The Fortress of Solitude

Justin Stempeck gave The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem to me for Christmas in 2003 shortly after it was published.  I didn’t know a thing about it and therefore put it right next to Baudolino, the book Justin had given me the previous Christmas, on the “read sometime but there’s no urgency” shelf.

You would think after reading Motherless Brooklyn, which I loved and which should’ve signaled to me that Lethem writes about my neighborhood, I would’ve moved on immediately to Fortress, but I didn’t.  That’s what kind of idiot I am.

I finally picked it up a month ago, and of course, it was right up my alley.   Lethem’s depiction of a white kid in a black neighborhood is fearless, sincere, and touching, not to mention sad.  He never shies from stereotypes yet never feels glib or obvious.  This is not a story of racial harmony or villainy.  The forces at play are not clear-cut, and the confusion drives the characters to actions that can be embarrassing, violent, shameful, and at times, immoral.  Lethem never apologizes for these actions.  Mingus Rude Jr. and Dylan Ebdus both be raised by single fathers, but they do not overtly bond over this and Lethem does not pretend to have this commonality explain them fully.

The deftly woven magical realism is also a big plus.  I’m looking forward to seeing how the movie turns out.  Will it be a comic book film a la Unbreakable or will it live more on earth?

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~ by jaredran on January 7, 2008.

One Response to “The Fortress of Solitude”

  1. I’m a big fan of Lethem’s and sometimes regret he left the field of SF–the genre sure misses him (and more literary writers like him).
    I believe he’ll be one of the guest authors are the Readercon convention this year so you might want to think about attending…

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