I vant to go to Tibet

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Comedy can be a subtle art or just plain crude, both have advantages and different audiences buy both are effective. Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem is riddled with comedy of many types, like all humor some of I works and some o I doesn’t, as with all humor works differently for each reader. I have found Motherless Brooklyn to be both humorous an awkward at points.

In this portion of Motherless Brooklyn comedy is very apparent, starting at the beginning Lethem introduces comic relief to the otherwise serious novel. Humor is seen in the form of absurdity when Lionel gets abducted:

“Pimples an Indistinct – jammed in beside me, to make four of us in the back seat. It was a bit crowded.

‘Get in the front’ said Chunky, the one holding my neck.

‘Me?’ I said.

‘Shut up. Larry get out. There’s too many. Go in the front.’”(145)


Lethem portrays Lionel’s kidnappers as useless and confused, this immediately removes he tension built from the break in the text when he gets kidnapped. Lionel gets relaxed and we stop worrying about his safety. This form of comedy, slapstick or absurdity, is commonly use and has many fans. It is simple an light,  investing readers emotionally a therefore usually is non-offensive, Lethem is able to lighten the moo in his part of the book by putting Lionel in a potentially dangerous situation ad ten making his kidnapers bozos.

Lethem uses comedy to reveal important information as well. He uses a joke told by Minna to inform Lionel and the readers of his brother, Gerard’s, whereabouts. Lionel the thinks of the joke while staring at Gerard in zazen, although distracting and random at the time, it becomes very obvious once Lionel and the reader piece together the connection between the joke and Gerard. Lionel hints to the reader,

I vant to go to Tibet… Come home, Irving… Irving… Your family misses you… I vant to go to Tibet!.. I vant to speak to the Lama!.. The High Lama will grant you an audience… Irving come home… Your brother misses you Irving.”(195-200)

Through these thoughts that the reader hears through Lionel hint Gerard’s location an vocation and lead Lionel to the conclusion that Gerard is sitting in front of him.


Thomas Leclaire


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