Reading Response #2 (due Sep. 12)

Please read until page 145 of Motherless Brooklyn, and respond to the prompt below. Your response should be a minimum of 200 and a maximum of 300 words. Please cite at least two passages in your response.

  • In what ways can we see Lionel begin to change in pages 90-145? What aspects of his character come out that we may not have seen before? For each point you make, refer to a specific moment from these pages in order to illustrate your point. You can look for specific moments when Lionel does or say something surprising or funny. You’ll want to concentrate largely on his interactions with other characters. To earn full marks, you’ll want to make it clear that you read up until page 145, so try to refer to a few different moments spread throughout these pages.

To respond, click on “leave a comment” (written below). You’ll have to sign in with your WordPress account (or enter your email address and your name). Write your response. Please write your full name at the bottom of your response so I can identify you. Click on “post comment.” Copy and paste your response onto a Word document and save a copy for yourself, just in case. You don’t need to print it and bring it to class.

While I encourage you to read and be inspired by each other’s responses, each response must be completed individually. Feel free to quote each other, if you like. If you do, just make sure you give credit to the original author. If your post is too similar to any posts above yours, I’ll assume you copied it/them.

The responses are always due before class on the due date. You must attend class in order to be eligible for a grade on your response.

You may not see your response when you post it. This is because I need to approve it first. Please don’t email me asking if it posted. Assume it did. Copy and paste your response onto a Word document and save a copy for yourself, just in case. You don’t need to print it and bring it to class. In the event that I didn’t receive your response because of a technical error, you can hand in your hard copy.



35 thoughts on “Reading Response #2 (due Sep. 12)

  1. Over the course of the third chapter, Lionel attempts to shed his impulsive and childlike character and transform into the prototypical hard-boiled detective, as his role in the incident and being unable to save Frank, makes him believe the role of solving the crime falls upon him. This change can be seen from the onset of the discussion at L&L where Lionel “remembered the name Irving, but didn’t say anything” (Lethem 94). Lionel’s actions here are significant, as he would normally suddenly shout out words without any thought, especially one of such importance to him. This time, however, he does not act upon it, indicating he is trying to evolve past himself and suppress his personality and character. Furthermore, after being confronted by the detective, Lionel appears to adopt part of Frank’s personality, displaying a highly indifferent persona and trying to avoid questions. For example, when the detective asks where Lionel is going, his response includes “I’m starving. Do you want to get a sandwich with me?” (109). Despite understanding his position, Lionel indifferently asks the detective to have a meal with him, which is reminiscent of how Frank simply walked into his deathtrap without thinking twice, implying that Lionel is subconsciously trying to take on Frank’s role out of guilt/regret. This is partially affirmed when he meets Kimmery, as “[Lionel] wanted to protect her […] Now that [he]’d failed Minna, who deserved [his] protection?” (141).We also see change in Lionel’s personality at the end of his conversation with Loomis, where he bluntly and coldly tells Loomis to walk home (126), an indication that Lionel is no longer trying to work with people and get along but rather his fixation on Frank’s case has desensitized him to much of the rest of his life.

    Jerry Huang


  2. At the beginning of the third chapter Tony plays the role of a leader and delegates to the others what tasks to do in order to find out what is really going on, of what Frank Minna didn’t elaborate before his passing. Moreover, at the end of the chapter Tony is nowhere to be found, Gilbert ends up in a jail cell, and Danny is very conserved and quiet at the office, “Minna Men try to be like Minna, but Minna is dead,” the men seem to be losing their way however, not Lionel (90). In contrast to always being the one taking notes of the situation, when Minna was around, Lionel independently takes action in order to put the pieces together of Frank’s death, “let Danny sleep, let Gilbert wait in his cell, let Tony be missing. I’d go to the Zendo” (132). It’s as if Lionel uses his knowledge from note taking when Frank was still around, as his training with Frank, and now acts like the detective Frank once was. “Are you a cop […] You, uh, talk funny,” said by the doorman Lionel was interrogating at the Zendo (133). Another unlikely action Lionel provides, that similarly relates to something Frank has done, was on the drive back from trying to visit Gilbert in jail. Lionel drives into L&L with Loomis in the car and coldly tells him “You can walk from here” instead of driving him home (124). This reveals an unexpected side of Lionel’s character, it seems that Lionel is slowly starting to fall into Frank Minna’s footsteps.

    Julia Graziani


  3. In the third chapter, it seems that Lionel is beginning to become a bit more independent. In the previous chapters, we understood that Lionel was one of those “sidekick” characters but a little more unique compared to the other four Minna Men. Following the death of Minna, we start to see a change in Lionel’s characteristics. He decided to “go back to the Yorkville Zendo by [him]self and have a look around” which indicates his initiative to do things independently and not count on others to get the gears rolling, kind of like what a detective would do (Lethem 94). We can also pick out a few instances that show that he’s becoming more and more of a hard-boiled character. His attitude towards Loomis lets us see this pretty well. After being bothered by the black detective, Lionel demanded him to walk home instead of driving him there even though it was only a few blocks away. “The sooner Loomis and I were out of each other’s presence, the better” thought Lionel (124). He clearly did not want any business with Loomis at that time. It is clear that Lionel is starting to become more pitiless after Frank’s death. The way he spoke to the doorman and Kimmery at the Zendo in the next chapter also gives us a taste of his Frank-esque personality. “I’m a guy who needs to know things, Walter, and I’m in a hurry” he says to the doorman in a straight-forward and impatient tone (133). You don’t really see Lionel acting like this in the previous chapters. He would appear to be soft-toned and unbothered but now, it seems like Frank’s death has allowed him to take action.

