Brooklyn Crime Novel

Jonathan Lethem


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Atlantic Books
2 November 2023
ISBN: 9781805460404
384 pages

From the publisher

1978 and two 14-year-old white boys are creating dubious art by using a hacksaw to cut multiple quarters into pieces. A child who's just bought ice cream from a Mr. Softee truck witnesses a daylight sidewalk shooting in 1979. At another time, a couple of blocks over, a kid gets caught trying to shoplift an adult magazine from a Puerto Rican hole-in-the-wall. A Black teenager and his white friends square up to a rival Italian gang over the right to play hockey in the street. In 1977 a white kid craters a baseball right in the centre of a Cuban guy's windscreen. And so it goes.

On the streets of Brooklyn, the faces of the children change but the patterns remain the same: sex; boredom; friendship; violence; a million daily crimes committed, some small, some unimaginably big. But the real action is away from the streets, played out behind closed doors by parents; cops; renovators; landlords; gentrifiers; those who write the headlines, the histories, and the laws; those who award this neighbourhood its name and control its shifting demographics. Across the decades, buildings are developed and homes are razed; communities come in and muscle other communities out; the past haunts the present and perspectives change, so that perpetrators sometimes become victims, and victims sometimes become the worst criminals of all...

Written with kaleidoscopic verve and delirious wit, Brooklyn Crime Novel is a breathtaking tour de force of a quarter of a city and the humanity it contains, and an epic interrogation of how we fashion stories to contain the uncontainable: our remorse at the world we've made