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The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem

The Fortress of Solitude (original 2003; edition 2004)

by Jonathan Lethem

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3,460612,268 (3.86)95
Title:The Fortress of Solitude
Authors:Jonathan Lethem
Info:Vintage (2004), Paperback, 528 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem (2003)


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Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
I chose this book because I was considering Lethem’s most recent novel (“A Gambler’s Anatomy”) and one reviewer wrote that if you read one Lethem book, it should be this one. It was great. Semi-autobiographical. Dylan, son of idealistic but clueless hippies, desperately tries to survive his childhood in the late 60s and early 70s as the only white boy growing up in Boerum Hill in Brooklyn. He befriends Mingus, son of a once great but now drug addled soul singer. The relationship of these two motherless boys, both named after their parents’ musical heroes, and their inevitable split when Dylan goes to Stuyvesant, is the axis around which the novel turns. There’s so much in this book. Entertaining and insightful treatment of race, teenage social angst, crime, graffiti, hip-hop, drug culture, prison culture, neighborhood gentrification, art and commercialism (Dylan’s father is a talented painter who forgoes sacrifices commercial success for an obscure personal artistic obsession). Tons of musical references, many of which were lost on me. But l got lots of other cultural references because Dylan is almost exactly my age. ( )
  davidel | May 10, 2018 |
Non so perché ma, semplicemente, non vado avanti. Giace sul comodino da troppi mesi, ormai: è addirittura coperto da un leggero strato di polvere. Credo non sia il momento adatto per questo libro, molto semplicemente.
  Eva_Filoramo | May 3, 2018 |
Dylan Ebdus’ life is something of a failed social experiment. When his artist father and hippie mother move the family into a not-yet-integrated section of 1970s Brooklyn, Dylan becomes one of the only white kids in his neighborhood. He grows up frightened and largely alone, particularly after his mother abandons the family. With his one friend, a black kid named Mingus Rude who is also from a broken home, Dylan tries to survive the muggings, insults, and injustices that he is subjected to on a daily basis. In The Fortress of Solitude, we follow Dylan on his journey over a thirty-year period, through the public schools he manages to escape to the elite colleges he cannot quite navigate to his marginally successful career as a music journalist. Along the way, we learn a lot about why Dylan’s and Mingus’ lives turn out the way they do, even if they themselves never fully grasp the reasons.

The author splits the novel into two parts (with a brief transitional interlude), essentially separating Dylan’s boyhood from his adulthood. The first of these sections is by far the most compelling of the two, in just about every way: mood and location setting, character development, cultural references. The second half of The Fortress of Solitude, which is told from Dylan’s first-person perspective, drags considerably by comparison. In fact, the magical realism elements that Lethem inserts into an otherwise grittily realistic story become a very clumsy and unbelievable device at the end. Beyond that, there is a surprising lack of resolution at the close of the novel, almost as if he just decided to stop writing in the middle of an anecdote.

I found this to be such a very sad book, with little in the way of humor or optimism to relieve the unrelenting grimness of how Dylan’s story unfolds. Although well written and imaginatively conceived—the author is quite good at providing detailed observations of both people and place—this was not an especially enjoyable reading experience. It was hard to get past the fact that virtually none of the characters finds any real happiness in their lives amidst all of the violence, drugs, racial intolerance, and personal indifference. Dylan certainly is imprisoned in a fortress of solitude, but it is a prison that is ultimately of his own design. ( )
1 vote browner56 | Dec 20, 2017 |
(Rating: 5.0 /5.0, even) ( )
  rabbit.blackberry | Oct 19, 2017 |
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For Mara Faye
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Like a match struck in a darkened room: Two white girls in flannel nightgowns and red vinyl roller skates with white laces, tracing tentative circles on a cracked blue slate sidewalk at seven o'clock on an evening in July.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375724885, Paperback)

The Fortress of Solitude is the story of Dylan Ebdus growing up white and motherless in downtown Brooklyn in the 1970s. It’s a neighborhood where the entertainments include muggings along with games of stoopball. In that world, Dylan has one friend, a black teenager, also motherless, named Mingus Rude. As Lethem follows the knitting and unraveling of their friendship, he creates an overwhelmingly rich and emotionally gripping canvas of race and class, superheros, gentrification, funk, hip-hop, graffiti tagging, loyalty, and memory. The Fortress of Solitude is the first great urban coming of age novel to appear in years.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:22 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

This book follows the adventures of two friends from a Brooklyn neighborhood, a black boy and a white boy, in late-twentieth-century America.

(summary from another edition)

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