Lindsey's Reviews > Motherless Brooklyn

Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
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If there are two things I truly love in a novel it's a.) a socially stunted but totally endearing narrator and b.) unabashed obsession with the borough in which I live. And in Motherless Brooklyn, both are very tangible characters exalted to new levels by Lethem's unique and undeniable talents. The framework of the story is very rooted in traditional noir crime novel, but Lethem is not attempting to reinvent the genre so much as pay homage to it in the most literary ways he can think of. This emerges in the form of our hero, Lionel Essrog, orphan turned detective, plagued by the outbursts, compulsions, and tics of Tourette's Syndrome. This, of course, leads to some darkly comedic moments that are highly enjoyable. But the it's the italicized wordplay, the spastic repetitions and re-pairings and transformations of each syllable ricocheting through Essrog's brain, which are a true delight, and a true testament to Lethem's writing prowess. Motherless Brooklyn has a timeless and triumphant feel, and while I found the chunkiness of the chapters a bit cumbersome and certain passages overly repetitive, it's quickly made my short list of the best books ever written about Brooklyn, and it's not just because Lethem loves to name-drop specific locales. This novel truly is a love-letter to the chaos, the pulse, the blur, the very song of living here, embodied in everything from the glamorous, old-timey gangster shmaltz to the compulsive, flawed, humble and endearing traits of Essrog. Every one of these elements comes to symbolize what it is to be a part of the borough, and while I think it holds much charm for those living elsewhere, there cannot be Brooklynite from Coney Island to Greenpoint who shouldn't cherish every word of this novel.
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