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The Fortress of Solitude | [Jonathan Lethem]

The Fortress of Solitude

This is the story of two boys, Dylan Ebdus and Mingus Rude. They are friends and neighbors, but because Dylan is white and Mingus is black, their friendship is not simple. This is the story of their Brooklyn neighborhood, which is almost exclusively black despite the first whispers of something that will become known as "gentrification."
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Publisher's Summary

This is the story of two boys, Dylan Ebdus and Mingus Rude. They are friends and neighbors, but because Dylan is white and Mingus is black, their friendship is not simple. This is the story of their Brooklyn neighborhood, which is almost exclusively black despite the first whispers of something that will become known as "gentrification."

This is the story of 1970s America, a time when the most simple human decisions - what music you listen to, whether to speak to the kid in the seat next to you, whether to give up your lunch money - are laden with potential political, social and racial disaster. This is the story of 1990s America, when no one cared anymore.

This is the story of punk, that easy white rebellion, and crack, that monstrous plague. This is the story of the loneliness of the avant-garde artist and the exuberance of the graffiti artist. This is the story of what would happen if two teenaged boys obsessed with comic book heroes actually had superpowers: They would screw up their lives.

This is the story of joyous afternoons of stickball and dreaded years of schoolyard extortion. This is the story of belonging to a society that doesn't accept you. This is the story of prison and of college, of Brooklyn and Berkeley, of soul and rap, of murder and redemption.

This is the story Jonathan Lethem was born to tell. This is The Fortress of Solitude.

©2002 Jonathan Lethem; (P)2003 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Glorious, chaotic, raw. . . . One of the richest, messiest, most ambitious, most interesting novels of the year. . . . Lethem grabs and captures 1970s New York City, and he brings to it a story worth telling." (Time)

β€œThe finest novel of the year, by far, and likely of the past five. . . . Better than a movie, better than a symphony, better than a play, and better than a painting, because it is all of them.” (Austin Chronicle)

"A tour de force . . . Belongs to a venerable New York literary tradition that stretches back through Go Tell it On the Mountain, A Walker in the City, and Call it Sleep." (The New York Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (191 )
5 star
 (82)
4 star
 (57)
3 star
 (17)
2 star
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1 star
 (15)
Overall
4.1 (63 )
5 star
 (32)
4 star
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3 star
 (8)
2 star
 (6)
1 star
 (2)
Story
4.4 (61 )
5 star
 (39)
4 star
 (13)
3 star
 (6)
2 star
 (3)
1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Jonathan Topanga, CA, USA 10-21-03
    Jonathan Topanga, CA, USA 10-21-03 Member Since 2001
    HELPFUL VOTES
    48
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    6
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    "A smorgasbord of language"

    Some of the sentences in this book are so well crafted, they actually made me whisper "wow" outloud alone in my car.

    I've phoned people to make them listen to a single passage.

    The reader has it down pat.

    This book isn't a thriller, and sometimes runs a little slow. This isn't a drawback as long as you don't go in expecting a rollercoaster. Listen to this book when you feel like contemplating life in general, and your own life specifically.

    20 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jana Richmond, CA, United States 11-25-03
    Jana Richmond, CA, United States 11-25-03 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
    118
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    132
    23
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Perfect! Maybe my favorite book ever"

    This book was fantastic, from the fascinating story to the fabulous writing (I agree with the previous reviewer who was so "wowed" by it), to the reader who managed to capture perfectly the wide range of voices and personalities of the characters. Even though there is some magic realism in the story, I found everything as believable as a memoir. This is a book I'm going to buy in hardcover and give for gifts this Christmas. I'm looking forward to my 23 and 28 year old sons reading it as so much describes their urban schools and the world and people they knew, including the graffiti painters, and the boys who went off into drugs and incarceration and the ones who survived, damaged or resilient, to grow up.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marci portland, OR, United States 08-08-13
    Marci portland, OR, United States 08-08-13 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    839
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    241
    109
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    168
    8
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "So good until the last couple chapters"

    I loved this book and was totally invested in the characters and the story and all it's quirks. Then the story shifted dramatically for the last couple of chapters and I'm not sure why those chapters were even there. They felt duct taped on to the end of the story, they didn't fit, they didn't make much sense, they weren't interesting.

