|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Dewey Decimal||813/.54 21|
|LC Classification||PS3562.E8544 M68 1999|
|Preceded by||Girl in Landscape|
|Followed by||Kafka Americana|
Motherless Brooklyn is a Jonathan Lethem detective story set in Brooklyn and published in 1999. Lethem's protagonist, Lionel Essrog, has Tourette syndrome, a disorder marked by involuntary tics. Essrog works, along with Tony, Danny and Gilbert, who call themselves the Minna Men, for Frank Minna—a small-time neighborhood owner of a "seedy and makeshift" detective agency—who is stabbed to death.
The main character's name, Essrog, is a play on the Yiddish pronunciation of the Hebrew word for the citron, a fruit used in the observance of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot; the name is a nod to Lethem's Jewish roots.
The murder victim's name, Frank Minna, is a reversal of the author's grandmother's name: Minna Frank.
Under the guise of a detective novel, Lethem has written a more piercing tale of investigation, one revealing how the mind drives on its own "wheels within wheels." Unlike the stock detective novel it shadows, the thriller in which clarity emerges on the final page, Motherless Brooklyn immerses us in the mind's dense thicket, a place where words split and twine in an ever-deepening tangle.
Motherless Brooklyn has a few problems -- including some cartoonlike stock characters and one scene near the end that flirts with maudlin sentimentality—but it works far better than the average hip postmodern novel in terms of sheer emotional impact. Because Lethem never lets the metaphorical and linguistic possibilities of his narrator's illness overshadow his immensely appealing humanity, we really care about Lionel and his search for his mentor's killer.
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- "The CWA Dagger Awards". The Crime Writers' Association. October 27, 2008. Retrieved November 29, 2009.
- Mobilio, Albert (October 17, 1999). "What Makes Him Tic?". The New York Times. Retrieved November 29, 2009.
- "Motherless Brooklyn". flixster.com. Retrieved November 29, 2009.
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- Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem, reviewed by Ted Gioia (Postmodern Mystery)
- The film version of Motherless Brooklyn at the Internet Movie Database