Brooklyn Crime Novel: A Novel (Hardcover)

Brooklyn Crime Novel: A Novel By Jonathan Lethem Cover Image
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Named a Best Book of the Year by: Boston Globe * New Yorker * NPR * PopMatters

From the bestselling and award-winning author of The Fortress of Solitude and Motherless Brooklyn comes a sweeping story of community, crime, and gentrification, tracing more than fifty years of life in one Brooklyn neighborhood.

“A blistering book. A love story. Social commentary. History. Protest novel. And mystery joins the whole together: is the crime 'time'? Or the almighty dollar? I got a great laugh from it too. Every city deserves a book like this.” — Colum McCann, author of Apeirogon and Let the Great World Spin

On the streets of 1970s Brooklyn, a daily ritual goes down: the dance. Money is exchanged, belongings surrendered, power asserted. The promise of violence lies everywhere, a currency itself. For these children, Black, brown, and white, the street is a stage in shadow. And in the wings hide the other players: parents; cops; renovators; landlords; those who write the headlines, the histories, and the laws; those who award this neighborhood its name.

The rules appear obvious at first. But in memory’s prism, criminals and victims may seem to trade places. The voices of the past may seem to rise and gather as if in harmony, then make war with one another. A street may seem to crack open and reveal what lies behind its glimmering facade. None who lived through it are ever permitted to forget.

Written with kaleidoscopic verve and delirious wit, Brooklyn Crime Novel is a breathtaking tour de force by a writer at the top of his powers. Jonathan Lethem, “one of America’s greatest storytellers” (Washington Post), has crafted an epic interrogation of how we fashion stories to contain the uncontainable: our remorse at the world we’ve made.

About the Author

Jonathan Lethem is the bestselling author of twelve novels, including The Arrest, The Feral DetectiveThe Fortress of Solitude, and Motherless Brooklyn, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. He currently teaches creative writing at Pomona College in California.

Praise For…

Brooklyn Crime Novel surveys the deep fissures that surface when the pull of home is stronger than nostalgia. . . . What more is there to say about Brooklyn? Lethem’s revisionist project ultimately unsays as much as it says. ‘[C]ertain matters fall into wells of silence without necessarily being lies...,’ he writes. ‘The street may seem to swallow knowledge about itself, to render certain things unsayable.’ But the novel is also an endless declaration of love. Every neighborhood deserves such a discursive portrait, such ruthless devotion and such an audacious book.” — Lauren LeBlanc, Los Angeles Times

"Tracking the slippery, overlapping paths of gentrification and crime are a vast cast of characters for whom time and space bend and retract in this expansive novel." — Boston Globe

“By stripping Brooklyn Crime Novel of all the traditional narrative structures and character names and faces and descriptors outside of race, [Lethem] presents a story of gentrification without sentimentality. . . . I was moved by its insights about all that we’ve lost: the wild abandon of kids running the streets, the vital awareness they had of one another’s lives. . . .  I was raised in Brooklyn too. . .and he remains, among my childhood friends and I, somewhat of a literary patron saint: the Brooklyn boy who did us proud by immortalizing our borough in contemporary fiction.” — Xochitl Gonzalez, The Atlantic 

“[An] intricately excavated, breathtaking tale of imperiled childhood in a fitfully gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood. . . . With Brooklyn as a microcosm of human folly and strife, Lethem’s virtuoso, many-faceted novel is trenchant, hilarious, wrenching, and tender.” — Booklist (starred)

“Jonathan Lethem creates a vivid portrait of the borough of Brooklyn over 50 years of profound social and economic change. . . . Anyone attuned by personal experience to the vibrancy and edginess of New York City life, or who simply enjoys reading about it, will find something to savor here.” — Shelf Awareness

“The latest novel from the bard of Brooklyn is a metafictional collage that tells the story of some fifty years in one neighborhood . . . . It’s funny and wise and weird . . . . [a] love letter to Brooklyn.” — LitHub

“A wild, exuberant ambition that pays off and delivers to readers a true achievement: a book at once full of art and grace and mystery. . . .Lethem proves again why he is a master of the form.”

“The levels of mystery here astound. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts and then the parts decide to act alone and challenge the whole. Lethem is not only interrogating the form of the crime novel, but the venture of storytelling itself. All of this while remaining a joy to read, full of strange characters and expertly rendered place. This brilliant, genre-defying work will leave certainly a mark.” — Percival Everett, author of James

"If Dean Street could talk, Brooklyn Crime Novel would be its voice, and it would serve up a half-century of Brooklyn’s dirt—fractured multicultural dreams, waves of gentrification, 'black mayonnaise'—while confessing its many crimes, from shoplifted magazines to blockbusting to murder. An intricate, spellbinding tour of the soul of Brooklyn as it casts off Manhattan’s shadow." — James Hannaham, author of Delicious Foods

“A blistering book. A love story. Social commentary. History. Protest novel. And mystery joins the whole together: is the crime 'time'? Or the almighty dollar? I got a great laugh from it too. Every city deserves a book like this.” — Colum McCann, author of Apeirogon and Let the Great World Spin

