Lionel’s Tics

By: Natalie Brethour, Natacha Colimon, Leila Bencherif & Dallas Carver

Throughout our research regarding Lionel’s tics we noticed some interesting information about Tourette’s tics in general. According to the website, tics are described as being this annoying urge or sensation that must be released in order to feel some kind of relief. We noticed how within the novel Lionel mentions the release of pressure once he gives into his tics:

Coney didn’t rate any special consideration from me.
“Eatmeeatmeeatme,” I shrieked again, letting off more of the pressure in my head.
Then I was able to  concentrate.

Another interesting fact that we learned was how there are actually three different tic categories and how in order to diagnose Tourette’s Syndrome you need multiple tics. The components for diagnosis include multiple chronic motor tics and multiple vocal tics in order to be classified as Tourette’s Syndrome. Not to mention that there is no cure for it. Doctors will not prescribe medication unless they think Tourette’s is affecting the persons development.

Lionel’s tics set a tone of humor during the chapter but also a tone of anxiety. As the chapter goes on and the situation with Minna becomes more serious, Lionel’s tics become more and more uncontrollable. Until the time where shear fear becomes apparent for Lionel his tics stop as His brain cannot process the Tics and the fear at the same time. His Tics play an important part in his relationships so far in the story. For Coney and Minna it can bring a kind of stress relief when Lionel says certain funny things or when he’s telling a joke to Minna. There is a small frustration that can arise when they are in stressful situations because it’s no a laughing matter but his tics have made him lovable to the people close to him. To the outside world his tics do not let him relate too well to others. The security guard Albert in the hospital was not understanding towards Lionel and became increasingly frustrated with him because of his tics in the waiting room.

If one of Lionel’s frequent tics, “Eat me!” had been written as a poem it would be a metaphor for Lionel challenging everyone. It’s as if when he uncontrollably blurts out “Eat me” he is really saying to his colleagues “Yes, I am erratic and have compulsive tendencies, but if I wasn’t we might not even be here. So deal with it, and don’t pretend that my behavior doesn’t amuse you and keep you on your toes!” However, not only does he blurt out “Eat Me” when exchanging innocent insults; he says it when he is feeling any heightened sense of emotion. “Eat me, dickweed was almost dislodged from my (his) mouth in the excitement,”(P.8) In this sense “Eat me” is symbolic of his inner child being shining through while out on his stakeout and inviting his colleagues to share the same excitement he has for the work.

Wish we had more time! 🙂





References – Motherless Brooklyn

Amanda Ging Sze Chan, Mikaela Cuaycong, Vanessa Correia, Lucas Tremblay-Moll

Robert Ryan in Wild Bunch


     Robert Ryan (1909-1973) was an actor famous for being cast in violent movies.  His roles teetered on both sides of the law, playing both police and villain roles. Upon seeing his boss, Frank Minna, Lionel immediately compares him to Robert Ryan because “he had his trench-coat collar up against the breeze, not quite cloaking his unshaven Robert-Ryan-in-Wild-Bunch grimace” (6). This aids the reader in establishing a visual idea of the grimy detective “look,” which fits seamlessly into the plot.

White Castle


     White Castle was the first fast food chain to be established in the United States. Lionel mentions that “there’s only one White Castle left in Manhattan,” making it a unique entity just like himself (3). The restaurant is renowned for its uniform hamburgers, which soothes Lionel’s compulsion to anxiously inspect every inch of his food. We also noticed that Lionel seems to enjoy indulging in food, which goes against the conventions of the hardboiled hero. He clearly confesses that “food really mellows [him] out” (2).

