(Doubleday Books)

Book reading and signing, Thurs June 22 at Twenty-Third Avenue Books, 1015 NW 23rd Ave, 224-6203

"Minna Men wear suits. Minna Men drive cars. Minna Men listen to tapped lines. Minna Men stand behind Minna, hands in their pockets, looking menacing. Minna Men try to be like Minna, but Minna is dead."

Frank Minna, petty street prince, small time operator, heads the L&L Car Service, a front for a detective agency which is a front for something else, only the Minna Men are never sure what. "Something else" begins to surface only after a stake out goes awry, and Frank gets murderized. Lionel Essrog, a.k.a. the Human Freakshow, is a man "shot out of a cannon," that is, he suffers from the uncontrollable verbal and physical tics of Tourette's Syndrome.

His condition renders him unfathomable to his Minna Men peers and Brooklynites at large. Like the other Minna Men, Lionel is an orphan and high school dropout, yet unlike most drop outs, Lionel is comfortable using words like "sacrosanct," "fricative," and "surcease," a vocabulary less plausible than outbursts such as "Likable lunchphone, veritable spongefist, teenage mutant Zendo lungfish, penis Milhaus Nixon tuningfork!" Lionel's own penis resembles a crushed beer can. Who better to solve the boss's murder? Actually, just about anybody. The other Men, the bad guys and Lionel's love interest have no faith in his investigative powers, with good reason. The agency itself has solved no crimes, the Men primarily used as muscle to carry out Frank' s orders. Unlike the others, Lionel is a hapless babe rather than street-savvy player like Frank.

Nonetheless, Lionel shouts and fingertaps and mimics his way from Yorkville to Maine, where he "Barnamum Bakery! Skinnyman Brainy!" indeed ties all the loose ends together. Sadly, however, Lionel and his bent dick do not get the girl.

As intriguing a concept as a Tourettic detective is, Motherless Brooklyn shies away from the potential for full blown, inside-outside gorgeosity of language in support of the conventions of story, more often explaining Tourette's than showing. This compromise is perhaps necessary, but it prevents the acquisition of a rhythm with or fealty to the outbursts, making them more nuisance than life's blood of the book.

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