Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Motherless Brooklyn

I'm not a connoiseur of the detective novel. I've never even read Sherlock Holmes. But since most of primetime TV is dedicated to solving mysteries (How many CSIs are there now?) I didn't feel too out of my element when I picked up Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn a book which one blurb characterized as "a half satirical cross between a literary novel and a hard-boiled crime story." Plus it won the National Book Critics Circle Award.

It seemed like a fun way to spend the holidays, and it was. The protagonist is Lionel Essrog, a Brooklyn-raised orphan who suffers from Tourrette's Sydrome, and works as a detective. Lionel's boss/mentor is murdered at the onset of the novel, and you are taken on a tic-filled, word scrambling journey to find out who did it and why. Almost all of the book's enjoyment derives from that one aspect--the funny, and often laugh out loud humor brought on by Lionel's TS.

But I can't help but feel a little sad that it wasn't much more than fun. I was hoping to be genuinely moved at some point or challenged emotionaly, but I wasn't. And that is okay. It was a pretty straight forward, extremely clever, yet not as twisty as I expected, mystery. I'm not familiar enough with Tourette's to know how true to life Essrog's yessrog! chessbog! lapdog! experience is. But I did come away from the book with a greater appreciation for the suffering and alienation experienced by those having the condition.


Nick said...


We'll have to give Letham another shot sometime this year.

Tim said...

"connoiseur "

Did you already know how to spell that or did you have to look it up?

Les said...

You nailed me. I had to look it up.