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Motherless Brooklyn Audiobook

Motherless Brooklyn

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Publisher's Summary

National Book Critics Circle, Fiction, 2000

From America's most inventive novelist, Jonathan Lethem, comes this compelling and compulsive riff on the classic detective novel.

Lionel Essrog is Brooklyn's very own Human Freakshow, an orphan whose Tourettic impulses drive him to bark, count, and rip apart language in startling and original ways. Together with three veterans of the St. Vincent's Home for Boys, he works for small-time mobster Frank Minna's limo service cum detective agency. Life without Frank, the charismatic King of Brooklyn, would be unimaginable. When Frank is fatally stabbed, Lionel's world is suddenly turned upside-down, and this outcast who has trouble even conversing attempts to untangle the threads of the case, while trying to keep the words straight in his head. A compulsively involving and totally captivating homage to the classic detective tale.

©1999 Jonathan Lethem (P)2014 HarperCollinsPublishers

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (171 )
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4.6 (154 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Dave Whittier, CA 05-01-14
    Dave Whittier, CA 05-01-14 Member Since 2011

    I'm a big fan of SF/F/Horror, and all things in between and out.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "You're Not the Only Freak Show in Town!"

    This is the story of a private detective who has Tourette’s syndrome who is obsessed with trying to figure out who killed his boss. It’s mystery novel, but the mystery really takes the backseat to Lionel, a hilarious heartbreak of a protagonist, and one of the most intriguing characters I’ve come across: Lionel Essrog.

    At least, that’s how I remembered it. Motherless Brooklyn is a novel I’d read probably a decade ago. It won the National Book Critics Award, and ever since I started listening to audiobooks, it was one I’d been looking forward to hearing. And now – it’s FINALLY available to download. So, was it worth the wait?

    Without a doubt, yes. As a character, Lionel is still unique. (Just look at that name. Lionel Essrog.) And with that set up, you really have to give Lethem serious credit for that. He could’ve made this a stupid joke, but he works hard to get underneath Lionel’s skin, and show us the man behind the tics. At the same time, he mines the funny – the tics Lionel gets obsessed with EAT ME BAILEY are, well, funny.

    Lethem is probably one of my favorite contemporary writers. His prose has a rhythm to it, his characters are quirky perfections, his dialogue is razor sharp and layered. He’s also one of the few authors who can make me burst out laughing while I’m reading him. On the page, it all moves and flows with perfection. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like it always has that same smoothness to it in audio. It’s not choppy, exactly. It’s just not as smooth. I don’t know how much of that is due to Cantor’s narration (which is generally solid), or with the transition of prose to audio.

    I can imagine some mystery fans being disappointed that the climax is bigger or louder or more shocking. Well, they can Eat Bailey too. I didn’t remember how the mystery panned out at all, and while the unraveling of the mystery is quiet, we get some incredible scenes, locations, and characters that more than make up for it.

    Geoffrey Cantor does disaffected New Yorker with ease, and manages to convey both the humor and heartbreak behind Lionel’s condition. He’ll be describing New York one moment and START SHOUTING the next. It’s a good narration, even if Cantor doesn’t quite match Lionel’s voice in my head.

    It’s really nice that at long last Motherless Brooklyn is out digitally. It’s one of Lethem’s best books, and Lethem is one of my favorites, so I consider this a win for Bailey.

    (Originally published at the AudioBookaneers.)

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jaded Buddha 01-29-14
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    "Top notch audiobook: novel and performance both A+"

    Thrilling chandleresque detective story, except the hardboiled narrator is a sensitive Brooklyn misfit with Tourette's.

    Reading performance is really good.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sharen 02-21-14
    Sharen 02-21-14 Member Since 2015
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    "Excellent"

    There is a minimum of 15 words for a review. So just one excellent won't cover it. Excellent story, excellent performance, just plain excellent. There wasn't a false step in Motherless Brooklyn. Buy it, read it, listen to it, whatever. You will be so glad you did't miss this book.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 05-08-14
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 05-08-14

    I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^

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    "Egg-sandwich surprise, hardboilded detective novel"

    A kinda egg-sandwich surprise, hardboilded detective novel. I'm still a bit unsure of what exactly was all tossed in (is that lemongrass?). Zen masters? Check. Tourette's? Check. Man-crushes and awkward touches? Check check. Prince (or the Artist Formerly Known AS Prince)? Also, check check checkaramadingdong.

    Look fair weather readers, I like Lethem (see four stars?...I couldn't stop at three), just like I like Chabon. Actually, almost exactly like I like Chabon. There is a certain dance, jig, and Brooklyn-hipster style to both their writing, complete with their shared fetishes (comic books, vinyl chairs, bad hair, crappy cars, carnival food, odd screwballs). They seem to be barycentric binaries or orbs orbiting the same point in space; two vultures circling the same diseased zip code of literary space-time. So, yes, I enjoyed it. But also felt like I was robbed a bit, like a bit of the potential for this novel got skimmed off into some dark, back-room, and I was left holding less than a royal flush. I was treated to a comic when I wanted a novel, a girl when I wanted a woman, a joke when I wanted a koan.

    10 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robin Cassetta California 09-21-16
    Robin Cassetta California 09-21-16 Member Since 2013
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    "loved it"

    I don't normally like a mystery or books about New York mafia but tis one was different. I loved what was essentially the character study of the main character or study of characters through his eyes.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Erika Provinsal 07-16-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Great book!"

    Colorful, smart, insightful writing. Great performance as well. I have recommended this book to friends.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Adam Taylor Ottawa 04-04-16
    Adam Taylor Ottawa 04-04-16 Member Since 2015
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    "overall, a winner"

    Great prose, a compelling listen, enjoyable characters, great and relatable relatio ships. Felt the actual detecting was a bit underbaked, but maybe that's not the point. Overall very enjoyable.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    HEATHER 11-21-15
    HEATHER 11-21-15 Member Since 2016
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    "Great performance on an average story"

    The narrator did a fabulous job in this audiobook. The story itself had me right from the beginning but my interest waned as we got further into the book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brad Salt Lake 07-21-15
    Brad Salt Lake 07-21-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Extremely fun book!"

    I would recommend this to almost anyone. It is a really great read! The reader is exquisite. Extremely believable very funny!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eleanor 07-17-15
    Eleanor 07-17-15 Member Since 2012
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    "Such a pleasure to listen to"

    The book is a serious exploration of a narrator with a much richer and smarter and more bookish interior life than anyone expects him to have. And the way Lethem plays with language is amazing.
    Cantor is the perfect reader. His accent and his pacing and his rhythm are perfect, and he does a great job with Lionel's ticks. His Maine accent is not so great, but there's very little of it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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