Starring Mr. Unreliable Chessgrub

Dear Mr. Norton,

After thoroughly reading and rereading the novel Motherless Brooklyn, written by Jonathan Lethem, it is clear to me that the most intriguing aspect of the novel to focus on while adapting it to film is the major conflict of the story, namely Lionel’s own inner conflict. Additionally, there should be a certain focus on how Lionel comes closer to self-acceptance as he gets closer to uncovering Frank’s murderer. JEFF’S NOTE: I LIKE THIS IDEA.

Throughout the novel (but mostly in the beginning), we see Lionel ticcing into near insanity throughout the majority of his inner monologue as well as in conversations with secondary characters. In many scenes, Lionel’s inner monologue is a display of self-resentment and desire to not be ridden by tics. This shines some light on how he really feels about himself; like such a freak show. However, his awareness of his tourette’s is not always negative, in fact there are a number of scenes where he acknowledges how the burden of having tourette’s has given him a unique view and understanding of human nature and how “tourette’s teaches you what people will ignore and forget, teaches you to see the reality-knitting mechanism people employ to tuck away the intolerable, the incongruous, the disruptive-it teaches you this because you’re the one lobbing the intolerable, incongruous, and disruptive their way.”(Page 43)

It’s important to put so much focus on Lionel’s characteristics and inner conflicts because these are the glue that ties the whole novel together. If Lionel “-Lyrical Eggdog! Logical Assnog!-” was just plain old Lionel Essrog, there wouldn’t be much of a novel to even adapt to film.(Page 104) It is his characteristics that lead to the core conflict of the story, which are all the obstacles Lionel faces on his “mission” to seek vengeance on Frank’s killer, ultimately helping Lionel to accept himself for what he truly is. In each scene, Lionel’s true colors show themselves, and to really emphasize them is vital in order to capture and maintain your audience’s attention. The way Lionel stays fixated on a phrase or an action will also be very effective in holding onto the viewers’ attention; the viewers may be obediently following along the story and then bam -“Guy walks, walksinto, guywalksinto, […] whrywhroffsinko,”- Lionel brings the attention back to a joke he can’t hold in after a few minutes of fixating on it. (Page 30)

By focusing so much on Lionel’s character in the film adaptation, we will be creating an important connection between the audience and Lionel. Of course, Lionel is very eccentric and everything he does seems nearly exaggerated, but I’m sure we can all find those qualities that he hates so much about himself within ourselves. When the audience is able to connect with the characters it is a very positive thing; they’ll start to imagine themselves as Lionel; they’ll cringe when he enters the Zendo alone after leaving Kimmery’s apartment, scared at the possibilities of what could be awaiting him as he “climbed, until at the top he (I) could only grope his (my) way toward a thin margin of light squeezed out underneath a sealed door[…] impatient with his (my) own fear.”(Page 228) Additionally, I’m sure the audience will feel much sympathy for Lionel when Kimmery tells him he doesn’t have a chance. Personally, I had a lot of hope riding on their possible relationship as I first read the book and was disappointed when it didn’t pan out.

In the first paragraph of the novel Lionel is already describing to us in detail (and metaphors) the extent of his tourette’s and makes it very clear the he sees it as a burden on his life. Rather than skipping over this inner monologue right to “”Eat Me!” I scream.”(Page 2) the film adaptation should allow for some inner monologue in the film so that we don’t miss out on his introduction.

The core conflict of the story is how the death of Frank Minna impacts the life of Lionel Essrog. Frank was the one person who even came close to understanding Lionel, and while Lionel takes it upon himself to solve Frank’s murder, he shows the rest of the L&L crew that he can work independently.


One thought on “Starring Mr. Unreliable Chessgrub

  1. This is a good start. I really like the last sentence of your opening paragraph. This is something that could develop into an interesting thesis statement.

    As it stands, this draft is about half as long as it was supposed to be, so you don’t have nearly enough here. If you can deliver on the idea above, it could be very interesting.

    One important note: you must discuss and analyze the quotes you provide. There has to be some writing after the quote where you look deeper at what’s happening and discuss how this helps us understand Lionel’s evolution. So, a citation should never be at the end of a paragraph, for example.

    As I said, it’s an interesting main idea. Now you have to deliver on the rest of it.


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