Brooklyn Crime Novel isn't what it says it is. In fact, it takes apart the three words of its title, even as it takes each of them very seriously. It loosens the knot that is Brooklyn, city of tangled streets, lost oases, and false fronts. It interrogates what a Crime is—a dance? an exchange? a deal gone wrong? a funny mugging? And it opens up what a Novel can be. This is no soul-affirming flight; no apotheosis of "where I'm from"; no prettified, gentrified tale of trauma; nor is it a winky metafictional gambit; nor a self-important autofictional one. Brooklyn Crime Novel is an inquiry and a tragedy, and as with the oldest crime story ever written, Oedipus Rex, the judge, detective, victim, and accused are one and the same. A deeply moving, fiercely intelligent, and acerbically funny novel about the scandal and disaster of American capital in our time.” — Namwali Serpell, author of The Furrows and The Old Drift

Brooklyn Crime Novel is like a sidewalk studded with diamonds--individual moments in life documented as vividly as that, the reader walking along with the characters through a borough, through buildings and streets and bedrooms, through lifetimes in an American place. Jonathan Lethem has layered a universe here, in a devastatingly meticulous document, a tender yet unsentimental remembrance for an entire world.” — Susan Straight, author of Mecca and In the Country of Women

“I love and admire the way Lethem’s always pushing at the edges of the form. He’ so in command of the material, both of the subject and the language, that it sometimes feels as if he’s improvising on it, or even floating free of it completely, the way a jazz musician might. His wonderfully corrosive humor is underpinned by a strange, mixed sense of outrage and tenderness.” — Rupert Thomson, author of The Book of Revelation and Dartmouth Park

“Going back nearly three decades to his debut noir-influenced novel, Gun, With Occasional Music, Lethem has never approached the beat looking for just the facts. . . . Lethem unwinds his story through a series of small vignettes: imperfect Polaroids of an imperfect past that slowly coalesce into a pho­tomosaic montage of memoir-meets-myth. . . . While Brooklyn Crime Novel may not cohere stylistically to the more hard-boiled Gotham underworld of an Ed McBain or Andrew Vachss novel, it’s by no means a chalk outline.” — BookPage

"In this fitting addition to Lethem’s impressive body of work, the author experiments freely with the form of the novel, leaning into ideas of criminals and victims, city and place, power and powerlessness.” — Alta

“Densely populated with bulldozing renovators, would-be reformers and their complicated casualties, “Brooklyn Crime Novel” is a book that itself, structurally if not plotwise, is stripped down to the studs. It’s an interesting and affecting experiment.” — Alexandra Jacobs, New York Times 

Brooklyn Crime Novel is full of history and details, but it's also a fast read with great rhythm and a ton of wit. . . . A superb book that shows an award-winning author at the top of his powers. . . . One of the best novels about Brooklyn ever written, and that makes it one of Lethem's best outings so far.”  —

“The energy coursing through Jonathan Lethem’s Brooklyn Crime Novel is the wild dynamism of youth, unfettered and unleashed daily on the streets of a now-vanished part of New York. . . .For a writer who has traveled widely and wildly in his work. . . Mr. Lethem’s homing instinct endures. Time and again, in his hard-edged Brooklyn way, he finds himself echoing W.B. Yeats’s conclusion that “Man is in love and loves what vanishes.””  — Wall Street Journal

Brooklyn Crime Novel’s subtle brilliance lies in Lethem’s decision, in the tradition of an Italo Calvino or Gilbert Sorrentino, to blast away the ligatures that would bind a conventional, linear novel. . . . With an untamed, metafictional narrator, Lethem is able to interrogate the brutal truths of gentrification—and what it means to have found success as a writer emerging at such a pivot point in history.” — The Nation

“Beginning in 1970 and running almost to the Biden presidency . . . this is a chronicle of democracy, with ambitions to at least swim alongside Moby-Dick undisguised, set in and around a small, at first mixed-race Brooklyn street. . . . The momentum in the book, a social mystery hurtling toward its personal, silent solutions, never flags. The result is an ebullience over telling the story … a writer’s thrill at the belief that he’s getting it across, the story in its infinite variety in its small space, an ebullience the reader can share.” — Greil Marcus, Real Life Top Ten

“A daringly idiosyncratic work.” — Literary Review (UK)

“Moving and funny, artful and delightful, and I couldn’t recommend it more highly.”  — The Spectator, Books of the Year

“Alternating with agility between the late ‘60’s, the near-present, and the years between, Lethem gives a sharp sense of the poignancies of urban regeneration.”  — Times Literary Supplement

"Lethem writes in a cool, disaffected, electric style and with deep love for the borough he was both born in and which he has given such rich imaginative life.”  — Daily Mail

“Jonathan Lethem has become the bard of Brooklyn . . . His latest, Brooklyn Crime Novel . . . mixes mystery with verbal carnage, while adding elements of metafiction. The result is an entertaining inquiry into the transgressions found in this community. . . . It’s a book that requires your concentration. But it delivers social commentary [and] plenty of laughs.” — Financial Times

Product Details
ISBN: 9780062938824
ISBN-10: 0062938827
Publisher: Ecco
Publication Date: October 3rd, 2023
Pages: 384
Language: English