Monday, October 09, 2006

The Fortress of Solitude

by Jonathan Lethem
A word of warning: Do not read this book for its plot. This is stunning prose poetry in the guise of novel. Lethem dangles several intriguing plots in front of you, but don't hold too tightly to them—they just don't go much of anywhere. Read the Fortress of Solitude instead for its breathtaking depictions of childhood. No one does it better. Every child grows up in a culture different from that of their parents', and Dylan Ebdus, hero of this story, is the child of white counter-cultural types who are part of the first wave of the "gentrification" of Brooklyn in the early 1970s. Dylan's efforts to fit in to the world around him are rarely successful, but with the help of a mysterious black friend, Mingus Rude, he starts to find his niche. More than most novels I've read, this one is pumped full of music, so that you can feel the 70s vibrating through you, soul changing to funk, to disco, to punk, to rap. Lethem captures the heartache of a kid who desperately wants to be black, or at least be cool, or at least be something.

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