    Eduard Panopio


  4. Throughout these chapters we can see several different examples of how Lionel’s character is changing. The changes occur in many different ways. For example, Lionel shows many signs of maturity by realizing that he must take on the role of his late boss Minna. By doing so, he inevitably picks up some of Frank Minna’s characteristics. The very moment where Lionel realizes that he must avenge Minna is very important to the story and development of Lionel’s character. “Instead I’d woken into the realization that I was Minna’s successor and avenger, that the city shone with clues. It seemed possible I was a detective on a case.” (Lethem 132). Lionel also shows understanding for his Tourette’s syndrome and his outbursts seem to slightly change. For example, throughout the chapter he speaks about his syndrome many times trying to explain it. “Tourette’s was my other name, and, like my name, my brain could never leave the words unmolested.”(Lethem 110). He shows his symptoms slightly changing and one example is when Lionel visits the Zendo. “Instead I rang the doorbell. No answer. Then four more times, for a total of five, and I stopped, startled by a sense of completeness.” (Lethem 135). Lionel is confused why he feels fine after only five rings and not compelled to ring a sixth time. He questions whether the tic can refer to a head count and that since Minna is gone that would explain why he feels complete at five. Nonetheless, this demonstrates one example of how Lionel’s tics are slightly changing.

    Steven Colalillo


  5. In this part of the novel, we can definitely see that Lionel is beginning to change. He has become more confident, and has developed a stronger character. When Tony was distributing the tasks to each of the Minna Men in order to find out who’s the criminal that killed Frank, Lionel asked him, “What about me? […] You want me – Criminal Fishrug! – to go with you? I know the place”, and then Tony responded, “No, […] you go explain to Julia.” (Lethem, 97) At this point, we can see that Lionel really wants to be involved in the case, and it seems like he truly believes he can solve it, too. “I’ll catch the killer […] That’s what I’ll give you”. (115) Later on, when Loomis, the garbage cop, asks Lionel for a ride home, he harshly replies to him, “You can walk from here, gofuckacop”. (124) I had never really seen this side of Lionel before. He has become “rough”, and it reminded me of something that Frank would usually do. While the rest of the gang was slacking off, Lionel was the only one who was actually working on the case even though he wasn’t assigned to. He doesn’t rely on his friends as much as he did before. “Let Danny sleep, let Gilbert wait in his cell, let Tony be missing. I’d go to the Zendo. Let it be too early […] I’d have the advantage of surprise.” (132) The fact that he’s taking charge of the case shows that he believes in himself. When entering the Zendo, Lionel questions the doorman, and then he also questions Kimmery in order to find out some useful information that may help him to solve the case. “I felt a thrill at being taken so seriously. This making the rounds without Gilbert could get to be a habit. For once I was playing lead detective instead of comic – or Tourettic – relief.” (143) For the first time in the novel, Lionel describes himself positively, and doesn’t think of himself as a “freakshow” or as some kind of crazy man. His self-image has changed, and it no longer seems like his Tourette’s are all that define him. He’s starting to believe in his abilities. He has become a typical detective-like character and irresistible to women, including Minna’s wife, Julia (who he slept with), and Kimmery, who kissed him on his cheek. (144)

    Claudia Keurdjekian


  6. In the beginning of the book we portray Lionel as the outcast and at the bottom of the pyramid when
    we associate him with Tony, Gilbert and Danny but after Minna’s death things start to turn Tony is
    nowhere to be found, Gilbert is in jail for supposedly killing Ullman and Danny is not really involved in the scene as much, which leaves Lionel the only Minna Men left to avenge Minna’s death. “For once I was playing lead detective instead of comic—or Tourettic—relief” (Lethem 143). Lionel is going around Brooklyn on his own interrogating people and trying to find clues to find Minna’s murder, he no longer lives in the shadows of the other Minna men and it starting to embrace the role of the lead detective. As we continue to learn more about Lionel we see different techniques he uses to calm down his tics. For example, we see that sexual excitement calms his Tourette’s down “Sexual excitement stills my Tourette’s brain” (Lethem 103). We see in his discussions with the black detective and Kimmery that food is an important factor in calming down his tics. Music from Prince also calms down his ticcing “It so pulsed with Tourettic energies that i could surrender to its ……in the air instead” (Lethem 127-128). Not only do we learn different strategies he uses to cope with his Tourette’s but we also see an improvement in his condition. When he arrived at the Zendo he only rang the doorbell five times instead of his usual tic of doing things six times “I rang the doorbell once. No answer. Then four more times, for a total of five, and I stopped, startled by a sense of completeness” (Lethem 135).

    Anthony Sciola


  7. In the first two chapters of the novel, Lionel portrays his character as an insecure and self-loathing one. He describes himself as a nuisance to society and his disorder as ‘“one big lifetime of a tag’’ (5). In the third chapter of the book, a life changing event occurs for Lionel: Frank Minna dies. His death urges Lionel to take charge in solving this mystery, an initiative that would have never been taken by the younger and childish Lionel we were introduced to in the first couple of chapters. For example, when Tony is delegating the tasks following Minna’s death, Lionel steps in and asks ‘’What about me? You want me —Criminal Fishrug! — to go with you? I know the place’’(97). The reader should notice Lionel’s confidence starting to peak through. An interesting comparison in Lionel’s life story can be seen when the doorman at Yorkville Zendo asks if he is a cop (133). Looking back a few pages, Lionel described his life story up to this point as “The girl who looked at me like I was crazy .The woman who looked at me like I was crazy”(107) Now, his authority begins to shine. I noticed his characteristics behind to resemble Frank’s and the one of a hardboiled character. For example, Lionel unintentionally seduces Julia, Frank’s wife (103) . Lionel would have never guessed he could attract any woman. He always admired and remembered Frank’s stories about all the women he slept with. Finally, we see Lionel stand up for himself, which he has never done considering he was basically bullied at the Home. An important interaction is one between himself and Loomis. Loomis tries to be funny and your typical joke-telling Lionel reacts by saying, “I’ve heard that one, Loomis. No Jokes, please” (122). He then orders Loomis to “walk from here” (124) instead of offering him a ride. The child-like, soft, and innocent Lionel is seen lying to a detective who is investigating the same case (112). Lionel’s Tourette’s no longer defines him as it used to, he states “Let Tourette be the suspect and maybe I’d get off the hook” (110). I understood this as an opportunity for Lionel to finally be liberated from the control his disorder had upon him. By the end of this read, I can assume that solving the mystery is Lionel’s most important priority.


