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Spotlight on: Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
Alternate: From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury

To arrange to have products considered for review, send an email to craigsbookclub@yahoo.com.

Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem Jonathan Lethem, Motherless Brooklyn

Lionel Essrog is one of a group of men who work for Frank Minna at the L & L Car Service, where they are turning away business--all of their business. You see, the car service is really a front for their detective agency--their unlicensed detective agency. Oh, yeah, I almost forgot--Lionel also has Tourette's Syndrome.

In Motherless Brooklyn, Jonathan Lethem has created one of the great characters of modern literature in Lionel Essrog. The plot is simple enough, but it is really Lionel's story. Lethem could have gone the overdramatic route with the Tourette's Syndrome aspect of Lionel, but instead, he has approached it so realistically that it makes Lionel into a real person that immediately gains our sympathy.

When Frank Minna is stabbed to death because of a botched surveillance gig, Lionel takes it upon himself to avenge his murder. Unfortunately, his Tourette's makes clear thinking difficult as even commonplace phrases turn themselves around in his mind. Add that to needing to tap people's collars when he meets them, and Lionel certainly has his work cut out for him.

Along the way he meets an assorted cast of characters, we find out more about Lionel's past with Frank (about how they were all orphans at St. Vincent's and that Frank hired them to do odd and increasingly odder jobs) and how they reached their present status as "Minna men."

But the true star here is Lionel. As he is also the narrator, we become very close to him in his descriptions of his daily life. This is especially touching when he describes his love of Prince's music--that the remixes with their repeated lyrics and short-quick tempos are the closest thing to musical Tourette's. This alone made me sympathize with Lionel to the point of actually wishing I knew him--that he were a real person.

Motherless Brooklyn not only evokes the hard-boiled period of the 1940's, it expands to include a hero that is not only flawed, but interestingly so.

(Certainly interesting enough to inspire Deb Talan to write her song "Tell Your Story Walking," available on the Songs Inspired by Literature CD from the SIBL Project. Also, if you have the opportunity, pick up the audio version, performed by Steve Buscemi. It really heightens the understanding of Tourette's Syndrome when you hear the tics read out loud.)

From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury Ray Bradbury, From the Dust Returned

In 1945, Ray Bradbury published a story called "Homecoming" about an odd Family called the Elliotts. Since then, Bradbury has been revisiting the Family over the years. Now all those stories have been compiled together for the first time--with new linking material--into a novel of sorts, the absolutely wonderful From the Dust Returned.

It is composed of stories from Dark Carnival, The October Country, and The Toynbee Convector--as well as others. Now fans can revisit all of their favorite Family stories in one location. Bradbury has pulled this off winningly.

It is a wonderful book chock full of all the stuff that makes Bradbury's stories great--terrific characters, believable scenarios (made from the unbelievable), and his marvelous style of storytelling, specifically his voice. His intense enthusiasm for his work always comes through on to the page, making each of his books a treat. I have been a Ray Bradbury fan since childhood and From the Dust Returned is a perfect representation of all the things that keep me coming back time after time.

Click on the links above to purchase any of the books mentioned, or use the search boxes below to find what you like.

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