Jonathan Lethem is the author of six novels, including the best sellers The Fortress of Solitude, which was a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice for one of the best books of 2003, and Mother Brooklyn, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was named novel of the year by Esquire, McSweeney's, Tin House, The New York TImes, the Paris Review, and a variety of other periodicals and anthologies. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, and in Maine.
Lethem follows up the successful Girl in Landscape with another on-the-edge tale: hero Lionel Essrog, a victim of Tourette's syndrome (which has been showing up a lot in fiction lately), comes under the protection of a local tough named Frank Minna and then must investigate Minna's mysterious death. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
This entertaining play on the hardboiled detective tale features an unlikely gumshoe with Tourette's syndrome, which compels him to count, tap and make strange vocalizations at inopportune moments. Such ticks could seem gimmicky, but Lethem writes it, and Buscemi performs it, with such styles that the compulsions seem an endearing idiosyncrazy (though not to the Tourettic's cohorts, who call him "Freakshow"). Regretfully, it's hard to grasp Lethem's wordplay as it goes whizzing by-Buscemi enunciates at great speed to convey the frenetic activity inside the man's head. Lionel Essrog works with three other young men for Frank Minna's small time detective agency ("Minna men," Lionel calls them) masquerading as car service ("No cars!" the boys respond whenever the phone rings). Lionel was saved from an orphanage by Minna, so when his mentor is killed on the job, Lionel is devastated and determines to solve the crime. The chase takes him from a zendo on Manhattan's Upper East Side to a resort on the Maine coast as he follows a character he can identify only as "the giant." Buscemi convincingly conveys the accents of Japanese Zen masters and Brooklyn mobsters, along with Lionel's verbal acrobatics, all without losing the noirish ambience Lethem is gently riffing. Listeners may find themselves unable to turn off their walkmen and put this one down. Based on the Doubleday hardcover (Forecasts, Aug. 16, 1999). (Oct. 2000) Copyright 2001Cahners Business Information.
"The best novel of the year. . . . Utterly original and deeply moving." --Esquire
"Philip Marlowe would blush. And tip his fedora." --Newsweek
"Finding out whodunit is interesting enough, but it's more fun watching Lethem unravel the mysteries of his Tourettic creation. In this case, it takes one trenchant wordsmith to know another." --Time
"Immerses us in the mind's dense thicket, a place where words split and twine in an ever-deepening tangle." --The New York Times Book Review
"Who but Jonathan Lethem would attempt a half-satirical cross between a literary novel and a hard-boiled crime story narrated by an amateur detective with Tourette's syndrome?...The dialogue crackles with caustic hilarity...Jonathan Lethem is a verbal performance artisit...Unexpectedly moving." --The Boston Globe
"With one unique and well-imagined character, Jonathan Lethem has turned a genre on its ear. He doesn't just push the envelope, he gives it a swift kick... A tour de force." --The Denver Post
"Wonderfully inventive, slightly absurdist... [Motherless Brooklyn] is funny and sly, clever, compelling, and endearing." --USA Today