  8. In the third chapter of the book, it’s evident that Lionel is affected by the passing of Frank Minna just like the rest of the Minna Men. We see this right at the beginning when Lionel says “we were all four of us an arrangement around the missing centerpiece, as incoherent as a verbless sentence.” (91). After getting back to their senses Tony sends Lionel to do the least detective-like job which is announcing the bad news to Frank’s wife Julia. During their conversation, Lionel’s Tourette’s is of course acting up and Julia calls him out. At this moment Lionel says “That was just a tic” and “that’s a tic too Julia” (103). Lionel was never really the one to justify his tics or point them out in the previous chapters but in this situation, around Minna’s wife, he feels the need to explain himself. A few pages later we see that Lionel doesn’t really want to solve the mystery of Frank Minna’s death with the other Mina Men. While he’s being interrogated by the cop he says “I’ll catch the killer. That’s what I’ll give you.” (115). He’s making it his personal duty to find who killed Minna and doesn’t even mention the rest of the men. Lionel, has transitioned from being a follower to being a leader, like Frank Minna was. He takes matters into his own hands once again when he says “Let Dany sleep, let Gilbert wait in his cell, let Tony be missing. I’d go to the Zendo,” (132). There are also various passages that prove that Lionel is aspiring to be Frank Minna such as when he puts “Minna’s watch instead of [his} own, and clipped his beeper to [his] hip.” (132).

    Konstantina Vanikiotis


  9. In the first two chapters of the story we see a less mature Lionel, hiding behind his mentor and friend, Frank Minna. Lionel sees Minna as a father figure, he loves and worships him: ”My symptoms loved him.”(p. 85). However, we ,readers, can see a change in Lionel’s personality at the beginning of chapter three which intentionally, or not is entitled ”Interrogation eyes”.
    This is the chapter where Lionel realizes that his mentor and protector has died, and now there is no one in the world that he can trust. He is very cautious when speaking to people, and suspicious on everyone, especially his partners: ”I could also seek out the homicide detective, earn his trust, pool my knowledge with him instead on the Men.” (p.94). He decides to find out who killed Minna by himself, and every small discovery he would keep for himself, and keep his ”interrogation eyes” wide open. When he is asked by the detective if the names Alphonso Matricardi and Leonardo Rockaforte meant something for him, he lied by saying , ”Never heard of them” (p. 115). He prefers not to tell the detective all he knows and continue his investigation on his own: ”I’ll catch the killer,” I said. ”That’s what I’ll give you..” (p. 115).
    Moreover, he fears his life, as he supposes that him and his partners are hunted: ”Or else he’d been set up. Therefore: Frightened. Someone was hunting Minna Men.” (p. 120). Another example would be the moment when he was talking to Kimmery, the Zendo girl, ”I sated myself with my back to the wall, facing the door…” (p.137), he was afraid for his life, and he takes precautions to protect his life. I guess this is the chapter of the novel where Lionel understands how important was Minna for him, and that now there is no one he can rely on, except himself.


  10. Lionel’s character experiences various changes in these pages. Now that Mina is dead, Lionel feels he must take control and find his mentor’s killer. In order to do so, he must gain new skills and become more of the typical “hard-boiled” detective. Firstly, instead of being content with whatever job he is assigned to, he begins to question authority a little more. Though Frank was a father figure to Lionel and a man he could respect that is not the case for his successor, Tony. For example, when the latter is giving out orders, Lionel is “frustrated Gilbert and his jerk friend from the Sanitation police were getting the assignment (95)”. Consequently, he begins to distance himself from the other Mina-men and keeping some information to himself. For instance, after spending the day with the police officer, Lionel says he “went for a bite (125)” instead of explaining the whole story to Danny. This shows how the main character is becoming more reliant on himself and less dependent on the other men. When Frank was there, he only needed to follow orders but now he is developing his own ideas and ambitions. In fact, as he speaks to Kimmery, Lionel starts to enjoy “playing lead detective (143)”. He realizes he can be taken just as seriously as the other Mina-men. His confidence seems to grow throughout these chapters as his intelligence begins to shine through. For example, he fools the cop into believing he’s crazy. “He knew leading the cop into Zeod’s and letting him hear the Arab call him Crazyman (116)” would make him seem unworthy of further attention. These instances reveal more of Lionel’s hidden charms and positive attributes.

    Neta Fudim


  11. Chapter three elucidates how Minna’s death catapults Lionel into a whole new realm, one in which he is faced with the responsibility of stepping up to the plate to resolve the mystery while the other Minna Men fumble around in a daze, losing all sense of direction and purpose. Initially, Lionel believed that he too would lose his footing after the tragic event, but was pleasantly surprised that “[he’d] woken into the realization that [he] was Minna’s successor and avenger… it seemed possible [that he was] a detective on a case” (132). I thought this statement was humorous considering he had been working at the L&L detective firm for many years. Did he only just now rationalize his position as a detective? In addition, “[he] felt a thrill at being taken so seriously… For once [he] was playing lead detective instead of comic- of Tourettic- relief” (143). For the first time in the novel, Lionel does not view himself as the freak, the laughing-stock. He is no longer someone to be dealt with or simply ignored; he is no longer playing a supporting role. He accepts the starring role without hesitation, unveiling a confident side of Lionel, one that that has been hiding underneath all along. This newfound confidence and seriousness also translate to his interactions with other characters. When he is asked by the doorman, Walter, if he is a cop because he “talk[s] funny,” Lionel diverts the commentary, explaining that he’s a guy in a hurry to know things (133). Because of Lionel’s unique condition, the “talking funny” is a double entendre. Not only is he pressing the doorman for information by asking seemingly odd, loaded questions, but his speech is also laced with staccato bursts of vocal tics. Lionel’s dismissal at the “talking funny” proves that he has chosen to devote his time to avenging Minna, a paternal figure, and that he refuses to be fazed by the bewildered reactions elicited due to his tics.

