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Lenny Bruce Is Dead: A Novel Paperback – February 21, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint (February 21, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158243347X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582433479
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 4.9 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #936,464 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Goldstein's woeful, funny debut novel is a series of aphorism-capped vignettes, paced at the rate of approximately one scene per paragraph. As these snapshots flash past, protagonist Josh ages rapidly from child to onanistic teen to depressive adult, mourning the death of his mother and the loss of a series of vividly described girlfriends along the way. Throughout, descriptions of Josh's suburban-anytown Jewish upbringing and job at local fast-food franchise Burger Zoo, while peppered with scatological and Portnoy's Complaint-esque sordidly sexual details, often achieve a level of nuance that's poetic and almost profound. In the latter third of the book, Josh's preoccupation with a Hasidic neighbor and the "Rebbe's Kosher-style Love Lotion" that he begins to experiment with grow repetitive and confusing. But "This American Life" contributing editor Goldstein has a knack for imagery ("He was crying on the floor, pulling toilet paper off the spool with both hands like he was climbing a rope") and ear for hyper-realistic dialogue, making him a writer to watch. (Mar.)
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Review

"A funny, sad, lyrical, totally perverted examination of what happens to people when the culture cares too much about sex." -- Neal Pollack

"Jonathan Goldstein is like no one else. He's constantly surprising, simultaneously poetic and hilarious; an honest-to-goodness artist." -- David Rakoff

"The cleanest dirty book I have ever read. Goldstein is a goddamn poet." -- VICE Magazine

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

I read it twice and intend to read it again.
Cool Hand Luke
I didn't laugh once and I didn't really enjoy reading this book.
Michael Jones
Jonathan Goldstein, where have you been all my life!
Lacee Slobodkin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 26 people found the following review helpful By "kintopf432" on April 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
Interesting, experimental novel by one of my favorite "This American Life" essayists. Folks familiar with that show will recognize the storytelling style: three- or four-sentence paragraph/chapters, each presenting a new idea, are bounced off each other in very rapid succession. The effect is sometimes ironic, sometimes not. Unfortunately, this device may be better suited to radio than it is to the page, and while there are some powerful moments the book comes off as more of a gimmicky exercise than anything else. The relentless cleverness (although the writing isn't terribly funny) make the book seem pretty far removed from actual human experience. It's also bogged down by an undergraduate sensibility about sex, and by a lot of odd metaphors that don't go anywhere. I can imagine this style being successfully applied to the novel form, but I don't think Goldstein's done it here.
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31 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Clyde Kellis on November 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
Anybody who's ever heard this author on This American Life would have high hopes for any novel he writes, but unfortunately Lenny Bruce is Dead just doesn't live up to his potential.
However, I recently read his second book, "Schmelvis", and it's extraordinary. It's not a novel but rather a sort of road trip memoir. It's about a documentary Goldstein worked on about Elvis Presley's Jewish roots (yes, believe it or not, the King was a Hebe) and it is brilliant. He and a film crew, a chassidic jewish Elvis impersonator named Schmelvis and a wacky Rabbi went to Memphis and Israel looking for evidence. Hilarious, touching, fascinating, all at the same time. I'd recommend that Jonathan's fans run, don't walk, and pick up "Schmelvis". Much more in the spirit of This American life than Lenny Bruce is dead, although his novel does have its moments so you might want to read that as well.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Robert Page on October 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
This novel was sent across the continent to me by my best friend, and it's a perfect example of why we get along so well.

Like Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son, Barry Hannah's Geronimo Rex and very few others, the protagonist here is a solitary, emotional boy who can't express his emotions outwardly.

His voice is one that moves from narrative to something like poetry without interrupting the feel and flow of the story. Every girl he falls for is guaranteed to be a disaster, but he let's it happen anyway, and you'll fall for them too.

I'm not jewish and not from the north, but i felt every word of his mangled thoughts like they were my very own.

A STUNNING first novel for Goldstein. I can't WAIT for another!!
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By Michael Jones on June 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
I'm a huge fan of everything I've heard of Goldstein's on This American Life and WireTap and the concepts of his other books, which I have not yet read, and had high hopes for LBID. However, I simply didn't get it.

I didn't laugh once and I didn't really enjoy reading this book. I feel like I'm missing some piece of context that a lot of people have; maybe it just isn't for me.

I am getting ready to read his other books, which I still expect to love.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jonathan Goldstein is a master of analogies. And it's this mastery that is heavily relied upon through the sincere, meandering, disconnected passing titled Lenny Bruce is Dead.

Pros:

+The prose used in the book is unique in that instead of a standard narration the reader is exposed to a series of achronological moments that loosely tie together a character study of the main character, Josh and his close friends and family.

+For as many faults that characterize Josh, his depiction is honest and he is ultimately likeable as the epitome of a man child. Josh's world is small but deep and he's willing to explore and discover what's within his limits even if he chooses not to expand them. In any other story, Josh would be the down and out best friend of a more handsome, more able protagonist. It's interesting to see life from this perspective, and due to this alone, I can recommend this as a read.

Cons:

-The constant jumps throughout the book become tiresome near the end.

-The distinct lack of clarity the beginning of the book makes it difficult to distinguish characters.

-Goldstein spends too much time in this book reinforcing certain tones or themes that only extend the length of the book and ultimately have little pay off. After the 3rd girlfriend storyline, the 4th disclosure about masturbation, 5th rumor concerning the Moshiach, everything starts to feel like padding, as if J.G. was concerned about publishing a novel that had less than 100 pages, and so he increased the font size, increased the number of chapters (that would have to start on new pages), separated each vinette with a blank lines, and then went about added a series of tangential asides to his book.

Overall, I liked the book but would have been happier with a more tightly edited version that didn't allow this interesting premise to overstay it's welcome.
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10 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Mark Twain on February 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
I picked it up this book because my friends were raving about it and I had heard Goldstein's hilarious radio pieces on This American Life. The narrative voice makes this novel so original and distinct. Goldstein's imagery made me stop reading at times and just think about the power of language. He is a very talented man. He notices everything so tenderly, from a dirty napkin on a table to a girl's funny face. This is an introspective novel about the reflections a man has when his mother dies. It is fragmented, but it almost has to be. It's so beautiful, I could only take it one paragraph at a time. For those who love literature only!
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