Mr. Tic and his Not-Really-Joke Jokes


By Dallas Tyme Carver

Nearly the entire novel is filled with subtle and not so subtle humor highlighted by Lionel Essrog’s tics, but I am going to focus on just a few that stood out to me and shine a light on the personality Motherless Brooklyn’s author, Lethem.

In numerous scenes of the novel we find irony, and one scene in particular I had to read a few times because I got all mixed up in the dialogue and interior monologue of one very aggravated stranger and Lionel. After confirming who said what I couldn’t help myself but to laugh at the way Lionel reacts towards “Fucking people talking to themselves in a public place like they got some kind of illness” because he spends a good chunk of his days talking to himself in public places because of his mental illness. (163) I think that what Lethem was trying to express here is that sometimes people can take the thing they most dislike or obsess over about themselves and become turned off when they see that same quality in other people. More specifically, he is showing us that Lionel is tired enough of his own outbursts to the extent that when he sees familiar traits in unfamiliar people he just clears the scene.

I wish I had more time to discuss more of the absurd humor found in between the lines of Jonathan Lethem’s writings.


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