    Vanessa Correia


  12. Pages after pages , the reader is getting more and more attached to the protagonist and familiarized with his environment . At a point , where it becomes difficult to leap out of his skin and emerge from Lionel Essrog character . Throughout the peruse , the reader is now so anchored into the story that is it almost possible to predict and anticipate Lionel’s actions , thoughts and involuntary outbursts . However , the detective’s behaviour slowly started to change which creates a twist and gives the story a whole new direction .The changes in Lionel’s character are therefore important element to considerate since it makes us , “his second skin , an observer”, which make us feel far away but so close in the same time . Indeed , his sudden transformation changes drastically the tone of the story , giving him more control and a leader like attitude which disorientate and almost disappoint the reader . A great example that illustrates perfectly Lionel’s change is when Tony gives different tasks to Minna Men and tells Lionel to accompany him but he refuses ;

    “What about me ?” I said . “You want me – Criminal Fishrug! – to go with you ?I know the place” (Lethem , 97)

    Here , we can feel that Lionel is slowly gaining more confidence and self-esteem . Moreover , after Frank’s death , his sudden raise of assurance and unveil a satiric facets of his , resurfaced when he tells the police detective that he has Tourette but doesn’t mind to correct him when he thinks that the suspect’s name is Tourette .

    “No good , I was juggling too much , and when I reticced , it came out a below : “Tourette Is the Shitman!” (…) “ No, no there’s no Tourette ,”I said catching my breath .I felt bad for food , desperate to shake the detective , and choked with imminent tics.(…)
    He thought he was grooming a stool pigeon . I could only try to not to laugh or shout . Let Tourette be the suspect and maybe I’d get off the hook .”
    (Lethem , 110)

    As a matter of fact , the reader starts to see multiple similarities to Minna’s character growing into Lionel . For instance , at the beginning of the story Lionel is pictured as a “childish” person , has a lot of insecurities which almost makes an erasure of his character .However , it seems that Lionel reveals with a squint his personality . Indeed , all these changes has slowly carved him into a hard-boiled detective . For example , the fact that he refuses once again what someone , Loomis, has told him accentuates even more the hard-boiled detective that he’s becoming , a “rough” , straight forward and making him almost narcissist .

    “I thought you were driving me home.”Loomis lived on Nevis Street,near the projects.“You can walk from here,gofuckacop”(…) I parked in the open spot in across from storefront.The sooner Loomis and I were out of each other’s presence , the better . (Lethem,124)

    Before , Lionel would never do such a thing , however he now is able to affirm himself and bizarrely “judge” or feel that he’s not an invisible victim or a “freakshow” anymore , he’s not part of the masterpiece , He , Lionel , Is the masterpiece .A passage that confirms and highlights even more his transformation is the following :

    “It seemed possible I was the first awake in the world , possible the world was new .(…)Perhaps I’d been expecting that Minna’s absence would snuff the world , or at least Brooklynn out of existence.That a sympathetic dimming world would occur .Instead , I’d woken into realization that I was Minna’s successor and avenger , that the city shone with clues.It seemed possible I was a detective on a case .”
    (Lethem ,132)

    Here , it seems that the reference of a new world is the emphasize of a sort of “rebirth”as a new person , a “real” detective .

    Leïla Bencherif


  13. The Lionel we know, both from his brief introduction in the first chapter and from the flashbacks that happened after, seems different now. With the shock of Minna’s death slowly wearing off Lionel realizes that they have been left without the leader, that the spot is open for vacancy. No one even bothers to think that Lionel could fill that position and as Tony claims it Lionel is left with no part in the detective work,

    “”What about me?” I said. “You want me to- Criminal Fishrug! -to go with you? I know the place.” “No,” said Tony. “You go explain to Julia.”” (Lethem 97)

    But, it seems that for the first time in maybe his entire life, he can think on his own; make his own decisions,

    “I locked the car and rehearsed a few imaginary options. I could go back to the Yorkville Zendo by myself and have a look around. I could also seek out the homicide detective, earn his trust, pool my knowledge with him instead of the Men.” (Lethem 94)

    He can act of his own accord now, does not need to be part of the team or listen to Tony and could, as he suggests, potentially do this on his own. This is different from the Lionel we have come to know in the first chapters because the Men and Minna were always on his mind, influencing him. Some aspects of his life however have not changed much,

    “My life story to this point:
    The teacher looked at me like I was crazy. The social services worker looked at me like I was crazy. The boy looked at me like I was crazy and then hit me. The girl looked at me like I was crazy. The woman looked at me like I was crazy. The black homicide detective looked at me like I was crazy.” (Lethem 107)

    The exception is that he has the upper hand now, his Tourette’s seeming almost as an advantage in this case,
    “”Don’t worry,” said the detective, talking down to me. “I won’t tell him who gave out his name.” He thought he was grooming a stool pigeon. I could only try not to laugh or shout. Let Tourette be the suspect and maybe I’d get off the hook.” (Lethem 110)
    The detective is clueless as to what is going on, leaving Lionel with the power to gain new information. Lets not forget that his disability has people underestimate him, even though he is actually pretty intelligent,

    “I was smarter than I knew leading the cop into Zeod’s and letting him hear the Arab call me Crazyman. […] I didn’t want to point out to good cop that bad cop hadn’t learned anything from me, just got tired of asking.” (Lethem 116)

    His new attitude that he gets from his newfound power and knowledge, without the help of either the Men or Minna, gives him confidence; something that Lionel hasn’t had since the start of the novel. The reader is not the only one noticing these changes, Lionel senses them too, the game is being changed,

    “I felt a thrill at being taken so seriously. This making the rounds without Gilbert could get to be a habit. For once I was playing lead detective instead of comic- or Tourretic -relief.” (Lethem 143)

    He has gained confidence and credibility, he is stepping out of the shadows that Minna and his Men cast, learning that he can walk on his own.

    Charlotte Lapointe


  14. In this chapter, we can definitely see Lionel’s character evolving. At first, Lionel was very insecure and self-loathing because he felt like an outcast and did not understand his unpredictable tics. His condition made it difficult for him to feel “normal” and to fit in with the other kids. His tourette’s was how he defined himself and he hated his tics. However, ever since Minna gave him the book that revealed that it was a disorder, it made Lionel feel as if his identity was complete. In a way he felt less “crazy” because he finally understood there was a reason behind all his outburts. This allowed him to finally accept his condition and give into his tics too soothe that “itch”. For instance, ” I returned the knife to my counter, then centered plate, candle and drink on the table in a way that soothed my grieving Tourrette’s” (p.127). Lionel became more confident and more accepting towards his condition. He did not feel as ashamed by his tics and how it made other people react. Another example is when the homicide detective called him “fucking sick” (p.115), in return Lionel simply agreed as he apologized for it. This shows that he assumes his behaviour and he seems to be comfortable with it. He isn’t hiding away anymore like he used to in the library. He is able to walk in public and allow people to call him “Crazyman” (p.110). To conclude, Lionel has gained confidence and found different ways to appease the urges of his tics such as listenting to Prince’s music when he finally understood his syndrome.

