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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.

Critic Reviews

"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)
“The 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

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  • 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

  • Overall
  • Jana
  • Richmond, CA, United States
  • 11-25-03

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

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Marci
  • portland, OR, United States
  • 08-08-13

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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Dale
  • baltimore, MD, USA
  • 04-01-04

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

  • 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

  • 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

  • Overall
  • Noah
  • atlanta, GA, USA
  • 12-24-03

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

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  • Performance
  • Story


The book amazing. The dynamic between white and black cultures is captured with such realism and honesty. It's hilarious and beautiful. Also, possibly the best narration I've ever heard for a book (and I've listened to more than 100).

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  • Story

Growing up in Brooklyn/Autobiographical

I can't tell you the number of times I zoned out of this navel gazing tale, spanning three decades. Clearly this mirrors the author's life, but I found precious little to latch onto in terms of story. You probably have to be from NYC to understand because we Upstate rubes probably can't relate.

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  • Sam
  • Sydney, Australia
  • 10-10-15

Better Read

I couldn't stick with the audio version, but perhaps one day I'll try again. It's a great book, which was better read.