Humour: Octapipes

By Neta Fudim, Claudia Keurdjekian, Thomas Leclaire, Anthony Sciola, Alex Mukwende

When one thinks of humour in literature, they usually envision cliché jokes and anecdotes. However, by reading the writer digest article, we have come to realize that humour is sometimes achieved by simply surprising the readers.  According to reader’s digest, “(…) while we think of comedy in terms of exaggeration or fabrication, effective humor can be just as much about creative misdirection—engaging readers by taking them someplace they don’t expect to go(…).” Metaphors and similes are also a powerful tool in creating good humour. Lethem often does this through Lionel’s tics. Using word-play with similar words or sounds is also a technique we observed in the novel. One example of this is during the stake-out when Frank is talking to Lionel:

““(…) You get Gilbert, get back in the car, get ready to follow. You got it?”

Get, get, get, GOT! Said my brain. Duck, duck, duck, GOOSE!” (Lethem, 8)

Novel Now suggests “Writing humour successfully relies on things like timing, vocabulary, tone and even the length of sentences. It may take more effort than any other type of writing, but it is crucial that it looks effortless.” Indeed, in Motherless Brooklyn all the jokes are subtly weaved into the dialogue. One moment that we all found funny was when Lionel was telling his octopus joke to Minna:

Guy gets nervous, comes over to the bar says to the octopus-Accupush! Reactapus!--says to the octopus, fuckit, says gonna fuckit—says “What’s the matter? Can’t you play it?’ And the octopus says ‘Play it? If I can figure out how to get it’s pajamas off, I’m gonna fuck it!” (Lethem, 27)

This is funny because the octopus thought the bagpipes were “octapipes” (Lethem, 26) and his tics were giving away the punchline.

Hardboiled Conventions

Written by: Lissom Huang, Jerry Huang, Ricardo Thomassini, Marcela Seminahin

Something interesting we learned during our research of the “hardboiled” genre is that there is usually a purposeful manipulation of the point of view through the protagonists unstable personality. Apparently, “[t]he unsettling manipulation of point of view and the unstable position of the protagonist are key characteristics of the darker (more ‘noir’) types of hard-boiled crime story.”. This is especially interesting, as the main character, usually a detective, is normally supposed to represent the side of justice and provide an objective perspective on the situation at hand, rather than make the situation even more difficult to understand.

If we were to make a connection between the result of our research and the first chapter of Motherless Brooklyn, we do realize that at some point, it is hard to follow up with the situation due to Lionel’s Tourettic condition. He would have tics whenever he uttered sentences. For example, at the hospital, he has a condition but yet a nurse do not accept his behavior and wants him out, telling him  “ ‘Can’t be doing that shit,[…] Gotta take it elsewhere.’” (Lethem 31). It is quite ironic how, although a hospital should accept their patients as who they are, they are rejecting Lionel.

This aspect of hardboiled fiction is very prevalent in the movie Blade Runner, where Harrison Ford’s character, a human detective living in a society of cyborgs/androids, as well as many of the androids suffer from a wide variety of psychological issues which make it increasingly difficult to view any point of the story objectively.

Lionel Essrog compared to Lennie Small

Jemirille Bajala-Tuazon

Kayla Di Staulo

Karyna Statko

Julia Graziani

Lionel Essrog is the main character that suffers from Tourrete Syndrome. His condition makes him have “tics that are sudden, intermittent, repetitive, unpredictable, purposeless, nonrhythmic, involuntary movements or sound”. His sudden impulses tend to arise when he is in stressful situations. For example, Lionel shouts “Eat me Mister Dicky-Weed” as they tail the K-car and their boss in it, Frank. His partner, Gilbert is also very good friend of his that takes his condition as none-existent. Lionel describes him as “a big lug with a heart of gold, I guess.” There is definitely a strong bond between them.

Furthermore, Lionel reminds us of similar character from the book Of Mice and Men named Lennie Small. He also suffers from a mental disability. Therefore, he depends on his friend George just as Lionel depends on his partner Gilbert. George takes as his responsibility to protect Lennie. In a similar case, Gilbert also defends Lionel such as telling the guard to “lay off” explaining that he had a condition. This shows the sense of protectiveness between these two.