    Jemirille Bajala-Tuazon


  15. Throughout the reading, we actually see how much Minna’s dead influences Lionel’s life. At the start of the chapter, the protagonist feels that without Minna, there is a hole missing within the Minna Men and that they are useless without him, “Lacking Minna, ours, put together, were as empty and tenacious as balloons.” (96) While the story moved on, he starts to realize unconsciously that the case of Minna’s death won’t be solved without his interruption and becomes more independent: “I pushed the thought away, tried to forget about Tony and Danny and Gilbert for the moment, to pretend it was my case alone…” (118) Aside from his independence, we witness a soft and gentle side of Lionel when he is around woman, he experienced two romantic scenes in which he hasn’t experienced before since the beginning of the story. He also admits that he has feelings towards Julia Minna (98) and he was surprised when he got a kiss from the woman who works at Zendo, “I couldn’t move, stood instead feeling her kiss-print burning on my flesh in the cold morning air.”(144) In addition, he develops a hardboiled character besides being all soft around woman. As an example, when he interacts with the “blackcop”. He looked tough and barely gave him any clues or hints about the case both of them are trying to solve. The cop says “You should be sorry. Your man got killed and you’re not giving me anything.” and Lionel responds “I’ll catch the killer, that’s what I’ll give you.” (115) He actually rejects the cop’s aid without regret. Last but not least, he starts to become a better detective on his own despite Minna’s absence in his life. And Gilbert’s arrest for killing Ullman does not make sense to Lionel, he figures out that someone is after the Minna Men. (119) Which is yet a good hypotheses he came up on his own.
    Hersi Nur


  16. In the last chapter we learned about Lionel and his childhood. He came across as a shy boy who did not understand who he was or what he was dealing with, however in this chapter we get to see a different side of him. Beforehand we learned about Lionel’s new tic to kiss all the boys and in this chapter we learn about how his sex life and how intercourse aids him in calming down his tics. Lionel expresses this on page 103 when he states “sexual excitement stills my Tourette’s brain (…) by setting up a deeper attentiveness in me”. This is the first time we hear of Lionel talking in a sexual way and we see the further development of this when Julia places his hands on her breasts. We also see a new side of Lionel where he actually steps out of his comfort zone and flirts. As we know being a womanizer is the typical persona for a hard-boiled character. This is illustrated when he meets Kimmery at Zendo. You can see the character developing feelings as he says ” And when I left I wanted to take Kimmery with me – I wanted to protect her” written on page 141. This is new for the readers seeing at it is the first time we hear Lionel caring for someone intimately.


  17. We begin to see a change in Lionel’s actions from his very first encounters with the detective he meets outside of Julia Minna’s home. When being questioned about Julia Minna’s whereabouts, Lionel responds with a lie, but states that “this lie came out so blessedly smooth and un-tic-laden it felt like the truth” (112). This demonstrates that Lionel is beginning to have more control over his tics when put under pressure. Lying comes easier to him, which is important when doing detective work. Although the reader may get the impression that Lionel can be easily influenced and taken advantage of, later on in the chapter when Loomis asks him to drive him home, Lionel continues to brush him off and tells him that he can “walk from here, gofuckacop” (124). This is an unforeseen response from Lionel and we are suddenly exposed to a tougher side of him. Furthermore, the power Frank Minna had on the men is illustrated when Lionel describes them as being “an arrangement around a missing centerpiece, as incoherent as a verbless sentence” (91). One of the Minna Men must fill the emptiness left by their boss and this is where Lionel steps in. He wakes up one morning with several realizations and he believes that he is capable of making Frank Minna proud. When planning his day, he decides to “Let Danny sleep, let Gilbert wait in his cell, let Tony be missing” (132), as he is ready to take matters into his own hands. He begins to develop many of his boss’s characteristics and his hard-boiled character is portrayed in doing so. We also see a change in Lionel’s tics, as he states that “[He] rang the doorbell once. No answer. Then four more times, for a total of five, and [he] stopped, startled by a sense of completeness. [He’d] shrugged off [his] tired old friend six.” (135) A change in tics can also suggest an evolution in Lionel’s character, as he is stepping out of his old habits and beginning to adapt new ones. Additionally, “[Lionel] didn’t ordinarily hesitate to reveal [his] syndrome, but something in [him] fought it now” (140). Lionel gives himself the chance to play the lead and most important role, and he does his best to prevent his syndrome from interfering with what he’s capable of.

    Sara Vetere


  18. Lionel and his Tourette syndrome both has changed and grew throughout the beginning of the book up until now. In the first two chapters Lionel showed insecurity with regards to his tics and immaturity towards his detective skills. Lionel seeks maturity by learning from his friend Minna that he sees as a role model. “My symptoms loved him” (Lethem 85).
    As the tragedy of Minna’s death, Lionel has to step up and work on his own and crack the case. Lionel does so and is cautious with those around him making sure he doesn’t let anything slip even though its hos new partner. ”I could also seek out the homicide detective, earn his trust, pool my knowledge with him instead on the Men.” (Lethem 94). This helps him grow and gain maturity due to Minna’s death and expertise that he has passed on to Lionel. “Instead I’d woken into the realization that I was Minna’s successor and avenger that the city shone with clues. It seemed possible I was a detective on a case.” (Lethem 132).
    Lionel doesn’t only mature but he gets familiar with his Tourette syndrome, the tics. This meaning that he has a clue when they will come and what to do when they come in case he is caught in a chase. In the chapter 3, he mentions it often and talks about it. “Tourette’s was my other name, and, like my name, my brain could never leave the words unmolested.”(Lethem 110). And “A Touretter can also be The Invisible Man” (Lethem 44). Lionel isn’t shy when it comes to his Tourette’s because he learned how to grow with it and dwell with the tics and this is another sign of maturity.
    Alexander Vincelli


