Tag: Motherless Brooklyn

Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem

Posted November 12, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 0 Comments

Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan LethemTitle: Motherless Brooklyn (Goodreads)
Author: Jonathan Lethem
Published: Vintage, 1999
Pages: 311
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Frank Minna is a neighbourhood owner of a seedy detective agency, or he was until he was found stabbed to death. Lionel, along with Tony, Danny and Gilbert worked for Frank and were often collectively known as Minna Men. The group grow up together in St. Vincent’s Home for Boys and owe a lot to this small time mobster turned private eye. Lionel is determined to find out what happened by Frank.

This is my first Jonathan Lethem novel and I have been keen to read him for a long time. What I heard about Lethem is his ability to combine genre fiction and explore themes in an interesting way. Motherless Brooklyn does just this; under the vial of a hard-boiled detective novel, this also is a coming of age story as well as exploring life with Tourette’s syndrome. Lionel Essrog has lived with Tourette’s for his entire life, manifesting in physical and vocal tics. He is often referred to as Brooklyn’s human freakshow, which only begins to cover the reactions people to have Lionel’s disorder.

I have to admit I knew very little about Tourette’s syndrome going into this novel, I knew the effects but I did not fully grasp what was going through mind of someone living with the disorder. One of the things I love most about reading fiction is learning about the lives of people living in different cultures or living a different life than my own. Motherless Brooklyn allowed me to explore life living with Tourette, it was an eye opening novel.

On the surface Motherless Brooklyn is a pretty simple hard-boiled detective novel, but exploring growing up as an orphan in an all-boys home with Tourette’s makes this novel great. Jonathan Lethem is a brilliant writer; he takes a typical genre plot and explores just how complex the story can be. I believe The Fortress of Solitude does this with comic books (similar to The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay), Gun, With Occasional Music with science fiction and Chronic City with drug culture. I have not read these books, so I might be wrong; either way I am keen to check them out.

I am so glad to have finally picked up a Jonathan Lethem book and Motherless Brooklyn was the perfect starting point. I wanted to stay in this world for as long as possible, and I ended up slowing down on my reading. I have since discovered to joys of reading slowly with The Valley of the Dolls, but Motherless Brooklyn may have been my starting point. I have no idea which Lethem book to read next, I might have to try to get to all of them. Motherless Brooklyn was a great book and I loved that it was set in a hard-boiled setting. The combination between the genre style and understanding Tourette’s worked really well for this novel; highly recommend Motherless Brooklyn to everyone.


Judging a Book by its Cover

Posted October 10, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 0 Comments

They say “never judge a book by its cover” but why can’t you? You can tell a lot about a book by its cover. You can tell if a book is self published, get a sense of the genre and even the blurbs on the front of the book might give you an idea. To test out this theory, I thought I might play a little game. I recently got a gift certificate for a commercial bookstore and I was struggling to work out what to buy (I had three books that I was definitely going to get but I wanted to use the entire voucher). So I picked up a book that I’ve never heard of and I’m going to read and review it.

The book is called American Dream Machine by Matthew Specktor; I have never heard of the author or the book before. Judging by the cover I assume it is set in the 1960’s and the title suggests it’s about the great American dream, maybe on the lines of Revolutionary Road. There is a blurb by Jonathan Lethem, which makes it sound promising.

I know Jonathan Lethem mainly from Motherless Brooklyn and believe he writes literary mysteries. I know Raymond Chandler, Philip K. Dick and Patricia Highsmith influence him so if Matthew Specktor is anything like Lethem then I’m in for a treat. Watch out for my review of American Dream Machine and who knows I might try this again.

If you want to try for yourself, the rules are simple. Go to a bookstore or library and pick a book by an author. The only real rule is you are not allowed to read the synopsis or look it up online. I’ve still not read the back of the book; I’m just going to start reading it. This is going to be fun…I hope.