Motherless Brooklyn
Jonathan Lethem
I have read several books since I last posted any reviews, so I will be doing a few book reviews this week. Today’s is Motherless Brooklyn, by Jonathan Lethem. Motherless Brooklyn is a detective story, a genre I am not a big fan of. This one, though, intrigued me as the main character, Lionel Essrog, has Tourette’s Syndrome, which manifests itself in many ways, including language. As a detective, Essrog has his shortcomings. It is Tourette’s and how it shapes his life, his character, that makes him memorable.

I almost did not finish this story. The detective part wasn’t working for me and twenty-five pages into the story I set it aside and started reading something else. The characters (other than Essrog) did not appeal to me and the plot seemed the same old mundane detective plot. Someone was murdered, the detective seeks to solve the crime and expose the killers. But I am glad I picked Motherless Brooklyn back up and continued on. Essrog and the two female characters, Kimmery and Julia, are what made the story for me. I loved Essrog’s language chopping, echolalia, word play, so much so that I wondered whether thhe author, Johnathan Lethem, was himself Tourretic. How else did he come up with these?

{Essrog is being interviewed by a police detective concerning his employer’s murder}
(Police) – “so you’d describe yourself as, what? A friend of the deceased?”
(Essrog_ = “Trend the decreased! Mend the retreats! — sure, that’s right.”

{Essrog is meeting with a couple of old Mafia dons}
(Essrog) – “Somebody killed Frank.”
(Mafia don) – “Are you accusing Tony?”
(Essrog) – “Accusatony! Excusebaloney! Funnymonopoly!” I squeezed my eyes shut to interrupt the seizure of language.

I loved the word play; it’s what kept me reading until the plot finally captured my interest also. If you love words, give Motherless Brooklyn a read. You will find yourself eagerly anticipating Essrog’s next Tourretic spurt of language.