Edan's Reviews > Motherless Brooklyn

Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
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it was ok

I don't like this book as much as everyone else does. This is a point of insecurity for me. I also don't care for Haruki Murakami's work (but, okay okay, I haven't read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles--but when I do, and if I still don't like his work after that, can people stop discounting my opinion as uneducated/unfounded?)--and I feel alone on this too. I liked Fortress of Solitude better than Motherless Brooklyn, mostly for its ambition and strangeness, though the prose struck me as a DeLillo knock-off. And I was willing to take another go with Lethem, but then his new novel came out, You Don't Love Me Yet, and I was disgusted: Mr. Brooklyn, stay out of Los Angeles! I can't believe someone who focused so heavily on the issue of gentrification in his last novel would write such a light novel about hipsters living in Silverlake--does he know anything about that neighborhood and its history? In all fairness, I haven't read You Don't Love Me Yet, but, believe me, I am much more likely to read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles--at least that's a bonafide modern classic.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
July 19, 2007 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-15 of 15 (15 new)

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message 1: by Edan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:38AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Edan Robert, I think everyone can read these comments, which is unsettling. I may just try a Lethem story or two, to see what he does with the form. His cleverness might work better in that economical form. You tell Manny to read Murakami's Wild Sheep Chase, which I have read and thought: Eh.

Manny, I actually like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (well, not the most recent album), even though they were boring live. And I like some Wes Anderson, though I don't understand why everyone's so in love with Rushmore. I see what you mean, though, about the hipsters and their insufferable loves of things that maybe aren't that good after all--at least to you, or to me. (Opinions vary, and that's wonderful). But I believe that people actually DO love Murakami, and for genuine reasons, too, not because it's cool to love him. And I'm envious of their love--everyone wants to feel that way, no?

message 2: by Edan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:38AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Edan I love all of you.

message 3: by Edan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:38AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Edan I read The Secret History by Donna Tartt in Dublin, Ireland in the fall of 2002--nearly half of it in a little dim cafe over a bread-bowl of soup and three Cokes. It was raining outside, I was alone, and I hadn't read a book in over a month. By the time I bought the Tartt novel, I was craving words again.
This novel was wonderful to me perhaps for all or none of the above reasons. It felt perfect, but I don't think I can read it again for fear it won't measure up to my first experience. I know others don't like this book, or they like it okay, and that's fine. It doesn't change how I feel, or felt.

I respect that Robert continues to read Margaret Atwood with the hope that he might, with each book, enjoy her in the way that others whose opinions he repects enjoy her. In this same vein, I hope to one day return to Murakami and find what Marshall and Robert and Allison and all my other smart, wonderful friends have found there. Likewise, when I pick up a Norman Mailer book, I want to find what Manny finds there. Sometimes this can happen.

message 4: by Jaymi (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:44AM) (new)

Jaymi Oh shit...I think I might be that blond girl.

The best part is that none of you know me other than by what I read; and from the sound of your discourse, I might as well be reading dick and jane books.

I think there is a lot of pressure to like certain things or at least know of them to be hip. The most important thing, in my opinion, is to read something that entertains you, makes you think, challenges you or perhaps, just gets you through a long flight.

Forgive my intrusion, but the whole blond girl thing required a response. ;)

message 5: by Edan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:44AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Edan Welcome, Jaymi!
Two things:
1. Your list of books read is diverse and interesting, and not too different from mine.
2. I am also blonde!

message 6: by Jaymi (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:44AM) (new)

Jaymi Thanks for the welcome, Edan. I have taken some suggestions from your list of books and plan to proverbially "broaden my horizons". :)

Robert, no offense taken. I am hardly offended by a blonde joke for two reasons:
1. I make them myself.
2. In Dolly Parton's words: "I'm not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know that I'm not dumb. I also know that I'm not blonde."

Thank god for bleach.

message 7: by Jason (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:24PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason This train's already left the station--these comments have probably derailed in some horrible accident underneath another book--but I'm rereading _Brooklyn_ to teach it, respect Edan's thoughts tremendously, enjoyed the exchange around her thoughts, so... I have a couple cents to spare:

_You Don't Love Me Yet_ is not good. If it was a first novel, I might (MIGHT) pick up another by the writer, but it seemed immersed in helium, and that thin squeaky voice is only funny for about five minutes.

That said, I love most everything else Lethem has done, with Brooklyn at the top of my list (sharing that spot with _Girl in Landscape_, a riff on "The Searchers" that works damn well). I might suggest picking up his _The Disappointment Artist_. He's such an interesting, enthused, self-skeptical, challenging fan (of so many writers, films, songs, artists) that I find myself referencing him in the back of my head every time I try to recommend a text to a friend. Would that I were so interesting about my interests. But I bring up _Disappointment_ because, once you've read about how Lethem read and watched and engaged himself into adulthood, his books -- with their linguistic, intertextual, pop-cultural play -- seem far less shticky and fully, sincerely, complexly alive. Or at least I think so.

(I think Eggers, Whitehead, Lethem, even July don't probably deserve to get knocked around just because some of their fans are schmucks. I don't blame Hemingway for the hundreds of American-studies manly-man dickheads I've met over the last twenty years. Then again, Norman Mailer might deserve some of the blame.)

And, who knows? Maybe in ten years I'd pick up _You Don't Love Me Yet_ and find it pitch-perfect for the day, the complement to Edan's experience of Tartt in Dublin? I'll keep my mind open, for that right rainy day, just in case.

message 8: by Jason (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:24PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason Hmm. I think we're going to disagree here even on the salience of the authors' schmuckiness. I see you like Mailer--often brilliant, often (to borrow your terms) "incredibly irritating" and prone to vacuous insights about "deep" things and so on. It comes down to the work, which we're either going to dig or dislike, and I guess I was trying to say I try not to bring stuff outside the work (fans or authors) too much to bear on my reactions.

