The orphan, the freakshow, the tugboat, the narrator; this is Lionel Essrog. Through his mind, riddled with tourettic symptoms, we view his own private Marlowe detective story.
Lionel, along with 3 other orphans from St. Vincent’s Home for Boys, is mentored and employed by Frank Minna, a small time mobster that runs a car service/detective agency. The 4 boy’s entire world view is filtered through Frank’s observations and teachings. When Frank is killed, it falls to ”the Freakshow” to solve his murder.
Frank used to say“wheels within wheels” to sneer at the boys’ notions of coincidence or conspiracy. Motherless Brooklyn is full of wheels within wheels. Why is the Giant chasing Lionel? Where did Frank’s wife go? How are the Buddhists connected? What does this have to do with sea urchins? Can Lionel get thru an interrogation without screaming “Stickmebailey!!”?
Lethem has been praised for blending literary fiction with genre fiction. I think, in Motherless Brooklyn, he’s created an incredible book. It’s incredible because I generally hate any literary fiction set in New York. God help me if it’s literary fiction about a writer living in New York. Oh, you could have gotten the pretty girl but you screwed up? :-( die in a fire.
Where was I? Oh right, this wasn’t anything like that. It was a mesmerizing look into the life of someone suffering from Tourettes, and a killer mystery to boot.
Most highlighted quote from Kindle users: And he was too moronic to be properly self-loathing—so it was my duty to loathe him instead.
If you like Michael Chabon, but wish he wrote more like Raymond Chandler.
Movie note: Edward Norton has optioned the film and plans to adapt, star in and direct. This is good news. Norton plays some of the best ‘crazy’ in Hollywood.
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