Friday, August 8, 2014

My Review of Motherless Brooklyn

My review of Motherless Brooklyn by Johnathan Lethem, a Brooklyn author who grew up  in Gowanus, until gentrification gave it the name Boreum Hill. You can read my review here and on Goodreads.

Lethem is one of the contemporary A-list authors. He moved to California's drought lands and currently holds the professor's chair once occupied by David Foster Wallace at Pomona College. His Fortress of Solitude is said to be one of the great autobiographical stories of 70s Brooklyn when New York didn't know if it was coming or going.
I found his brave, bold style inspiring for my own writing.

Motherless Brooklyn by Johnathan Lethem, 5 stars
This is a well written, well told story about 70s 80s and 90s Brooklyn lower society. Lionel is an orphan raised to the level of inept detective, only not so inept. Three other orphans and an assortment of low lifes make up the cast. When Lionel's benefactor and father figure is murdered the mystery begins. Lethem is a recognized A-list Brooklyn literary figure, currently enjoying California drought weather at Pomona College, where he is a chaired professor in the slot once occupied by David Foster Wallace. Even if Lethem does not himself have Tourettes, he appears to be quite well versed--he must have done prodigious research. His protagonist does and this adds a dimension (and an education into Tourettes) of considerable complexity and interest, one I've never seen in any other book. It also adds to the humor and makes one realize Monty Python were experts at Tourettic humor.
My only hesitancy, where I would be inclined to remove a half a star, came at the 90% wrap up phase of the book. Much of the dangling mystery and plot is revealed in a section in which Lionel and a woman sit on the Maine coast and explain all the plot threads and loose ends. It reminded me of television detective/mystery shows with Raymond Burr, etc etc where a room full of characters stand or sit with coffee or cigarettes and explain the story we just watched. This section of the book reads like a plot outline--an excellent plot, but an outline/treatment nonetheless. Over all, as a writer myself, I love Lethem's style, his boldness, his voice. I will definitely read more Lethem and hope to learn from him.

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