The Fortress Of Solitude


Author: Jonathan Lethem

Title:  The Fortress of Solitude

Genre:  Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Literary Fiction

Publication Date: September 2003

Number of Pages: 528

Geographical Setting:  Brooklyn, NY

Time Period:  1970’s — 1980’s

Plot Summary:  Jonathan Lethem’s semi-autobiographical novel follows the parallel stories of Dylan Ebdus and Mingus Rude, two friends growing up in Brooklyn, NY during the 1970’s and 1980’s.  Dylan is white, and is constantly bullied by his Black and Hispanic peers.  He’s also struggling to deal with his mother’s abandonment of him and his emotionally distant artist father.  Mingus is black, and while dabbling in petty crime, he helplessly watches his father, a formerly successful soul musician, destroying himself with drugs.  The two teenagers’ friendship is built on their mutual love of superhero comic books, graffiti tagging, and they’re possession of a magic ring (given to them by a dying homeless man) which grants its wearer the powers of flight and invisibility.

Subject Headings:  Male Friendship, Race Relations, Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.), The Seventies (20th century), Bullying and bullies, Magic Rings

Appeal:  Leisurely-paced, Autobiographical, Urban, Nostalgic, Candid, Descriptive, Lyrical, Poetic, Epic, Authentic, Character-driven, Multiple point of views, Vivid, Episodic, Tragic, and Details of comic books, graffiti tagging, drugs, and music

3 terms that best describe this book:  Character-driven, Strong sense of time and place, Tragic

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

 1)    The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Deals with a character coming-of-age in a multicultural and urban setting during the 1970’s and 1980’s.  He is also bullied and seeks refuge in comic books and science fiction.

2)    The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis

On the eve of his twentieth birthday, a young man prepares for college while trying to win over a girl named Rachel.  A character-driven coming-of-age novel.

3)    Emmaus by Alessandro Baricco

A lyrical, coming-of-age story that follows four friends as they move from adolescence to manhood, while being attracted to the same woman.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

 1)    Comic Book Encyclopedia: The Ultimate Guide to Characters, Graphic Novels, Writers, and Artists in the Comic Book Universe by Ron Goulart

The two protagonists are obsessed with comic books, and many different titles and characters are referenced.  The above encyclopedia serves as an excellent guide to those unfamiliar with comic books, especially those that deal with superheroes.

2)    The Neighborhoods of Brooklyn, edited by John B. Manbeck

Brooklyn, NY, especially the section known as Boerum Hill, plays a pivotal role in the novel, and the above book gives a thorough introduction to those unfamiliar with the city’s many nooks and crannies.

 3)    Graffiti Kings: New York City Mass Transit Art of the 1970s by Jack Stewart

The characters in the book spend a great deal of time perfecting their graffiti tags throughout Brooklyn’s many landmarks.  This book deals with the origins of this controversial urban art form.

Name:  Vadim Seyfer









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