Motherless Brooklyn: A Novel
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From America's most inventive novelist, Jonathan Lethem, comes this compelling and compulsive riff on the classic detective novel.
Lionel Essrog is Brooklyn's very own self-appointed Human Freakshow, an orphan whose Tourettic impulses drive him to bark, count, and rip apart our language in startling and original ways. Together with three veterans of the St. Vincent's Home for Boys, he works for small-time mobster Frank Minna's limo service cum detective agency. Life without Frank Minna, the charismatic King of Brooklyn, would be unimaginable, so who cares if the tasks he sets them are, well, not exactly legal. But when Frank is fatally stabbed, one of Lionel's colleagues lands in jail, the other two vie for his position, and the victim's widow skips town. Lionel's world is suddenly topsy-turvy, and this outcast who has trouble even conversing attempts to untangle the threads of the case while trying to keep the words straight in his head. Motherless Brooklyn is a brilliantly original homage to the classic detective novel by one of the most acclaimed writers of his generation.
BONUS MATERIAL: This edition includes an excerpt from Jonathan Lethem's Dissident Gardens.
to each other. It might not have been a big deal to Julia that she fucked the Minna Men, the Minna Boys, really, and maybe it was no big deal to Tony either—but I doubted it. You were the original woman, I wanted to tell her. When Minna brought you home to us we tried to learn what it meant for Frank to marry, we studied you to understand what a Minna Woman might be, and saw only rage—rage I now understood had concealed disappointment and fear, oceans of fear. We had watched women and letters
Julia. Because of this case. She’s like you in certain ways. She studies Zen, just like you did when you met Frank.” “No woman will ever want you, Lionel.” “WantmeBailey!” It was a classic tic, honest and clean. Nothing about Maine or Julia Minna or my profound exhaustion could get in the way of a good, clean, throat-wrenching tic. My maker in his infinite wisdom had provided me with that. I tried not to listen to what Julia was saying, to focus on the far-off squalling of gulls and splash of
song, and so the next day I sought it out at J&R Music World—I needed the word “funk” explained to me by the salesman. He sold me a cassette, and a Walkman to play it on. What I ended up with was a seven-minute “extended single” version—the song I’d heard on the radio, with a four-minute catastrophe of chopping, grunting, hissing and slapping sounds appended—a coda apparently designed as a private message of confirmation to my delighted Tourette’s brain. Prince’s music calmed me as much as
loosened his hold when we got into the downtown traffic on Second Avenue, but left his arm draped over my shoulders. “Take the Drive,” he said. “What?” “Tell him take the East Side Drive.” “Where are we going?” “I want to be on the highway.” “Why not just drive in circles?” “My car is parked up here,” I said. “You could drop me off. ” “Shut up. Why can’t we just drive in circles?” “You shut up. It should look like we’re going somewhere, stupid. We’re really scaring him going in circles.”
pictured his open mouth, smacking lips. Hadn’t he been at lunch two hours before? “I got the goods on that building.” “Let’s have it—quick.” “This guy in Records, he was going on and on about it. That’s a sweet little building, Lionel. Way outta my class.” “It’s Park Avenue, Loomis.” “Well, there’s Park Avenue and then there’s this. You gotta have a hundred million to get on the waiting list for this place, Lionel. This kind of people, their other house is an island.” I heard Loomis quoting