  19. In the third chapter of the story a new light is shed onto Lionels character. Following up to this chapter we are shown Lionel as a weaker more childish one of the Minna men. We see how he looks down upon him self, constantly criticizing and evaluating what people think of him. “My life story to this point: The teacher looked at me like I was crazy. The social-services worker looked at me like I was crazy. The boys looked at me like I was crazy and then hit me.” (107). This chapter shows a side to Lionel that we have yet to see. While Lionel is being followed and interrogated by the detective we see him in a more comfortable, independent and intelligent state then usual. We know how important Minna was to Lionel and its clear that he wants to do what ever he can to find the killer him self. When the detective asks Lionel if he knows Matricardi and Rockaforte he chooses to lie and the detective criticizes him for giving no information Lionel reply “Ill catch the killer, I said. That’s what ill give you.” (115). We see a big transition of Lionel in this chapter, we are used to seeing him in the shadows of Frank and the rest of the Minna men however in this chapter we see him transform into leader. He takes the responsibility of finding Franks killer upon him self. “Let Dany sleep, let Gilbert wait in his cell, let Tony be missing. I’d go to the Zendo,” (132). The new light that has been shed upon Lionel is this chapter is an exciting one and I believe he is going to be a very dominant role in the rest of the novel.

    Nadav Sarid


  20. In the third chapter of the book, we can see that Lionel begins to change. As I was reading this chapter, the way how I portrayed Lionel Essrog evolved. In previous pages, Lionel for me was an individual suffering from a disease. I expressed pity and compassion toward him. Lionel was insecure and described himself in a horrible way giving the reader a bad idea about his characters. However, the third chapter, bring outs a new side of Lionel. Following the death of Frank Minna, the Minna Men are puzzled and do not know what to do next. In the beginning, Lionel mentions that “lacking Minna, ours, put together, were as empty and tenuous as balloons” (96). This demonstrates that Lionel was always depending on Minna and because of his death, Lionel is baffled and disoriented. However, as I continued reading this chapter, I remarked that Lionel was able to conduct an investigation on his own. Lionel says that “for once [he] was playing lead detective instead of comic” (143). Lionel starts looking for clues by himself and is looking for the criminal behind this murder. Also, when I came across Loomis, a friend of Gilbert, I saw a new aspect of Lionel’s personality. Lionel always described himself as the most inferior individual. However, for once, there was someone that was inferior in some way to Lionel. Lionel says “his imprecision and laziness maddened my compulsive instincts” (121). In some way, I felt that Loomis plays a significant role in Lionel’s life because he gives him confidence. Many people need someone worst than them in their life to feel relief. Furthermore, in this chapter, we see Lionel (twice) in a romantic situation. We finally see the emotions of Lionel. After reading these lines, I characterized Lionel as a soft and gentle man. Lionel is a man that needs love and attention. He never got the right attention in his life. Lionel mentions “I like sex very much. I don’t get it very often. When I do, I find I want to slow it down to a crawl, live in that place, …” (104) which gives a new insight in Lionel’s personality. Finally, we see there is a new relationship that arise between Lionel and Kimmery, a girl that he met at the Zendo. I feel that there is a good interation between and I foresee a love story rise between them.

    Ilyas Mohamed


  21. In this chapter, we can see that Lionel shows us a new part of his character. We can see him worrying about his friend, being secretive and being so lovely. Also, we can see how he reacts to the flirting from Frank’s wife Julia. When she asked him to “Zip me (her) up” (102) he was so nervous and so horny at that time. The reader can realized this when they read the way he expresses his feelings when he was zipping her dress. He was just doing it and he thought about her breast. At that time his tic came out and he said “Doublebreasts” (103). Later on we actually can read what is he feeling and he express it to the readers “Yes, I like sex very much. I don’t get it very often” (104).
    We see him as a detective who wants to find that person who killed his best friend. It is showing to us at the beginning of the chapter 4. Lionel trying to find any clues that can help him fined this person. First, he was talking with a doorman. Second, he was talking with “the girl with the short black hair” (135). He was trying to ask her for information that he needed to know, but she always changed the subject. Then, Lionel made a conclusion of all the time that he has spend with her “[…] I’d penetrated the citadel and spend my whole time contemplating Kimmery and Oreos” (145).

    Karyna Statko


  22. In these pages there were a few new aspects of Lionel that were brought to light. One of these aspects was Lionel’s sexual feelings towards women and how he acts around them. When Lionel was with Julia in her apartment and she puts his hands on her breasts he describes what happens to his Tourette’s. Lionel describes it as “setting up a deeper attentiveness in me, a finer vibration, which gathers and encompasses my urgent chaos, enlists it a greater cause like a chorus of voices somehow drawing a shriek into harmony”. (Pg.104) This gives us a sense of how Lionel reacts to sex and women. Which this also shows with his interaction with the girl from the Zendo named Kimmery. While with her for the first few pages he did not experience any tics. Lionel mentions Kimmery having a calming influence over him. In these pages we also see how Lionel interacts with someone he truly dislikes. We are introduced to Gilbert’s friend named Loomis and Lionel does not like him. While driving back to the L&L offices Loomis asks to be dropped at his house and Lionel responds to him with You can walk from here , gofuckacop” “walk” (pg. 124) Through this and other interactions such as Lionel when Lionel speaks to the doorman across the street from the Zendo or even with Kimmery when he meets her for the first time and asks “Questions..about the Zendo, what do you do here” (pg. 136) we see a new assertiveness that we did not see in Lionel before. He has come out of his shell and has decided to take matters into his own hands where as before he was more in the background taking orders. He is now doing what he feels needs to be done and not taking orders from Tony although he would be the next to run the business since Minnas death.
    Natacha Colimon


  23. In the third chapter of Motherless Brooklyn, it can be seen that Lionel’s character is slowly growing. After Minna past away, Lionel is becoming more mature and bold. He realizes that his boss Minna is no longer here to guide him and that he must step up for himself from now on. To assure himself of his new image, he begins to act like Minna by wearing ” Minna’s watch” instead of his own and “clipped his beeper” (P132) to his hip. Another aspect of Lionel’s character that hasn’t been seen before is his sense of independence. He decides to go find his old boss murderer by himself. The courageous man drives back to Zendo alone and starts to interrogate the people there. This situation is very interesting because earlier in the chapter, Lionel used to be the one answering questions therefore, in the third chapter, he is the one asking questions to the other characters. That also shows that he gained some self-esteem after Minna’s departure. A third important scene in this chapter is when Loomis negotiates with Lionel to use his washroom. When Loomis says, “At least lemme use the can”, Lionel quickly reply back with “If you ‘ll do one thing for me.”(P124) This is the first time that we encounter the protagonist where he is not placed in the position of the weakest one. These scenes of Lionel’s interactions clearly indicate the changes that are occurring within himself.

