Tourette’s guy

Dear Mr. Norton,

I have been waiting for an opportunity like this for a while now. I am familiar with your interest and passion for the project concerning the novel, Motherless Brooklyn. I as well have seen big potential for the outcome of this movie and would love a chance to be a part of the project. I know you already have many different ideas for this movie and I want to help you bring those ideas to life with a little twist. The only issue in my mind for this project is having an active director in the film. I believe that this will cause some issues in the making of the film because deep down we really want to bring this novel to life in the right away. In all due respect, I would like to present to you my ideas concerning the role of Lionel Essrog. I think it would be best for a well-known actor to play the role of Lionel, like Jonny Depp. He did a remarkable job in Edward Scissorhands and I feel that Edward and Lionel have many traits that are similar to one another.

Lionel is a very complex character and is the narrator of Motherless Brooklyn. He goes through an extensive change from the beginning of the book towards the end. At the very beginning we get to really see how different Lionel is from everyone else. Despite his differences, he makes for a very interesting character. First off, the most compelling aspect that we notice as a reader is Lionel’s Tourette’s. His Tourette’s is unlike others. According to Tourette’s Canada, this syndrome creates tics that are either motor or verbal related. As we already know, in Lionel’s case his Tourette’s revolved around verbal tics that either makes him stick out or just create humor. His “disadvantage” allows him also to be more determined in his work, have an open mind with others, be more innocent than one should be, and inexperienced. All these topics can all be related to the same source, which is evidently the disorder from which the narrator suffers from. We get to really understand many of his struggles and I think that portraying this as best as possible would make this movie a hit.

Firstly, Lionel’s tics are a huge part of his personality because they’re so natural to him. I mean as I read the novel I really became to think of Lionel’s tics as a form of humor. Lionel states, “ Years before the word Tourette’s was familiar to any of us, Minna had me diagnosed: Terminal Tugboater”(52). At this moment we understand that Lionel’s Tourette’s was always just found to be kind of funny since a tugboater refers to someone always pulling your leg and messing around. He is basically the goofball of the group. One of Lionel’s most blurted out phrase is, “Eat me!”(2). I find this ironically funny because it is understood that he feels the most comfortable and tic free when eating. Many times throughout the novel Lionel explains how it feels to have Tourette’s and touching on this is very important because you want to make the audience really feel for him. Lionel expresses, “ Tourette’s was my other name, and, like my name, my brain could never leave the words unmolested. Sure enough, I produced my own echo” (110). If the Tourette’s is the thing that affects him the most in life then that proves to us that this is the most interesting part of Lionel’s life. Not only the tics stem from the uncontrollable disorder but many other things.

I believe that the Tourette’s also gave Lionel an advantage in the way that he always has something to overcome. He is constantly battling with himself and I feel that this pushes him to prove himself and others wrong. In doing so, Lionel becomes so devoted to his work. When the lady asks him to what title shall he put on Frank Minnas obituary on the phone, Lionel says, “Just say detective”(165). By this time in the novel Lionel is fully devoted to his work and he even titles himself as detective on the obituary of the person who was most important to him. This detective guy is really who he has become.If it weren’t for his disorder, he wouldn’t have gotten so much attention from Frank. Frank always knew great things could happen for Lionel and pushed him to really embrace his Tourette’s and to never let it stop him. All the other guys at L&L loved working with Lionel because you never really know what to expect. Lionel tells us that “Coney and the other Minna Agency operatives loved doing stakeouts with me, since my compulsiveness forced me to eyeball the site or mark in question every thirty seconds or so, thereby saving them the trouble of swiveling their necks”(4). Here again he’s using his Tourette’s at an advantage, which allows him to do great work in a stress free situation like a stakeout.

Lionel is not familiar with everything that goes on in the world because of his condition. Like Edward scissorhands, their mentors died before they were able to fully grasp the understanding of the world. Both being different in their own way, they understood life in whatever way made sense to them. This being said, Lionel is pretty inexperienced in certain aspects of life. “Everything we both know comes from Frank Minna or gangster movies”(184). During a heated conversation with Tony Lionel even makes it clear to himself that he doesn’t understand it all. Another example is he’s pretty confused about love, which makes him vulnerable. When he finally meets a wonderful woman he messes it up. Kimmery the woman he believes to be into him reveals that he is just too attached and doesn’t understand the social norms behind dating. She tells him, “You’re kind of overwhelming, actually, if you don’t already know. I mean, I like talking to you, too, but it isn’t a good idea to call three times right after, you know, spending the night” (259). He basically ruined a great shot with a woman that didn’t mind his differences because he just didn’t understand how to react in this sort of situation.

They don’t tell you when you are diagnosed with Tourette’s that it will affect you in so many different ways. The only thing that is clear to you is the side effects and symptoms you will have to deal with, the rest is for you to figure out. Lionel has suffered so much over the course of the novel and in that suffering we are able to see beauty at times. I believe this is the most interesting thing about ‘Liable Guesscog’. The proof is there for you to see, and if you cannot, then I respect your vision but I think we both know the best way to bring this motion picture to life is by perfecting Lionel’s character. Thank you for your time Mr. Norton.

Andrew Augoustis

Work cited: 

  • Lethem, Jonathon. Motherless Brooklyn. Vintage, 2000.

One thought on “Tourette’s guy

  1. You have some good ideas in here. I think focusing on Lionel’s Tourette’s is a good thing.

    But, you’re not really engaging with the novel enough here. It feels like you’re pulling a bunch of quotes out of the novel without really considering the context or what’s going on. You have a few basic factual errors. Lionel doesn’t list himself as a detective on Minna’s obituary, for example.

    I would have a similar comment throughout. This feels like a list of citations and comments about them, but I don’t see how anything fits together. You did not have to have a set thesis statement for this draft, but you needed to put more thought into it than this. For example, after the Kimmery quote, you say, “He basically ruined a great shot with a woman that didn’t mind his differences because he just didn’t understand how to react in this sort of situation.”

    Okay. What is your point here, exactly?

    Your first couple of paragraphs are good. This starts off strongly. I like this sentence: “His “disadvantage” allows him also to be more determined in his work, have an open mind with others, be more innocent than one should be, and inexperienced.” It’s interesting to think how his “disadvantage” is really a kind of advantage. Perhaps this is an idea you can pursue in your final draft?

    So, talking about the contradictory nature of his Tourette’s can be interesting. But you’ll have to do more than say, “he has Tourette’s, and this affects everything he does.” Too obvious. Too easy. I like the Edward Scissorhands comparison, and I like some of what you write here. But you’ll have to pull up your sleeves and looking deeper at the parts of the novel that you choose to talk about, and try to discover how they add up to one coherent statement about Lionel’s disorder. Judging by your strong first couple of paragraphs, I believe you’re capable of doing this quite well.


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