Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Book Choice #17:

Jonathan Lethem: The Fortress Of Solitude

Beautifully written - memoir-like novel - of life growing up in the streets of Brooklyn. Set around the rough and ready Gowanus/Wyckoff projects in the seventies and eighties, it charts the progress of neighbours Dylan and Mingus. The former, an anxious white kid of bohemian parents, the latter a street-smart black kid newly arrived from Philadelphia. Their father-son relationships are at the core of the novel.

Despite leading a hermitic-like existence pioneering a new celluloid art form, Dylan's father unwittingly becomes a sci-fi art legend. Mingus' father meanwhile struggles Marvin Gaye-like, with a judgmental father living under the same roof. A one-time successful soul-singer he makes a half-hearted comeback in a P. Funk band before retreating into his house spending his days freebasing and listening to Donny Hathaway and Shuggie Otis.

Dylan's transition from the Brooklyn streets of tagging and getting 'yoked', to the privileged, liberal college in Vermont is full of tension and one of the books many successes. The magic realism of the 'ring' and it's superhero powers is a tricky element in the story - but such is Lethem's skill that it becomes a beautiful mystery left to the interpretation of the reader.

1 comment:

RBB said...

Great book. Grew up near all that he talks about. I was an eighties kid who dealt with a lot of the same issues.