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Junkfood Consumption For Your Brain

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Who’s the White Boy?!?

The Fortress of Solitude: A Novel by Jonathan Lethem

The short of it:

The narrator, a boy, recounts his life growing up in Brooklyn in the 70’s. The only white boy for many endless city blocks he comes to the realization that he is ‘the outsider’. He adapts to his world and eventually makes it out of Brooklyn and settles in Berkeley, CA. Thinking he has escaped, he soon finds himself pulled back to the old neighborhood and is determined to settle all accounts with his past.


His best friend, Mingus, is the son of a once super-popular R&B singer.
His father is a talented artist, recluse, working on a lifetime “painted film” project.
His mother leaves with another man when he is young.
He collects comic books.
He has a magic ring which allows the wearer to fly, and later in the story, to become invisible.

Cool stuff:

A couple paragraphs outlining The Beatles’ archetypes and how they can be applied to almost anything- for example: Johnny Carson: Paul; Ed McMahon: George; Doc Severinsen: Ringo; the guest: John
Prison breakout that doesn’t go quite as planned
Tons of music references
Did I mention the ring?

What I think:

Don’t be fooled by the title, Superman is not in this book. The narrator, Dylan, steals and collects comic books, but actual super-hero action is limited to a handful of very cool, poignant points in the plot. This is not a sci-fi/fantasy story; it is a coming of age story that happens to include a magic ring. As the novel unwound I found myself in Dylan’s position- a distant observer, engaged on the periphery of life; frustrated by my impotence to make things better, at times elated by small victories and narrow escapes, and in the end resolved to do what must be done. Finish it.