    The book was still worth it. The layers of depth of this story and the characters were complex and interesting. I loved how often I found myself feeling so uncomfortable for the characters and really rooting for them. I really enjoyed the music theme throughout as well.

    I recommend.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dale baltimore, MD, USA 04-01-04
    Dale baltimore, MD, USA 04-01-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    "Masterful writing (and reading)"

    Tackles the complexities of race relations honestly and adroitly, and celebrates the nearly narcotic effect of music and "musicology." Best of all, juxtaposes the relative innocence of the 70s versus the solipsism of subsequent decades. Other reviewers have pointed out the dexterity of the prose. Truly wondrous in spots. And the narration is the best I've come across since joining up, the reader attempting (and nailing) a wide range of dialects, races, ages, and temperments. And at 18 hours, a bargain.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alison 07-02-11
    Alison 07-02-11 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    23
    7
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    "decent story, mediocre writing"

    The characters are sympathetic and the plot interesting, but the writing couldn't support it - it ended up feeling self-indulgent too often.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patricia Flagstaff, AZ, United States 12-06-03
    Patricia Flagstaff, AZ, United States 12-06-03 Member Since 2003

    Can there be any better pasttime than reading? Audiobook, regular book, e-book - I have 1 of each going at all times.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    79
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    36
    19
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    0
    Overall
    "Dynamic Writing"

    This book is the story of lives, written in a way that allows the listener to become 100% involved with each character. Each sentence is unique, the writing pure poetry. I can't stop listening.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dr. Jonathan Newman Guelph, Ontario Canada 08-12-06
    Dr. Jonathan Newman Guelph, Ontario Canada 08-12-06 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    43
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    96
    25
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    6
    0
    Overall
    "Very enjoyable but not his best work"

    I'm a huge Lethem fan, and I really enjoyed this book but, ..., not as much as others he has written. It's hugely ambitious, unsparing in character development, but I found the whole 'flying thing' distracting to rest of the larger message. Still worth a listen though.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Noah atlanta, GA, USA 12-24-03
    Noah atlanta, GA, USA 12-24-03
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    1
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "A Treasure!"

    I listened to this book a few months ago, yet it remains with me. I might even listen to it again as there are so many dimensions to Lethem's work. In addition to an interesting plot, the author presents rich information about growing up in Brooklyn, education, grafitti, music, prison life, and neighborhood development. Although it's a long listen, there is much magic in the content and the performance.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Winston Smith Oceania 06-19-14
    Winston Smith Oceania 06-19-14 Member Since 2012

    Thought Criminal

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    8
    8
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    0
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A bastion against judgment"
    Any additional comments?

    This coming of age tale is something truly unique. The most fantastic aspects of the story are, funnily enough, the least engaging. The characters are never truly surprising and this is welcome because what they lack in spontaneity they drown in realism. The attention to detail and the love and care which all subjects are handled is something to be lauded. I often find books easily a number of adjectives for a good time but rarely so moving, and heartfelt as this unabashed meditation on growing up in a world without heroes.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jacquelyn Florida 05-14-13
    jacquelyn Florida 05-14-13 Member Since 2010

    Artist, Yogi, lover of strange books

    HELPFUL VOTES
    10
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    12
    7
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    7
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "One of the best books I've ever listened to."
    Which character – as performed by David Aaron Baker – was your favorite?

    Mingus Roode. I love him. When I wasn't listening I was wondering what was happening to him.


    Any additional comments?

    This is one of the only books I've ever read/listened to that I felt had no cheesy filler parts. Most books have parts that you can take seriously, and parts where you can tell the writer is filling in or trying to bring things together, you know where you stop hearing the story and you're just watching the writer write feeling a little sorry for him/her. This book was real heart felt story telling all the way through. These characters are real people, even though they aren't.. They could be any one of us is what I mean. Just read it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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