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

3.5 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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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
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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: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #389,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer 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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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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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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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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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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If I could give it fewer stars I would. Masturbatory, adolescent stream of consciousness, with absolutely nothing to say. Its only redeeming feature is that it is short.
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So poorly written. The format was just not good.
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This might be the funniest book I'll ever read.
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