Friday, 20 January 2012

Something for the weekend..

Motherless Brooklyn - Jonathan Lethem

This weeks 'Something for the weekend' is a cracking hard nosed detective story.. sort of. Our 'hero' is Lionel Essrog, Lionel, at first sight, seems nothing more than a hired goon. But this is a book with many layers & not everything is as it seems. Set in Brooklyn the tale begins in not unusual 'gangster' fashion with a 'hit', Lionel's beloved boss Frank Minna is 'whacked'  (alright I'll stop with the speech marks you've all seen Goodfellas right? or the Sopranos at least). As Lionel was supposed to be keeping watch on Frank that night & as Frank was Lionel's Father figure this causes Lionel a great deal of chagrin.

And so Lionel, alongside the rest of Frank's 'Minna men', sets about attempting to discover the identity of the killer & the reason for the murder. The key to the enjoyment of this book however is not the plot (not to say it isn't gripping) it is Lionel, & Lionel's condition. You see Lionel is (as far as i know) the only literary Private detective with Tourettes.
This isn't a caricature of Tourettes, Lethem doesn't have Lionel shriek expletives to get cheap laughs. More, Tourettes provides the rhythm of the pages, it, or rather Lethems portrayal of it, gives the book it's edge & it's propulsion. There is humour here though, Lionel jerks out some hilarious phrases & you can tell Lethem is having a ball forming the mangled sentences ping ponging round Lionel's frustrated skull, but there is always a sadness behind it - people treat Lionel as if he were a performing clown or a 'freakshow' (the reader of course realising his true nature).

Some of Lethems work can be pretty dense (though I've yet to read one i didn't enjoy) & i couldn't wholeheartedly recommend them to everyone. But Motherless Brooklyn is the exception, I challenge anyone not to enjoy this book.

Plus you'll find out why 'Kiss' by Prince is the perfect Tourettes song.

Gary


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