“A little about my story… DICK! WEED!”

By: Chelsea Silva-Martin, Nadav Sarid, Ilyas Mohamed, Sara Vetere, Giuseppe Gallo

Before you begin the writing process, quickly jot down any thoughts or ideas that enter your mind, this will help the structure of the story and also help develop your thoughts and ideas. Try not to organize what you’re thinking or focus on grammar too much, this will distract you from your target. Afterwards, take this opportunity to pick a setting that’s appropriate with the tone of the story, a place where your protagonist will overcome challenges and evolve into a convincing character. After developing your setting, main character and a few key elements/events, you’re ready to start a rough draft. Joe Bunting expresses the most important component of writing a compelling story, that is to “show, don’t tell”, clarifying “When something interesting happens in your story that changes the fate of your character, don’t tell us about it. Show the scene! Your readers have a right to see the best parts of the story play out in front of them. Show the interesting parts of your story, and tell the rest.” Finally, a concept we learnt from Bunting, is to know the rules of writing, then break them. He says that “great writers know all the rules and break them. However, the best writers break them because their stories require a whole new set of rules. Respect the rules, but remember that you don’t serve the rules. You serve your stories”.

Lionel is the narrator of Motherless Brooklyn and he suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome. He describes it as being “An itch at first […] That itch is my whole life” (2). From the beginning of the chapter, we get an introduction to the story as well as a description of how he feels about his disability. Lionel’s tics add light humor to the story. People who know him accept it and are no longer phased by them, while those who don’t might consider his tics to be a “spirit or animal possession, verbal epileptic seizure, whatever” (31). Through his point of view we could see that he isn’t blinded to how people view him. He is well aware of his illness. It also gives the reader a perspective and new insights of the mind of a man with Tourette’s.

The story also seems to go full circle throughout only the first 35 pages. The reader is left with somewhat of a “cliff-hanger” and one would assume the rest of the novel will be centered around who killed Frank Minna. Right before Frank’s death, he tries giving Lionel a hint of who killed him. He refers to a joke they have with one another, where the lama’s name is Irving. Lionel then says “You’re saying it was someone named- Dick! Weed!- Irving who did this to you? Is that the name of the big guy in the car? Irving?” (29). Overall, Lionel being the narrator of the story and also a man with tourette’s gives this novel a unique characteristic.



Alexa Nunziato

Andrew Augoustis

Alex Vincelli

Steven Colalillo

Hersi Nur

By reading on how to write proper dialogue we learnt that it s harder than it seems. According to an article written by Harvey Chapman, there are nine rules for writing dialogue.  Dialogue must have a purpose, and must help drive the plot of the story. The dialogue must also give insight to the character’s personality, attitude, and perspective towards certain situations. In other words, the dialogue should characterize. An important element in the first 35 pages of the chapters is the relationship between Lionel and the other characters in the novel. For example, a conversation between two characters should flow and keep the reader interested by varying the dialogues in length. Nobody wants to read a choppy paragraph simply stating what he or she is feeling. For example, instead of just saying a character is nervous, the author should describe his actions or make another character point out how he or she is acting. Dialogue should not be choppy but should not be too long either. The reader wants it to get to the point in the most interesting and concise way possible. In the end, dialogue should be unique for each character. The way a character speaks, reacts, and acts is what allows the reader understand him and perhaps relate to the character as well.

The dialogue below shows development to the story because Lionel is trying to find out who the person responsible is for what happened to Minna. After Lionel tells the punchline of the joke, Minna says that the named used in the punchline is the same as the killer. When Lionel asks for Minna to explain Minna does not respond and that is the last he heard of him. This dialogue shows a connection between the two characters. It shows that Minna and Lionel were friends for a long time because they each share jokes and shows that Lionel cares for Minna because he is with him in this tough time. We also learn about Lionel character and disorder from what he blurts out: “Dick! Weed!”. (Need more time)