January 30, 2009


So I finished a novel. Holy shit, me? Reading? Holy crap, right?
Well, you know, I’m in this 21st Century Fiction class, so you’re going to be seeing a lot of talk of me finishing novels this semester, and, hopefully, talking about how much I enjoyed them. If they keep being as good as the first book we had to read, I’m going to be very happy with my decision to take the class.

The book I read was Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem. It’s a story about a sorta detective sort of mobster with Tourette’s trying to figure out what happened to his mentor and father figure. And damn, it was really good, you know?
The book did many things correctly, and the main thing it did correctly, which is why I enjoyed it so much, was the main character and narrator. Lionel is such a likable person. He’s very intelligent and well-spoken in his internal narration, and the way he tries to view so much of the world through his, you know, condition is endearing and interesting. Seeing him work mentally, and then seeing how people see him while having to, you know, deal with his outbursts and tics just really make you side with the guy more. It also, for whatever reason, gives you an oddly quick but in-depth view of every other character. The way they react to Lionel really says a lot about who they are, so I think you get a really good view of those characters, too.
The plot itself is fairly solid too, a decent detective story with, you know, the things a detective story has. It kind of peters out in the end, but I think for a really good reason. That’s how these sorts of tales actually end, you know? When you’re dealing with organized crime and whatnot, things rarely work out perfectly. In the end, Lionel still hasn’t, you know, completely found his place in the world. He’s done what he’s set out to do, but it’s clear that things in his life aren’t fixed. It wasn’t an ending that left me with a smile, and it wasn’t an ending that was particularly strong, but I really have no ideas about how it could be better, so I can’t really complain about it.

As a quick aside, one thing this book did to me is make me feel very Ticcish. Lionel points out the tics of everyone he comes across because, you know, they kind of run his life, so he looks for them everywhere. Him doing them, and pointing them out… well, I do have little tics. The clearest one is that “ball of energy” finger thing I do when I get really excited, but damn, if I didn’t feel almost obsessive/compulsive observing my own behavior while I was reading the novel. I mean, I’m clearly not, but it was an odd feeling, I suppose, that the book instilled.

This isn’t a book I would have searched out myself. I have little interest in the subject matter and, frankly, I’m just not a reader. The more and more time passes, and I get older, the more and more I find that if it isn’t a podcast or a vidjeo (I don’t know why I’m working that spelling into my vocabulary, but I am) game, I just don’t have time for it. Still, if you are someone that reads a lot of novels, and you like detectiveish tales, this is probably a great book to pick up next time you’re bored. I wouldn’t say you should drop everything to read it? But it certainly gets my recommendation.

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