Why do you find their stuff--or is it just them?--insulting? (I understand that's a tricky thing to untangle, and might be very personal. Richard Ford really gets up my ass, all that mom's-boyfriend-taking-me-fishing serious poor-people-fiction of the early-eighties which I took almost personally when I was in college. And I try not to hold it against Ford.... who so many relish. But I'm weak, lord, I'm weak.)

message 9: by Edan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:25PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Edan Oh, Mike Reynolds, will you please teach some adult night classes in Los Angeles? I will definitely pick up The Disappointment Artist. Men and Cartoons has also been recommended by me ...
And, Manny, you are too hard on everyone!

message 10: by Edan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:25PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Edan Sure is. See, Mike, your'e famous.

message 11: by Jason (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:25PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason Few things, working backward:

--Good point about Mailer, Manny. His openness to any stray thought does lead to a fertile and oftentimes startling batting average of hits to misses. Pretty big misses, but you give the guy credit he deserves. And _Armies of the Night_ is as much a broadside against the Mailer ego as a ballooning sample of it. I guess I'm with you in some ways, but--if Dave Eggers isn't earnest, I need to get your definition of earnest.

(And, to quote Jon Stewart out of context, why does it have to be irony getting the bad rap? Where do Vonnegut or Roth or Didion go without irony? I'd be at a helluva loss--probably cut my quantity of speech by a good 30%--without it.)

--Declarative sentences.... I think I am with you on this, Robert. (I saw your post on Robinson, and this mostly echoes your thoughts there.) I hate the sense of portent that attaches itself to the-bread-is-hard school of style. He opened a can of peas. The peas were smushy. He didn't much like the taste, when smushed. But he ate them. He was hungry. And on and on. I blame it on Carver, who did it well, and who inspired lots of lousy acolytes. But then again, deep philosophy? Nah. I like digression and expansiveness--so I often dig riff-heavy prose, full of lists and hyphens and sidetracks. Then again, Joy Williams and Denis Johnson write dazzling little pinballs of declarative sentences. I haven't read a piece by Thomas McGuane that didn't make me swoon. (Maybe it's the straightforward declarative I can't abide. Maybe I ought to think about it some more. Sorry--confused reaction. I'll ponder. Where'd I put those peas?)

--Edan, when are you going to be in the Twin Cities teaching a class? Fair's fair--I haven't had the luck to be in one of your classes, yet, and I think it's my turn. And I think a monkey could have taught some of those Oberlin classes, with people like you, Molly, Doug. Monkey cavorts playfully, one of you says something smart, monkey flings feces--everyone's satisfied. Monkey's role minimal, but he makes people laugh.

message 12: by sarah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:25PM) (new)

sarah In the time you all were talking about this I read 5 books. Just kidding. But after reading all of that - yes, the whole 2-page string - and feeling alternately insulted and redeemed and insulted again and redeemed (and after that I stopped keeping track) I enter the dangerous comment waters with a toe entirely in before I realize there's nothing more to say. Except I love A Wild Sheep Chase. And can't make it through Jonathan Lethem. And the reason we don't like Rushmore even if we do like other Wes Anderson flicks is because we have never been an awkward young boy.

message 13: by Edan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:26PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Edan Here we go again...
Manny, I respect your opinions but I think you get off on throwing out sweeping statements. If I'm correct, you haven't even read Miranda July's book, which I both liked and dislike. I was very much moved by some of her stories, and smitten with her language: she has a keen sense of alientation and awkwardness, and I don't think she's ironic about the desire for human beings to connect with other human beings. If you'd read the book, you might entertain that notion. She's more than just quirk and irony, as is Eggers. I didn't love Heartbreaking Work..., but I look forward to reading What is the What, which strikes me as a departure from the wink-wink style of his earlier work (and even when he was being witty and wink-wink, I agree with Mike that he was being earnest).

Robert, you know I only urge you to throw in a declarative sentence here and there, to keep your prose and rhythm surprising, and perhaps to give your reader some room to breathe. As I've said before, a skillfully placed short declarative sentence can just break a reader's heart. Or maybe that's just my preference.

Mike, get me a semester appointment at Hamline! And, believe me, you don't want to be in my class. It would kill you to see me donning my "craft and technique" brain. For instance: I have to make Robert shut up when he gets too English Class on me.

Sarah, welcome! But I must say, speak for yourself: when I was 13, I WAS an awkward young boy.

message 14: by sarah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:26PM) (new)

sarah Regarding Rushmore: I speak not for myself but for an awkward adult male (once awkward young boy) superfan of Rushmore who attempted to explain the phenomenon to me upon my declaration, "Rushmore - huh?" Well, I too, was offended by his presumption that I had never been an awkward young boy, or at least awkward young girl enough to get it, but then I watched Rushmore again years later and agreed with him (and myself?) a little more. I don't know what that means. I liked it a little better the second time around but decided ultimately I was just going to have to be okay with not being okay with it. And now we've already said more about Rushmore than I care to ever again.

As for Ms. July, et al, I always find myself passing first judgments that sound very much like Manny's, i.e. they are all young schmucks trying too hard to be quirky. But I make sure I sometimes read them anyway and have found myself both pleasantly surprised and pleasantly affirmed, depending. The reading is the important part.

Incidentally, here's an interesting question: What counts as "reading" - starting, skimming, or only finishing? On The Elegant Variation: http://marksarvas.blogs.com/elegvar/2...

message 15: by Edan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:26PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Edan Sarah: Well said.
Manny: I stand corrected.
Robert: I was only kidding, though you know I have to stop you when you get all literary on me.


ps Am I the most popular GoodReads member or what? Look how many of you showed up to my review!

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