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Lenny Bruce is Dead

3.27  ·  Rating details ·  430 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews

Author Biography: Jonathan Goldstein is an award-winning author whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, GQ, Ready-Made, The Journey Prize Anthology, and The New York Times. He's a contributing editor to PRI's This American Life, where his work is regularly featured. He lives in Montreal.

Paperback, 160 pages
Published April 20th 2001 by Coach House Press (first published 2001)
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Dec 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
these goodread browsers aren't fucking around, I accidently typed "lenny bruse is dead" and no dice. you gotta have your shit togethe ron this site.
anyway. this is a great book. I great pick up and read anywhere book.
it's about a guy who is sort of lost and lives with his father in NY after Mom just died. they go out for chinese food everynight. he escapes from the pain with girlfriend drama which sucks for his emotional growth but is "BOOO-YA" for readers who like to read about lots and lots of
Jul 07, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok, while this was on my "to-read" shelf (mere hours ago) I had given it four stars. I've sinced finished it, and since downgraded to three stars. Still good, but have you ever had that experience reading a book where you're all about it and digging the tone but then it just doesn't quite build and deliver properly at the end? That's how I felt about this one. According to the back cover of the book the death of the protagonist's mother is supposed to be a central event, the point around which h ...more
Oct 10, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I first heard of Jonathan Goldstein after listening to "This American Life" on NPR. When I put his book on my to-read list, I had high hopes. After all, the book is tiny so I was prepared for a delightful short read.

So here's the thing: I just don't get it. It's probably entirely my fault -- I probably missed some really cunning literary joke or perhaps there was something clever in the arranging of words that completely flew over my head. Try as I might this book just wasn't for me.
Jul 01, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoy reading books for many reasons, one of which can be experimental narrative... which this is. However, unlike some books I have read which jump around through time, this never gave me the jolting feeling I get when this style is executed poorly. It was a beautiful (while crude) story, and I read it straight through in one sitting.
Nov 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Goldstein somehow crafted phenomenal microprose into a credible novel. How can you not love a book totally composed of lines like "Her mother told amusing anecdotes in a light British accent. There was never a point to anything Josh's mother said. Frieda's stories usually ended with 'and I bargained him down to half.' Kay's mothers stories had buttons"???? "Lenny Bruce..." improves on a second read due to the structure. Since these vignettes are often scattered in time through the book, the full ...more
not as satisfying as a segment of 'this american life' but featuring some of the usual material, this book centers on josh, goldstein's best friend. nonlinear, episodic, and impressionistic in structure, the narrative is funny and interesting but definitely improved by imagining it read in goldstein's signature nasal deadpan.
Aug 23, 2009 rated it it was ok
Much like Shootsie, I did not get it. While I found the style very readable and new, all I read were tenously connected rantings and railings without understanding what the bigger meaning was. Me thinks one needs more schooling to enjoy the benefit of the book.
Dec 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i think i like reading about masturbation more and more
Nov 19, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like run head first into walls.
There are still a few things in this world that can make my heart go “Pitter-patter” 1) Potential love from a pretty girl. 2) Great food. 3) Seeing a book that’s written by someone I associate with either This American Life or McSweeney’s.
It wasn’t the book that caught my eye, but rather the name of the author: Jonathan Goldstein. I could hear Ira Glass saying his name. Jonathan Goldstein. I didn’t care if it was good or bad. I just wanted to read it.
The story is told in tiny concussive bursts
Feb 11, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I enjoyed several moments and descriptions in this book, the form made it difficult to do more than skim the surface of the story. Instead of a continuous narrative, it is made up of brief parts, from a single sentence up to several short paragraphs, but never more. Its "chapters" rarely frame the material in a meaningful way and instead seem like arbitrary groupings of anecdotes. Every new piece feels like it could be the beginning of a longer story, and eventually the lack of forward mom ...more
Aug 31, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: This American Life fans ... people who like dry humor mixed with sex
I go back and forth on how I feel about the fragmented nature of the book’s narrative. On one hand, I think it’s brilliant … for those who love THIS AMERICAN LIFE and Goldstein’s work there, it’s a must read. The book gives a good feeling for main-character Josh’s rather odd and perhaps dysfunctional life ... a life spent dealing with the loss of his mother, the presence of his father, and a steady stream of love interests.

On the other hand, I think it’s a cop out; an easy way to tell a story w
May 11, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
As a big fan of WireTap, I was expecting a lot from this book. Sadly, I was disappointed.