    Amanda Ging Sze Chan


  24. In previous chapters, he seemed to be the weakest in rank among the Minna Men. Yet, in these pages, hardboiled traits from Lionel,unbeknownst to the readers, surged. It was through Lionel’s behaviour and interaction with the other character that the hardboiled traits arose. By such, Lionel exceeded his own abilities as Minna Men to become Minna.

    Thrown in confusion, Lionel wasted no time to mourn over Frank. Instead, he became critical; he analyzed the situation and determined the best alternative in order to find the culprit. “I locked the car and rehearsed a few imaginary options.” (Lethen 94) His solution was to become like Frank Minna.

    Through his narration, Lionel’s thoughts were revealed and they were remarkably sharp-witted despite his condition. “Or else, he’d been set up. Therefore: Frightened. Someone was hunting Minna Men.” (Lethen 120) He realizes there was someone chasing after them. Then, during his interaction with Danny, trust did not seem to establish between the two as they both likely lied to each other.

    The situation pushed him to become strong willed and protective as well. Lionel went as far as trying to overcome his tics. His regrets and desires of protection manifested through desperation. “Now that I’d failed Minna, who deserved my protection? […] In the meantime, Kimmery would do.” ( Lethen 141)

    It is reasonable to think that Frank’s death would be the cause of these changes in Lionel, yet it can not be helped, but to also think that these might not have been changes, but instead, innate abilities of his. “Here’s the strangeness of having a Tourette’s brain, then: no control in my personal experiment of self.” (Lethen 131)

    Lissom Huang


  25. While reading these pages we see many different changes in Lionel. When Lionel is interacting with Loomis, he is much more impatient and seems to get aggravated much easier. “…So it was my duty to loathe him instead”(Pg.122). While Lionel drives Loomis around we can see a change in Lionel’s character. He seems to be overall very tense and annoyed with everything that has been going on. As I continue to read, I noticed even more changes in his behavior. While Lionel is in his apartment he seems to be very emotional with himself and finally let’s his emotions show. ” I put the song on repeat and sat in the light of my candle and waited for the tears”( Pg 128). Previously, Lionel seemed to be upset with others and while being alone, he seems to turn his anger into what he really feels ; which is sadness. Finally, we see the biggest change in Lionel. When Lionel wakes from his previous night of feeling lost and sad without Minna, he has this revelation. Lionel is much more confident and takes matters into his own hands. He called himself ” Minna’s successor and avenger…”(Pg 132). This confidence is something we’ve never seen in Lionel. You see his confidence when he is talking to Kimmery and how he interacts with other characters. He shows this dominance which is unusual for Lionel.
    Siobhan McDonagh


  26. Lionel is introduced in the first two chapters of this novel as being a follower, rather than a leader. We soon realize that for all the men in the agency, Minna is their leader. Minna is introduced more as his mother figure, which allows us to feel the importance he had in Lionel’s heart. After his death, the Minna Men go through all sorts of changes, including Lionel. It seems that Lionel has evolved as his own person by assuming Minna’s dominant role. He now possesses a strong new confidence, which he acquired slowly throughout the third chapter. “I could seek out the homicide detective, earn his trust, pool my knowledge with him instead of the Men” (94), this last passage makes us realize that Lionel does not feel like he needs to answer to anyone anymore, instead he starts to explore other options independently, which really shows us that he is growing as a person and starting to mold his confidence accordingly to Minna’s. He also withholds information from the Men, when he remembers “the name Irving’’, but decides to say nothing (94). As the chapter continues on, Lionel really starts to see himself more and more like Minna and he starts assuming his role: “[…], donned Minna’s watch instead of my own, and clipped his beeper to my hip. […] I was Minna’s successor and avenger […].” (132). Instead of dwelling over the death of the most important person in his life, and to our surprise, Lionel decides to honor Minna by succeeding in finding who did this to him, which relates to the idea that he is growing into the hardboiled hero that he is meant to be. In fact, the other Men also seem to surprise us with their different behaviors after their leader’s passing: “Let Danny sleep, let Gilbert wait in his cell, let Tony be missing” (132). In this last passage, we can see that all the other Men took a turn for the worse, which really goes against their characters set by the author in the first two chapters. In sum, Lionel is growing into the hardboiled detective that he is meant to be, despite his condition and despite how he was before the death of his mentor, which seems to be what drove him to becoming the person he was always meant to be.

    Savana Di Quinzio


  27. In this portion of the book we see Lionel’s reaction to the death of Frank Minna, his father figure, mother figure, only parent. Lionel is determined to solve the case for himself very early on in this section, quickly we see his distrust in Tony, which is deeply seated, when the Minna men first meet to discuss what happened with Frank, “ I remembered the name Irving, but didn’t say anything.” (Lethem 95) At this point Lionel is already showing an independence that is hidden before in the book. Lionel intends to leave the other Minna men out of the case. Later on we see Lionel by himself starting his investigation, when analyzing the book we see that the only other time he is alone is when he is in the library or at his house. This is therefore something new for him, he will learn as he completes his investigation how to work by himself without Frank as a leader. Lionel takes initiative and goes to the Zendo by himself without telling anyone, this is truly his first step in his investigation, he does not learn that much out of the inquiry but it is an important step for him in his new found freedom which he will have to embrace in order to solve to case.

    Thomas Leclaire


  28. The real quest for Lionel, I believe, sets off in the chapter “Interrogation Eyes.” The two main changes I observed were: he is beginning to act like Frank Minna and he is now slowly starting to feel less uncomfortable with the illness that he is suffering from.

