lines of a Pahalinuk novel with extreme situations and characters (and I did get that), but I also got something more: great storytelling and a great plot. There are several novels out nowadays that deal with "handicaps" of some sort. This must the going thing. Haddon's THE CURIOUS INCIDIENT deals with autism, and McCrae's BARK OF THE DOGWOOD deals with a child who has Dissociative Identity Disorder, among a host of other ailments, as well as being an abused child. So why not a novel about Tourette's syndrome? One shudders to think what these materials would be like in less capable author's hands, but in all three novels, the ideas work, especially in MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN. I can't recommend this book enough. It's just one of the most unusual things I've read in years.
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Format: Paperback
This book is hard to categorize. Is it a detective novel? A satire of the detective novel? A literary journey through the complexities of language? Who knows, and the book is so thoroughly entertaining that it really doesn't matter what the authors real motives are.
The narrator, Lionel Essrog (a name just dying for a Tourettic tic) has Tourette's Syndrome, which makes him a wonderful and unique storyteller. And the reader can't help but laugh out loud at his unexpected yellings and shoulder taps. I kept expecting Lionel to become annoying or to find a cure for his tics, but Lethem gratefully keeps him true to character the entire book. The word associations and spoonerisms that Lionel erupts with will be interesting to anyone who likes wordplay.
The detective part of this novel comes in when Minna, a low status criminal, is knifed. It's up to his gang, the Minna Men, of which Lionel is one, to figure out whodunnit. What occurs is a tongue-in-cheek crime story that actually manages to be a pretty good mystery in the end.
This is overall a pretty strange book in that it was never what I expected it to be. Hilarious, mysterious, tragic, and touching. How did Lethem manage to do all this in just over 300 pages? I'll be reading another Lethem very soon....
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By Jason Baer on Sept. 11 2003
Format: Paperback
We're all familiar with the conventions of the hard-boiled detective genre: men of few words, fisticuffs in back alleys, rougue cops, mysterious women with long legs and dark secrets, and so forth. In this brilliant novel, Lethem has turned all of these conventions on their ear. Instead of a man of few words, our protagonist (Lionel Essrog) is a man of too many words... he has Tourette's Syndrome.
The ordinary detective slowly uncovers clues through a mixture of intimidation and verbal trickery. Lionel, on the other hand, is ridiculed or roughed up by nearly everyone he meets. And still he brilliantly tracks down leads and uses his apparent weaknesses to his advantage. All other conventions are also reversed. Dark secrets turn out to be less dark than we imagined. Instead of being coy and mysterious, the women practice Zen and say what they mean.
Lethem has done an excellent job of replicating the tension, pace, and intrique of the very best detective novels, but he has done so in a way that no one else has before. And the brilliant writing and masterful descriptions of New York City make it easy to see why this novel has garnered so much praise from people and publications that ordinarily don't care much for genre writing.
Fans of the genre, read this book to get a taste of something wonderfully different. Fans of literature, read this book to experience the very best of the detective genre. Also, if you liked this book, try Martin Amis's NightTrain.
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