The book cover indicated this was the story of Josh, who moves back to his childhood home after his mother dies. The disconnected, episodic, memory recall style of the book was quite effective as the scenes changed from moments when Josh's mother, Frieda, was a live, and moments from his childhood (childhood friends and enemies and girlfriends, and the rabbi). But overall the couple of moments of real tende
Katie Schmid
Everyone I know loves this book. I like this guy's radio segments, and one of my friends knows the author. And there were some funny parts of the book, but really, the book was written in a secret language I couldn't understand. It was almost unintelligible to me. I wonder if you have to be a man over 25 to "get" it. After reading it, I basically had no idea what happened, and I didn't so much care about any of the main characters. But maybe you will like it, who knows. I would not recommend thi ...more
Jun 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: faves
This is one of my all-time favorites. You may know Goldstein, as I did originally, from his usually-funny CBC radio show, Wiretap; don't expect a similar style from this novel, aside from its unique episodic format. Goldstein is funny and frank, splicing moments together in a patchwork that mirrors the way we often experience life and memories. Like most good humorists, Goldstein is touching, too; among his interwoven storylines are one or two that deal beautifully with death and grieving. Page ...more
Aug 08, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classy-fiction
Very fast read--often funny, and less often poignant. As I imagine most readers of this novel, I became acquainted with Goldstein through his great work on This American Life on NPR. While Lenny Bruce is Dead is in a similar mold to his TAL work, I didn't feel that the bits added up to enough of a whole to justify the novel, which was a terrible disapointment to me, as I had high hopes for this one. It's not unenjoyable, but it feels trifling when it's all said and done. Lots of sexual content i ...more
Kendall Kieras
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This book had a rather experimental feel. There is really no cohesive narrative and the characters are not very well-developed. It ended up being an incoherent collection of quirky, paragraph-long nuggets of humor. However, a lot of these nuggets are utterly brilliant, and that makes the book worth the read. This book is a QUICK read - you can easily read it all in one sitting - so it's not a huge time investment for getting some good laughs in return. The book is enjoyable so long as you know w ...more
Sam Lute
Lenny Bruce is Dead was pretty difficult to follow at times. The stream of consciousness shifts scenes almost every paragraph, which is disorienting, but if find the groove, it proves to be an entertaining and humorous novel about a young jewish kid's adventures in adolescence. I found that it's best to try to read this novel in as few sittings as possible, because everytime you lay it down, you have to relocate said "groove."
I didn't realize this was the same Jonathan Goldstein from TMA. All the same, I enjoyed it a lot; if Denis Johnson had written Portnoy's Complaint instead of Jesus' Son, it would probably go like this. A lot of references to masturbation and things-you're-not-supposed-to-admit with it, also some dream-novel things thrown in for good measure. But, you know, funny. "I thought I would swallow Wite Out so I could start all over." I'm not sure I will remember much of it in a few weeks, but hey.
Dana Larose
Oct 12, 2008 rated it liked it's probably worth four stars if you listen to Wiretap and imagine the book with Jonathan Goldstein's voice.

Lenny Bruce is Dead isn't so much a novel as a collection of anecdotes and one-liners from the narrator's life. He spends a lot of time talking about masturbating and fantasizing about his girlfriends.

It's very funny while exposing how lost and lonely Josh (the narrator) is after his mother dies.
Mar 27, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
intriguing format - simply sentences, brief paragraphs, short passages, no chapter titles or significant delineation...non-linear, somewhat surreal, like "slaughterhouse five" or "2001 space odyssey"...a couple of funny lines or interesting memories...i bought it after hearing him read a section of his "bible stories"...he sounded like he has a very dry sense of humor...this is more of a memoir about growing up and coping with losing his mom...
Hmmm, I am a little disappointed with this book. I really enjoy Goldstein's stories on This American Life and expected to be enchanted by this book but it was more like reading separate stanzas from many different poems rather than a novel. His observations are at times beautiful, lyrical and poetic but the unconventional structure of this novel is distracting and diminishes their effect.
Dec 16, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
I started out really enjoying this clever book. It's filled with short 'scenes' that end in punchlines and have cool insight to the characters and to the reader.

The thing is...after half the book, I got tired of it, and the material seemed a bit stale and not as clever.

This is definitely best read in just a couple sittings rather than the week it took me to finish.
Oct 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A little odd, a little twisted, a little filthy, all fantastic. Okay, I have to admit that I'm a long time obesessive Jonathan Goldstein and Joshua Karpati fan from TAL. This book did not disappoint. I borrowed it from the library and after finishing it went out and bought a copy for my own shelves. The obsession lives on.
Aug 06, 2011 added it
The narrative style of this book is extremely unique and won't appeal to all readers, but I enjoyed it. There's not much plot in this short novel, but some very funny insights and moments that seem to just exits on their own. If you're a fan of Goldstein's work on WireTap then you'll probably enjoy this book.
Jan 07, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Slight, experimental riff on the kind of character we know from early Philip Roth (and probably Mordecai Richler, who I haven't read) - an aimless young Jewish man dealing with loss and lack of ambition, except to get laid. Intermittently funny and moving but not funny enough or moving enough to be memorable.
Vanessa Ryan
Did not like this. Love hearing the author, Jonathan Goldstein, on This American Life - he's hilarious and talented. But the book was a bunch of disjointed,arbitrary and at times confusing memories of the protagonist. Couldn't make it past page 15 - it's one of the first times I've wanted a refund for a book!
Jun 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A startlingly blunt and oddly beautiful little book. Rather than any typical narrative structure, it's composed of snatches of memory and fantasy that are interesting on their own, but combined, become a strange, staccato view of a young Jewish man in New York. Lustful, angstful, painful, and funny.
Aug 20, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I eventually got in to it, the scattered style was a little disarming and hard to follow. I found the rhythm and was centered by the end of it. Intrigued me enough to want to read another of his.
Jul 19, 2007 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I really like Jonathan Goldstein on TAL, so I'm hoping this will be an extension.

One of my favorites is
if only because his friend berates him - but the story is pretty funny (act 1).
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Radio Work

Many of Goldstein's pieces have been featured on the PRI radio show This American Life where he is a contributing editor. From 2000 to 2002 he was also a producer of the show.

Currently, Goldstein hosts a show on CBC Radio One called WireTap, a program featuring stories told over the phone. He was also the host of the CBC summer radio program Road Dot Trip in 2000 and has contributed to s
More about Jonathan Goldstein...

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“Everyone runs around trying to find a place where they still serve breakfast because eating breakfast, even if it's 5 o'clock in the afternoon, is a sign that the day has just begun and good things can still happen. Having lunch is like throwing in the towel.” 20 likes
“he rubbed his feet back and forth on the library carpet and when she walked by, he touched her with the tip of his index finger” 4 likes
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