    Now that the ex-orphans’ father figure is gone, our protagonist is unconsciously starting to behave like him. He somehow took Minna’s indifference in the way he talks. We see this when the detective asks him where they are heading to and he plainly answers “Home” (109) and then talk about a completely different subject: “I’m starving. Do you want to get a sandwich with me?” (109). Also, Lionel now is up to finding out who is responsible for his father figure’s death and to take vengeance for him. Lionel says “[he]’d woken into the realization that [he] was Minna’s successor and avenger […]” (132). This awareness is crucial to his becoming more like Minna.

    In this chapter, we also notice that our main figure is getting more accepting of his Tourette’s. He is now letting “Tourette be the suspect and maybe [he’d] get off the hook” (110). We also notice that as he gets more accepting of this, he becomes less of a slave of the illness. On page 135, when ringing the doorbell, instead of doing so six times-which is a “number of completion” to him-he only rang it for five times and felt a “sense of completeness” (135) anyway.

    Mikaela Cuaycong


  29. In Motherless Brooklyn, a novel written by Jonathan Lethem, Lionel Essrog grows as the story continues. He starts off as a fifth man of a team of five. ( being the least important of the team ) and now is rising to the top of the group, individually. You can say that Lionel is growing from a boy to a young man. We see this when Lionel decides that he is going to solve the case by himself to find the murderer of his former boss , frank Minna. Throughout this chapter, Lionel also starts to lie better and more often then in the other chapters. “I was here for forty-five minutes. A lie. I doubted it was more than fifth teen minutes. But I felt like punishing him.” (Lethem 125). This wasn’t his first lie of the chapter, he also lied to Julia Minna when he went to her house. A remarkable fact is that when he lies throughout the chapter, his tics don’t follow his sentences. All in all Lionel as become more independent, realizing what he has to do , without Frank, to solve the case of his death. Subconsciously, even his tics know what he has to do to crack the case.

    Giuseppe Gallo


  30. In the third chapter, there is a clear contrast between who he was when he first Minna as an orphan to how he reacts to the whole ordeal of Minna’s death. When we first get to know Lionel, he is the quiet boy who doesn’t interact with people and shuts himself in the library. He is obviously not the “first pick” nor is he high up the totem pole. Nevertheless, the readers begin to see how Lionel breaks out of his shell and becomes more assertive or at least he owns up to his thoughts and decision. Lionel decides to take it upon himself to investigate Minna’s death even after being told not to. Lionel says: “I’d woken to into the realization that I was Minna’s successor and avenger, that the city shone with clues.” (Lethem 132) In class we’d establish that he was not the decision maker nor does he have much influence on the others. However, the passage stated earlier demonstrate that he is no longer that black sheep of the group and longs for more in amongst the Minna men. Another revealing aspect about Lionel we learn in the third part of the group is how Lionel interacts with women. In the second chapter, we witness his sexual awakening kissing other boys and masturbating with Gilbert. At page 103, after Julia places Lionel’s hands on her breast, he states: “sexual excitement stills my Tourette’s brain […] by setting up a deeper attentiveness in me”. (Lethem 103). Further on in the chapter, we witness how Lionel is with Kimmery from Zendo.

    Melvin Buquerente


  31. The reader can quickly begin to see the change of Lionel’s character within the first series of events. Now that Minna is dead the men of L&L seem to be overcome by confusion and abandonment because since the beginning of their time as employees Minna has been there to dictate their every move. Lionel seems to have taken his death a bit heavier than the other men for he has always been more in touch with his emotions due to his analytical Tourretic mind: “At the words heads I was blessed with a sudden vision: Lacking Minna, ours put together, were as empty and tenuous as balloons. Untethered by his death, the only question was how quickly they would drift apart, how far– and wheter they’d burst or just wither”(Lethem 96). The reader begins to see this shift of mindset towards the death Minna rather than the usual focus of Lionel’s Tourrette’s. One then beings to see the shift in motive within Lionel; taking the death of Minna as a stepping stone to a new chapter in his life. With one significant member lost, the detective agency needed to change its ways of functioning and inevitably, Lionels purpose in the organization begins to be more meaningful. An example of this is when he pursued by actual detective who attempts to forcefully interrogate Lionel on his recent loss: “I was smarter than I knew leading the cop into Zeod’s and letting him hear the Arab call me Crazyman” (116). Surprisingly, this is one of the first things that Lionel says about himself that are n the positive side. Already, the reader is demonstrated a small evolution due to Minna’s death. Could it be that Minna was the figure in Lionel’s life that was restraining him to reach his full potential? On a lighter note, Lionel goes through a brief sexual experience with a grieving wife that doesn’t seem care that her husband, Minna, just got stabbed to death. This as well shows the flourishing as a hard-boiled fictional character and a very large boost of confidence.

    Lucas Tremblay-Moll


  32. Between pages 90 to 145, we have the chance to explore different attributes of Lionel that were never expressed earlier, deviating away from the humble detective with Tourettes, the detective without Minna. We observe this in two different situations, when Lionel is meeting with Julia and later when he sees Loomis. During his visit to Julia, after she places his hands on her breasts, he explains the rush of his sexual drive, something that he had never discussed with the readers previously. He perceives sex in a very unique way, almost in a non-sexual manner. “When I do, I find I want to slow it down to a crawl, live in that place, get to meet my stilled self, give him a little time to look around” 104.
    Later in the story, Lionel’s feelings are completely reversed. When encountering Loomis, a man Lionel profoundly dislikes, his mind state completely flips. “In fact, I hate Loomis (…). His imprecision and laziness maddened my compulsive instincts – his patchiness (…). And he was too moronic to be properly self-loathing – so it was my duty to loath him instead.” 121.
    There is a very clear contrast between the Lionel that we are first introduced to, that besides his ticks was a reletively reserved and calm individual. These developments give a deeper understanding of Lionel’s condition as a man with Tourettes. People do not often think of the stuggles and perspective that he lives through everyday, as is shown by Loomis throughout their whole interaction. All in all you begin to understand how different the world is to a man who is constantly suppressing himself.

    Michelle Jette


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