Fortress of Solitude

Today I finished reading (with some regret) Jonathan Lethem’s Fortress of Solitude, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

It’s a sprawling epic covering 30-some years of a guy’s life that somehow blends the grittily realistic description of a white kid growing up with a single and distant parent in ostensibly black 70’s Brooklyn, with the magical realism of his comic book superpowers! A bit like a cross between Richard Ford and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, if you can imagine such a thing.

I’m not going to review the book here, as that’s been done plenty of times already (just try Googling it), but part of the appeal of the book for me was that the main protagonist, Dylan Ebdus, grew up around the same time as I did, in the neighbourhood that I currently live in; like Motherless Brooklyn (the other book of Lethem’s that I enjoyed), the bulk of this story is set in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill, just a few blocks north of where I’m sitting right now.

This whole neighbourhood has undergone significant gentrification over the last few decades, and this process is described in detail throughout the book:

“..there was no understanding until I saw it with my own eyes: impoverished Smith Street had been converted to an upscale playground.”

“The street would be barely recognizable for how chic it had become, except the Puerto Ricans and Dominicans had stuck around. They were refugees in their own land, seated on milk cartons sipping from paper bags, wheeling groceries home from Met Food, beckoning across the street from third floor sills, trying to pretend gentrification hadn’t landed like a bomb.”

The other thing I found interesting about the book is that it switches from a third-person to a first-person narrative about half-way through.

Anyway, I really enjoyed both books, so here are the “filthy lucre” commission links:

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