The Fortress of Solitude

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 September, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 September, 2004, 12:00am

The Fortress of Solitude

by Jonathan Lethem

Faber $90

This book is based on Jonathan Lethem's experiences growing up in Brooklyn in the 1970s. A white boy, Dylan Ebdus, lives in an almost exclusively black neighbourhood, where his only friend is a mulatto called Mingus Rude. Both boys have lost their mothers and they form a close friendship, but grow apart over time. Dylan goes to college, while Mingus becomes a crack addict and ends up in prison. Lethem's evocation of Brooklyn is moving and vivid, but the plot has holes. He fails to explain how Dylan manages to pass his exams without studying. An odd subplot about a magical ring that turns the boys into superheroes isn't developed well. Lethem's writing is erratic, alternating between sprawling sentences and short gnomic utterances. It's a book with bits and pieces of wonderful prose, but doesn't work as a whole.


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The Fortress of Solitude

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