A complusively readable riff on the classic detective novel from America's most inventive novelist
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and a New York Times Notable Book
"Utterly original and deeply moving." —Esquire
Brooklyn's very own self-appointed Human Freakshow, Lionel Essrog is an orphan whose Tourettic impulses drive him to bark, count, and rip apart our language in startling and original ways. Together with three veterans of the St. Vincent's Home for Boys, he works for small-time mobster Frank Minna's limo service c*m detective agency. Life without Frank Minna, the charismatic King of Brooklyn, would be unimaginable, so who cares if the tasks he sets them are, well, not exactly legal.
But when Frank is fatally stabbed, one of Lionel's colleagues lands in jail, the other two vie for his position, and the victim's widow skips town. Lionel's world is suddenly topsy-turvy, and this outcast who has trouble even conversing attempts to untangle the threads of the case while trying to keep the words straight in his head.
Motherless Brooklyn is a brilliantly original, captivating homage to the classic detective novel by one of the most acclaimed writers of his generation.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Widely considered a postmodern masterpiece, Motherless Brooklyn delivers a one-two punch of gorgeous storytelling and zippy linguistic gymnastics. The 1999 novel revolves around Lionel Essrog, who’s determined to find out who killed his beloved mentor, minor mobster Frank Minna. Lionel’s investigation is alternately hampered and helped by his Tourette’s syndrome—and by a colorful crew of supporting characters. Jonathan Lethem’s thoughtful exploration of his unconventional hero’s verbal and mental tics lends the story an unusual, often-surprising rhythm. We can’t wait to watch the movie adaptation, directed by one of our favorite actors, Edward Norton.
This entertaining play on the hardboiled detective tale features an unlikely gumshoe with Tourette's syndrome, which compels him to count, tap and make strange vocalizations at inopportune moments. Such ticks could seem gimmicky, but Lethem writes it, and Buscemi performs it, with such styles that the compulsions seem an endearing idiosyncrazy (though not to the Tourettic's cohorts, who call him "Freakshow"). Regretfully, it's hard to grasp Lethem's wordplay as it goes whizzing by-Buscemi enunciates at great speed to convey the frenetic activity inside the man's head. Lionel Essrog works with three other young men for Frank Minna's small time detective agency ("Minna men," Lionel calls them) masquerading as car service ("No cars!" the boys respond whenever the phone rings). Lionel was saved from an orphanage by Minna, so when his mentor is killed on the job, Lionel is devastated and determines to solve the crime. The chase takes him from a zendo on Manhattan's Upper East Side to a resort on the Maine coast as he follows a character he can identify only as "the giant." Buscemi convincingly conveys the accents of Japanese Zen masters and Brooklyn mobsters, along with Lionel's verbal acrobatics, all without losing the noirish ambience Lethem is gently riffing. Listeners may find themselves unable to turn off their walkmen and put this one down. Based on the Doubleday hardcover (Forecasts, Aug. 16, 1999).
Customer ReviewsSee All
Simply brilliant, not to be missed! Masterful and magical language immerses one in the tangled world of the main character Lionel Essrog. Viewing life through the Essrog lens is an entirely unique unforgettable experience. Laugh out loud funny, poignant and tender, ruthless and edgy. Loved every word.
I didn’t love it or hate it. Its interesting at times and there’s a bit of humour thrown in but mostly I found the story needed less talk and more action