"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Motherless Brooklyn

Title: Motherless Brooklyn
Author: Jonathan Lethem

When is a mystery not a mystery?
When it's written by Jonathan Lethem. I don't know many authors who can pull of the things this man does in print. His command of English is shown off to good effect in this story about a detective with Tourette's Syndrome, a murder, and the story of growing up parentless in the borough of Brooklyn, part of New York City, that once was a city all its own and still has its own culture and conventions.

Lionel Essrog is the narrator, one of the Minna Men, four orphans in the employ of Frank Minna, head of what Lionel believes is a detective agency posing as a car service. Only after Minna's killing and Lionel's subsequent search for the truth, does he come to understand all is not what it seems, same as his Tourette's masks the man behind the tics, and the events of the past go beyond his memories. It is Lionel's tics, especially the verbal ones presented in all their glory, that gives this book a rhthym unlike any other. The book itself feels like a gigantic tic, an explusion of memories and desires and actions and emotions as Lionel faces what being a Minna Man really means and finally breaks free to be.... well, that would be telling. Oh, and he finds out who killed Frank and why. But in between, he takes a journey outside of his comfort zone of Brooklyn and with Lethem pulling the strings, takes the reader on a wondrous journey of discovery.